The Think Tank On Radar takes action to address population decline
One of the most frequently used terms in the Italian public discourse revolves around the concept of the “demographic winter,” a situation in which our country has seemingly found itself entrenched for a considerable period. In fact, in 2022, births witnessed a significant decline, dipping below the 400,000 mark for the first time since the mid-1800s, settling at a mere 393,000. Since the remarkable year of 2008, which saw a peak in birth rates, we have experienced a decline of approximately 184,000 births, with around 27,000 concentrated from 2019 onward. Regrettably, the future projections do not look promising.
In the pursuit of clarity and viable solutions, ON RADAR, the Think Tank of the Fondazione Internazionale Menarini, has taken the initiative under the guidance of president Massimo Scaccabarozzi. In order to explore the issue of declining birth rates from various disciplinary perspectives, 45 experts and students were summoned and organized into five working groups.
“We are currently in the midst of the second meeting of the Think Tank On Radar, which, as we have consistently emphasized, has a clear objective: to bring important social issues to the attention of experts,” explained Scaccabarozzi. “We ventured outside the conventional approach in our first endeavor, as we believe in breaking away from the repetitive coverage of daily news. Our intention is to embark on something different by taking responsibility.“
The intent behind these statements was soon validated through the initiative held in Rome on May 3, 2023. The approach of the research group echoed the one taken during the first meeting in February, aptly titled “Lost Childhood. Let’s Help Them Smile“. This event served as a catalyst, opening the door to a multitude of positive insights.
The central theme of On Radar’s second meeting revolved around the decline in births, attracting various groups of experts and young individuals who are both direct and indirect protagonists of this issue. They asked questions, shared their personal experiences, and collaborated with passion and expertise with the aim of offering tangible solutions.
The title “Natality, politically incorrect” serves to underscore the unconventional approach chosen by the Foundation, embodying the willingness to address the subject matter from a different angle.
At the heart of the debate are the younger generations, and that is precisely why they were actively involved as key participants in the Think Tank, with the hope of fostering an impactful relationship by listening to their demands.
“Fewer births translate to fewer potential parents,” Scaccabarozzi continued, “It’s a demographic trap— a vicious circle that poses a threat to our country. These birthrate statistics represent a squandering of our future, which can only be salvaged by heeding the voices of young people. Which is why we sought to engage a group of individuals aged 18 to 23 to address the birth rate emergency in a fresh and innovative manner.”
Scaccabarozzi’s opening statement ignited a spirited debate, where the paramount ingredient was the freedom to express thoughts without filters. What do young men and women in 2023 truly think about all these issues? Why is the notion of having a child not a top priority for them?
According to Professor Pietro Ferrara, a Pediatrics Professor at Campus Bio-Medical University in Rome, “Italy is yet to foster a culture of childhood. While the physical space for raising a child may exist, there is often a lack of mental preparedness to embrace it. In fact, there is frequently fear and resistance towards parenting.“
Apart from the broader cultural aspect, there is a perceived emphasis on individualism, but the concerns of individuals under 30 cannot be solely attributed to this factor.
Even the current landscape for young people transitioning into adulthood, marked by uncertainty regarding stable employment, the challenge of finding suitable childcare, and the prevalence of precarious job conditions, is not perceived by the participants as an insurmountable obstacle.
The real problem lies in a society that predominantly offers young people an idealized present, distant from reality, and a future that is difficult to plan. During the discussion at the group table called “Communication: Whose Fault Is It?”, it was highlighted that children are seldom featured in advertising campaigns and are often seen as impediments.
This representation of a fixed reality must intersect with everyday experiences. The industrial sector could play a strategic role in addressing these challenges. At the meeting, this sector was represented by Marco Bonometti, President and CEO of OMR (Officine Meccaniche Rezzatesi), a group specializing in automotive components with a global presence.
“Businesses need to be reminded of their social responsibilities, as they can play a crucial role in restoring young people’s confidence. We need to cultivate a business culture that sees companies close to the people, creating an environment where young individuals can take risks without fearing failure.“
Moving from the corporate world to journalism, the analysis does not lose sight of the broader social context. Diodato Pirone, an economy journalist at Messaggero and author of the book “La Trappola delle Culle” (The Cradle Trap), offers a perspective that leans towards optimism.
“The crucial element here is trust; this country is experiencing a profound lack of trust, which is hindering the desire to have children. However, we must reclaim our future by rejuvenating the birth rate while recognizing our exceptional productive capabilities, which rank among the best in the world. It is crucial to shift our focus from self-flagellation to education and, if necessary, reassess the allocation of various social mechanisms in our public spending.”
The impressions at the end of the conference are overwhelmingly positive. The goal of establishing direct communication channels with institutions has already been accomplished, which means that the efforts of the team led by Scaccabarozzi have just begun. It was precisely the president of On Radar who delineated the guidelines for the future:
“We have faced this problem with a multidisciplinary approach, and now we aim to make the outcomes of our work available to ministries, parliamentary committees, and all stakeholders involved.“