The low birth rate, published by Italy's national statistics office (ISTAT), meant that more Italians died last year than were born.
“In 2014 live births were 509,000, five thousand less than in 2013, representing the lowest record since the unification of Italy,” the statistics office reported on Thursday. "Deaths were 597,000 ... about four thousand less than in the previous year."
The number of births is now 8.4 per 1,000 which is down from 38.3 per 1,000 a century-and-a-half ago, according to a report in The Telegraph.
“We are at the threshold where people who die are not being replaced by newborns. That means we are a dying country,” The Telegraph qoutes Italy's Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin as saying.
"This situation has enormous implications for every sector: the economy, society, health, pensions, just to give a few examples," Lorenzin said.
The birth rate decline has been blamed on years of economic recession and high unemployment.
The Telegraph noted that Italy’s birth rate is reflective of a larger trend throughout the West and Europe citing World Bank data, which reveals that the birth rate in the West is much lower than in Asia and Africa. The average birth rate in central Europe and the Baltic countries is 12.6 per 1,000 people compared to 38 per 1,000 in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The West is seeing lower population rates, usually below 10 per cent and birth rates substantially lower compared to developing countries,” The Telegraph reports.
The news comes in wake of Pope Francis’ remarks last week that a society that doesn't want to surround itself with children is “a depressed society.”
“Just think of the many societies we know here in Europe,” he said. “They are depressed societies because they don’t want children, they don’t have children.”
“The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1%, why?” said the Pope. “Everyone should think about that and answer it personally.”
“The choice to not have children is selfish,” he said. “Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”