In a bid to reverse Italy’s plummeting birth rate, the government plans to reward parents who have a third child by awarding them a piece of land.
In the plan which has been included in next year’s draft budget, would see the state concede parcels of agricultural land for 20 years to parents who have a third child between 2019 and 2021.
The package which is supported by the country’s ultra-Catholic families minister, Lorenzo Fontana, is limited to only legally married couples.
Foreigners interested in the offer would need to have been resident in Italy for at least 10 years.
“They say that Italians have few children and that something is needed to turn the trend around,” said Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio.
“That’s why the ministry wants to contribute, favouring rural areas in particular, where people still have children,” he told the media.
Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe. Last year some 464,000 births were registered, a record low, leaving Italy with a significantly older population and a demographic time bomb.
According to Coldiretti, the association of Italian agricultural companies, the state owns half a million hectares (1.2 million acres) of farmland worth nearly 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion).
“Why give them away rather than sell them, particularly at a moment when all that money could go towards the government’s many (and costly) pledges?” asked the Corriere della Sera daily.
Because “for the most part, the lands are what is left at the bottom of the barrel,” it said, adding that in some cases local councils were currently having to shell out for their upkeep.