Italy’s government are hoping to revive the country’s low birth rate by introducing a new plan which will reward parents who have a third child.
The idea, known as the children-for-land incentive, was thought up by the far-right League and has since been inserted into the country’s latest draft-budget, with €20 million (£17.5 million) set aside for the programme until 2020.
The reward scheme would see the government give segments of state-held agricultural land for 20 years to parents who give birth to a third child between 2019 and 2021.
Controversially, couples in civil unions would not be eligible to receive land; instead the incentive would only apply to married couples.
If the families who had a third child and were rewarded land also bought their first home near the plot, they’d be eligible for zero-interest loans for up to €200,000 (£175,000), the Telegraph report.
Gian Marco Centinaio, the agriculture minister, explained the government’s plans, saying:
They say that Italians have few children and that something is needed to turn the trend around.
That’s why the ministry wants to contribute, favouring rural areas in particular, where people still have children.
The children-for-land incentive comes after Italy faced a record low in birth rates last year, with around just 464,000 births registered. The country has the lowest birth rate in Europe.
According to agricultural lobby association Coldiretti, the Italian state owns half a million hectares of agricultural land worth around €9.9 billion (£8.7 billion).
However, critics have warned the land is mostly unwanted parcels which councils are keen to unload.
The land-for-children idea is supported by Italy’s ultra-Catholic families minister, Lorenzo Fontana, but political commentators warned the plan wouldn’t be easy to put into place as the law usually provides civil unions with most of the same rights as marriage.
Any foreigners who might look to use the initiative to their benefit would have to have been a resident in Italy for at least ten years.
According to the UN’s 2017 World Population Prospects report, almost every region in the world is reporting lower fertility rates.
Statistics reveal the global average fertility rate is just below 2.5 children per woman today, meaning over the last 50 years, the global fertility rate has halved.
After the news of Italy’s controversial incentive scheme broke, some people took to Twitter to joke about the unusual solution to low birth rates.
One person used a picture of Cletus’ large family in The Simpsons to indicate what might happen if the scheme gets out of hand, writing [translated]:
Italy, 2028 #thirdchild
— Un caso cinico (@amotalbrezza) October 30, 2018
Another Twitter user joked about further rewards the government might offer for having a third child, writing [translated]:
New: with the land, the settlers who will make a third child will also receive a Winchester rifle, 12 chickens and a dairy cow.
The government provides milk and eggs to the young patriot! There is also an extra €500 bonus if it is male, which doubles if you call him Matteo or Luigi.
"Novità: con i terreni, i coloni che faranno un #terzofiglio riceveranno anche un fucile Winchester, 12 galline e una mucca da latte. Il governo assicura latte e uova al giovane patriota! C'è anche un extra bonus di 500 € se è maschio, che raddoppia se lo chiami Matteo o Luigi.
— Ersilia Lombardo 🔴⚫ (@ErsiliaLombardo) October 30, 2018
The unusual scheme is sure to be met with some backlash…
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.