Low birth rates and aging population have become a growing problem in Italy. The country has the oldest population in the EU and one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The number of deaths exceeds the number of births each year. Nine out of ten residents speak Italian as their mother tongue, but the regional differences are large linguistically and culturally between Italians in, for example, Lombardy in the north and Sicily in the south.
Italy was an expatriate country in the late 1800s and early 1990s. Today, there are large Italian-linked groups in Brazil (about 25 million), Argentina and the United States. During the 20th century, Italy’s population nearly doubled, and until the 1970s, birth rates were high.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Italy, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
At the same time as the population was growing, large movements were made in the country, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. The industrial expansion in northern Italy led to emigration from poor agricultural areas in southern Italy, and the larger cities attracted many unemployed people from the countryside. A large number of Italians also emigrated to other parts of Western Europe.
Nine out of ten residents speak Italian as their mother tongue, but the regional differences are large linguistically and culturally between Italians in, for example, Lombardy in the north and Sicily in the south. The indigenous minority groups are mainly identified through their languages and dialects (see below) but are not usually seen as separate ethnic groups, except for the Sardinian population, the Sardis, who have a very mixed ethnic and cultural background. The same applies to the residents of the Veneto region (where Venice is located).
Clear minorities are the approximately 300,000 German-speakers in the South Tyrol (Alto Adige) and about 100,000 Slovenes in the Trieste area. Small groups of Albanian and Greek origin are found in the south.
Immigration to Italy was extensive following the upheavals in Eastern Europe and the wars in the Balkans during the 1990s. Immigration has been politically controversial, and several laws have been passed to curb the number of immigrants. The largest immigrant groups are Romanians, North Africans, Albanians and Chinese.
The disintegration and the wars that followed the democratic revolution in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011, the so-called Arab Spring, gave rise to a new wave of refugees still in progress. In recent years, over 100,000 people have arrived in Italy each year. In 2016, there were over 170,000. Most people have crossed the sea in boats from the coasts of Libya or Egypt to the island of Lampedusa or to southern Sicily. The majority of refugees come from West Africa, Sudan and Somalia. The proportion of refugees from the war in Syria decreased radically in 2016. In the past, many migrated to other European countries, but since the neighboring countries in the north have closed their borders many remained in Italy. There is disagreement within the EU about how migrants should be handled and the issue has been deadlocked.
Italy has been supported by the EU to cope with the refugee reception but the government believes that the support is too small and that the other EU members should take greater responsibility for the situation.
Italian, like other Romanian languages, was developed from Latin, which is an Indo-European language. Italian is the official language also in San Marino, Vatican City, parts of Switzerland and in smaller areas in Croatia and Slovenia. The language is also used by many people in Monaco as well as in Corsica and Malta.
There are 18 recognized minority languages or dialects. In addition to German, the South Tyrol also speaks Ladinese (Romanesque). Occitan, which is also spoken in southern France and northern Spain, is used in parts of the Valle d’Aosta in the northwest. Greek dialects are spoken in some parts of Calabria and Apulia in the south. There are also Albanian-speaking groups. In Sardinia, Sardinian (akin to Catalan) is the local language. Minorities have the right to use their language in contacts with schools and authorities.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Italians 94% (including the linguistic minority groups), immigrants 6%
Number of residents
60 551 416 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
70.1 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
7.8 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
10.1 per 1000 residents (2016)
-0.1 percent (2017)
1.4 number of children born per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
51.3 percent (2017)
83 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
85 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
80 years (2016)
- 18 recognized minority languages, including Sardinian, Latin, German, French (Occitan), Albanian, Slovenian, GreekSources
Big operation against the mafia
In 2010, more than 300 suspected members of the Southern Mafia Association ‘Ndranghetan were arrested.
Nearly 50,000 students are demonstrating in Rome against the government’s plans for college cuts. Parliament, however, approves the 2011 budget with a reduced budget deficit. With a three-vote margin, Berlusconi then succeeds in a distrust vote. It is followed by giant demonstrations in Rome demanding Berlusconi’s departure. The protests partially turn into riots and vandalism with many injured and arrested.
Berlusconi is charged with mafia
Published trial evidence shows that one of Berlusconi’s oldest friends, Senator Marcello Dell’Utri, served as a link between the Sicilian mafia and Berlusconi in the 1970s and 1980s. Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest paid protection money to the mafia, which should also have provided support when Berlusconi founded his party Heja Italy in 1994.
Ministers jump off
The Speaker of Parliament’s lower house, Gianfranco Fini, calls for the departure of Prime Minister Berlusconi and a new government. Berlusconi rejects the demands, and four Fini faithful members of the government leave the coalition. (15/10)
Crisis crisis in Naples
Kravaller forces the municipal government in Naples to stop the opening of a severely criticized dump in the volcano Vesuvius National Park. Sopberg is growing on the streets of Naples, where the mafia has long had power over the waste sector.
New investigation against Berlusconi
Prosecutors open investigation against Berlusconi about suspected tax fraud in his media company Mediaset.
Trade union protests
Large union-led demonstrations are being held against the government’s plans to loosen up labor market legislation. Opinion figures show record low popularity for Prime Minister Berlusconi.
Fini forms a new party
The Speaker of Parliament’s lower house, Gianfranco Fini, after continued criticism of Berlusconi, is excluded from the ruling party Freedom People. Finnish supporters in Parliament break with Berlusconi and form a new party, Future and Freedom for Italy. As a result, the government loses its majority in the lower house. (30/7)
Pay cut and raised retirement age
Parliament adopts the government’s budget savings with, among other things, frozen public salaries for three years and a gradual raising of the retirement age from 2015.
More protests against the elbow strap budget
About one million people across the country are protesting against the government’s austerity, and several strikes are being carried out.
Parliament’s Supreme Court, the Senate, votes on a controversial proposal on the limited use of interception in criminal investigations. The government says it wants to prevent leaks from eavesdropping and protect the suspect’s privacy, but the opposition sees the proposal as a way to silence the media and hide corruption among politicians. Berlusconi belongs to those affected by eavesdropping leaks.
Anger against cuts
In the light of the economic crisis, the government decides on savings of EUR 25 billion, which entails cuts in health care and education, freezing of public salaries and raising the retirement age. The large trade union CGIL organizes demonstrations and announces a day’s general strike in protest against the austerity measures.
One of Berlusconi’s most trusted ministers is forced to resign after allegations of corruption.
Party rebellion against Berlusconi
The Speaker of Parliament’s lower house, Gianfranco Fini, initiates an open rebellion against his party leader Berlusconi. Fini accuses Berlusconi of giving the Federation North too much influence in the government and of trying to silence internal debate.
Successful local elections for the government
The regional elections will be a success for Berlusconi’s government alliance. The best thing is for the Association Nord, which for the first time wins governor posts in two regions in the north.
Corruption charges are closed
A high court has laid a corruption charge against Prime Minister Berlusconi’s former tax lawyer, who should have received large sums in bribes from Berlusconi to testify falsely. The case is prescribed. In Rome, large demonstrations are being held against Berlusconi, who is accused of undermining the judiciary.
Law change saves Berlusconi
Parliament’s Supreme Court, the Senate, is voting through a radically reduced limitation period for crimes to ten years. The law takes retroactive effect and frees Prime Minister Berlusconi from two charges of corruption and tax fraud.