After what has been described as an "apocalyptic" decline in Italy's birth rate the health minister has formed a plan to double child benefit in an effort to combat the figures. 

 

Currently the monthly bonus for lower income families is €80 and Beatrice Lorenzin hopes to double this figure and has also asked for higher payments for second and subsequent children to try and encourage bigger families in the country.

 

In 2015, just 488,000 babies were born which is less than any other year since the foundation of the modern state in 1861.

 

The minister spoke to Italy's La Reubblica newspaper about the plans and said:

 

"If we carry on as we are and fail to reverse the trend, there will be fewer than 350,000 births a year in 10 years' time, 40% less than in 2010 - an apocalypse.

 

"In five years we have lost more than 66,000 births (per year)... If we link this to the increasing number of old and chronically ill people, we have a picture of a moribund country." She added.

 

The payments were introduced last year and made available to babies born between January 1st 2015 and December 31st 2017.

 

Ms Lorenzin hopes to make the payments available to all children under three-years-old.

 

However, this would cost an estimate €2.2 billion to public spending over six years and would likely cause troubles with a country already under pressure from the EU to cut spending and reduce its debt.

 

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