Schlein said Lollobrigida's words had air of "white supremacism".
Italy's agriculture minister Francesco Lollobrigida caused controversy on Tuesday by warning against the "ethnic replacement" of Italians as the country's birth rate plummets.
"We cannot surrender to the idea of ethnic replacement: Italians have fewer children, so let's substitute them with someone else. That's not the road to go down," the minister said during a trade union congress in Rome, arguing that "a welfare system must be built to allow anyone to work and have a family".
Lollobrigida is a senior figure in the right-wing Fratelli d'Italia party led by his sister-in-law Giorgia Meloni who has publicly used the term "ethnic replacement" in the past herself but not since becoming Italy's prime minister last October.
Lollobrigida's comments were slammed as "disgusting" and "unacceptable" by Elly Schlein, leader of the centre-left opposition Partito Democratico (PD), who said the minister's words had an air of "white supremacism" and "take us back to the 1930s".
Meloni, speaking at the Salone del Mobile furniture show in Milan on Tuesday, promised greater government action to boost Italy's birth rate by offering incentives to have children, including better child care facilities and employment opportunities for women.
The interventions by Meloni and Lollobrigida on the issue of Italy's falling birth rate came a day after EU statistical agency Eurostat warned that the Italian population is projected to shrink by more than 8.8 million by 2100.
Meloni's party swept to power last autumn with pledges to stem the arrival of migrants into Italy and boost the nation's birth rate, and last week her right-wing coalition government declared a six-month state of emergency over migrants.
Photo credit: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock.com
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