Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Commentary

Impact of Italy’s older, shrinking population

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Births in Italy fell by 3.6% in 2023, reaching a record low and raising concerns for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s efforts to address the country’s aging population. One senator from Meloni’s ruling party echoed Pope Francis’ call for Italians to have more children, stating that having children should be Italian women’s “main mission.”

Watch the video above as Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan examines the declining population in Italy and Europe, and suggests potential solutions to mitigate the negative impacts.


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Excerpted from Peter’s July 8 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

While the Italians may have mastered the arts of pasta, wine and gelato, they should have been spending less time in the kitchen and more in… another room. That’s right, we’re looking at the demographic problems facing Italy, and Genoa will be our example.

The population of Genoa in 1972 was 950,000. Today, it is under 680,000. The scary part is that Genoa isn’t an isolated instance. Italy’s birth rate has been below replacement level for over 75 years, leading to an aging population and a shrinking tax base. The scarier part is that Italy is just one example of a country facing demographic collapse, as places like Germany, Romania, and Spain are all in the same boat.

Unfortunately, there’s really no practical solutions for these countries to remedy this issue. Sustaining their economies and state functions without a younger generation won’t be easy, but at least we’ll see how nations can adapt to these demographic challenges.

Everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Genoa, Italy. And I’m gonna do something a little bit different. Today I am going to show you the world through my eyes. Let’s turn this around, we’re over the business district in the central genuine, it’s not the buildings in the foreground, I want you to see it’s the ones in the background, the ones that are in more residential, you’ll notice that not a lot of them have a lot of flights on it. And over here, we’re starting to go over the old town, similar situation. And as we move over here, you can see the train station kind of Grand Central, if you will. And then up on the hill is mostly residential spots. But you’ll notice that even though it’s 10 o’clock at night, which is you know, when everyone’s getting home from dinner in Italy, most of the buildings are less than 1/3 lit up, some of them well, less than a quarter. The issue is that for the entirety of my life, genuine has been shrinking in population terms, and I turned 50. This year 1972 was the last year that the city saw an increase in population. And that is pretty typical for Italian cities writ large. Unfortunately, Italy is going through a population crash. And it’s well past the point of no return. The birth rate has been below two births per woman for in excess of three quarters of a century. And over the next five years, the population bulge that exists in many countries exists here too. But they move into mass retirement. Now, I’ve been traveling through Italy for about 10 days now. And I’ve been gone to a lot of small towns and you know, there are full of old people and not a lot of them. And everyone has the same rephrase like all the young people that picked up to move to the cities. But now that I’m in one of the major cities, I can see that’s not the case, it’s just people haven’t been boring here for a very long time. And now we’re looking at the dissolution of the tax base that is necessary to maintain a modern civilized location. The smart play here would be to turn back time and go back to the 1970s and figured out a way to make it easier for young people to have children. But at this point, the only theoretical solution would be to bring in Canadian style levels of immigration, and a sudden wave that never ends, simply in order to stabilize the Italian population in its current structure, which is already the oldest demographic and the fastest aging demographic and Europe would be to bring in somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people under age 35. Every year from now on, which of course would end Italy in its current form. Some version of this problem exists in huge portions of the world. Europe, of course, is where I’m thinking right now, because this is where I am. The Germans are only a few years, no more than five behind the Italians. And then there are a number of other countries that are a little bit younger, but are actually at faster, whether it’s Romania or Spain, Poland still has a chance for demographic reconstitution. But only if they got get on it right now. The Russians are in the worst position, the Ukrainians are in a worse position and out of East Asia. Taiwan is kind of where Poland is right now. Whereas Japan and Italy are very, very similar. And the Koreans are about where the Germans are. So we’re seeing this over and over and over throughout the world. Accelerated urbanization over the last 50 to 75 years has generated a population structure that is so old and aging so quickly, that reconstitution is no longer possible. And a number of the advanced States, Italy, Germany, Korea, Japan, the next decade is going to provide a new model for us populations in countries that are no longer capable of mass consumption or mass investment or max text generation at the same time their populations move into mass retirement, something’s going to have to give, whether it will be state coherence or the finances or the economic model first. Everyone’s got to figure that out for themselves.

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