In 2004, women in Italy had more children than in the past 15 years, according to Istat, Italys national institute for statistics. Birth rates in Italy had been declining for 30 years, reaching a low-point of 1.19 children per woman in 1995. But the trend has reversed over the past decade, standing at 1.33 children per woman in 2004.
Italys population therefore rose by over one per cent in 2004, from 57.9 million to 58.5 million. The increases were all concentrated in the north and centre of the country, and after a sharp drop in the late 1990s, rates in the southern Mezzogiorno are now levelling off.
However, the rise has much to do with Italys growing immigrant population, with the number of babies born to foreign mothers rising from 3.9 per cent of total births in 1999 to 8.6 per cent in 2004. Another key factor is that Italys mortality rate in 2004 was the lowest in 12 years.