Italy’s school population will shrink by one million in the coming decade because of the plunging birth rate and continuing brain drain, the education minister said on Thursday (May 11).

National statistics bureau ISTAT has said births in Italy dropped to a historic low below 400,000 in 2022, the 14th consecutive fall, with the overall population declining by 179,000 to 58.85 million.

A shrinking and ageing population is a major worry for the euro zone’s third-largest country, leading to falling economic productivity and higher welfare costs in a country with the highest pension bill in the 38-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.