The Italian government is offering a financial bonus to encourage people to have more children. A 1,000 payment will go to mothers who have at least one child already and have another by the end of 2004. The bonus will also be given to families adopting a child within the same period. The funds, 540 million over a two-year period, will be allocated by INPS, Italys national social security institute. The experiment will become permanent should it prove successful says welfare minister, Roberto Maroni, and will also be extended to families having their first child if there are enough funds available in 2005. The parliamentary opposition has criticised the cash incentive for being eligible only to Italian or EU citizens and argues that it is a short-term solution that does not resolve the real reasons for Italy's low birth rate, one of which is the cost and lack of child-care facilities. At 1.2 children per woman, Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. However, Rome is experiencing a minor baby boom this year. By June 13,019 births had been registered in the city, and year-end forecasts predict 27,000 births, a ten per cent increase compared to 2002 and the highest figure since 1981.

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