Gianluigi De Palo: "A global birth pact is a proposal that could be discussed at the international level".

As of 2021, the States General of the Birth Rate will be reflecting on the demographic winter Italy is going through. Among its participants are the country's main leaders and Pope Francis. Its promoter, Gianluigi De Palo, talks to Omnes about this initiative.

Maria José Atienza-October 23, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes
De Palo

Photo: Gigi de Palo ©Cristian Gennari

"The challenge of the birth rate is a matter of hope. Hope is nourished by a commitment to the good of each one of us, it grows when we feel involved in giving meaning to our lives and to the lives of others. Nurturing hope is therefore a social, intellectual, artistic and political action in the highest sense of the word; it is putting one's own abilities and resources at the service of the common good, it is sowing the future". With these words, Pope Francis addressed the participants of the third edition of the Natali General StatesdadThe meeting will be held in Rome in May 2023. 

The General Statements of the Birth Rate are a initiative of Fundación para la Natalidad. These meetings, which have been held in Italy since 2021 and bring together all kinds of civil, public, private companies and individuals, are intended to be a space for reflection on the demographic problem of this European nation. An issue that, in his opinion, should unite the whole country regardless of their political or cultural choice.

In addition, the aim is to make concrete proposals to reverse the demographic trend and to imagine a new narrative of the birth rate. 

Not surprisingly, Italy is one of the countries where the demographic decline has become a matter of great concern; from the 576,659 births registered in 2008, in 2022 this figure stood at 392,600. In addition to this figure, there were 713,500 deaths that the Italian nation registered that year: a negative balance of more than 320,000 people. "It's as if cities like Forencia or Bari have disappeared." The following are highlighted from the General States of the Birth Rate. 

The Italian picture, similar to that of other Western nations such as Spain, Australia, Canada or Belgium, is quite discouraging. 

Most European nations base their welfare system on the intergenerational pact that ensures that current taxpayers, with their tax payments, support the pension benefits of those who are already retired, disabled or ill. 

This pension system requires a replacement level that, considering the decline in the birth rate, the increase in life expectancy and, therefore, in sickness benefits, old age, etc., is not only unsustainable but has been declared a central issue on the political agenda. is not only unsustainable, but has been declared a central issue on the political agenda.

Gianluigi (Gigi) De Palo has spent more than half his life dedicated to family and birth issues. In these years he has collaborated with media such as Avvenire, Romasette, Vite, Popoli and Mission. He has also been president of the Forum of Family Associations of Lazio and of the National Forum of Family Associations. 

Together with his wife, Anna Chiara, with whom he has five children, he is the author of several books on family and education. De Palo is currently president of the Foundation for the Natalidad, promoter of the General States of the Natalidad. Pope Francis has also taken part in these meetings and has repeatedly expressed his conviction that "no birth rate, no future". 

How were the General States of Birth born? What are their objectives?

-The General Statements of Births were born from the desire of many mothers and fathers who do not want to resign themselves to commenting on the ISTAT (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica ) data, which are, every year, a real war bulletin in Italy. 

The achievement of a new negative birth rate record in 2022, with only 393,000 new births, a figure not seen since the Unification of Italy, clearly demonstrates the seriousness of the situation. 

These meetings General Statistics of the Natalità (General States of Birth), have the mission to sensitize all the "different worlds" of our society: politics, business, third sector, associations, actors or journalists. 

We should all feel called to face this emergency.

Pope Francis encourages this initiative and has participated in it. What stands out from these speeches of the Pope? How important is the Pope's support?

-The presence of Pope Francis at the Estates General and his positions helped to convey the message and underscore its urgency. 

The Holy Father understood the spirit of the initiative well. He made it especially clear when, during the past third edition, he said: "I like to think of the 'General States of Birth' as a workshop of hope. A workshop where you don't work for hire, because someone is paying, but where you all work together precisely because everyone wants to have hope."

You advocate a global birth rate pact to reverse the process of demographic collapse. Do you think there is the will for such a pact?

-The idea of a global birth pact is a proposal that could be discussed at the international level, but its implementation will depend on the will of each country and on international cooperation. 

The United Nations has certified that the population growth rate is slowing down. Today is the time to make decisive decisions for the future of all.

Do you think that the solutions to the "demographic crises" in the different States are effective?

-Solutions to "demographic crises" may vary from country to country and depend on the specific circumstances. 

Some measures, such as more favorable family policies, can help boost the birth rate in the short term, but addressing population decline also requires a long-term approach that takes into account factors such as education, employment and culture.

Can the demographic winter in the West only be solved by the boost to the birth rate provided by the immigrant population?

-Immigration may be one component of the response to the low birth rate, but it is not the only factor. 

In the Italian case, we are told that immigrants will not be enough to prevent the collapse of the economic system. 

But we really need a concrete approach that also includes measures to support families and promote the birth rate among the resident population.

Have we gone from considering children as a gift to a source of uncertainty? Is it not reductionism to present the birth rate as simply an economic issue?

-It is true that, in some social contexts, the birth rate is seen primarily as an economic problem; in others, however, it is seen only as a cultural issue. 

It is important to change the perception of the birth rate, it is necessary to have a broader vision, adapted to the times we live in.

Italy, along with other European countries, is one of the most aged countries in the world. Is there hope of reversing this situation?

-In 2050, the ratio of workers to pensioners will be 1:1. 

Population aging is a common challenge for many European countries, including Italy. 

Reversing this trend will require long-term efforts that include family support policies, improved working conditions and educational opportunities. 

The effectiveness of these policies in curbing aging will depend on several factors, such as their implementation and adaptation to the specificities of each country.

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