Salvini Rejects ‘Substituting 10 Million Italians’ With Migrants, Backs Family-Friendly Policies Instead

Head of Italy's far-right League party, Matteo Salvini gestures towards supporters at the start of a rally against the government on October 19, 2019 in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)
TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

Populist firebrand Matteo Salvini said that the demographic problems facing Italy and other Western nations cannot be solved through mass migration, declaring that he refuses to see “ten million Italians” substituted with migrants.

League party leader Matteo Salvini argued that instead of replacing millions of Italians with foreign migrants, he supports family-friendly policies to encourage Italians to have more children.

“My objective is to give economic serenity to Italians to encourage them to have children,” Salvini told The Guardian. “I refuse to think of substituting ten million Italians with ten million migrants.”

The former deputy prime minister emphasised the importance of increasing native births over immigration, previously stating in 2018 while still in government that “a country which does not create children is destined to die”.

The Italian populist is set to travel to Warsaw next month to show solidarity with Poland, which is currently struggling to protect its own border from large numbers of migrants trying to illegally cross from Belarus.

Salvini suggested that the “shock” of the crisis might end up being useful, explaining: “I think that Europe is realising that illegal immigration is dangerous.”

While he clarified that small levels of immigration could be acceptable — such as taking in child refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan — the League leader said he had no interest in uncontrolled immigration.

“What I don’t want is them arriving on boats, that’s a mess,” Salvini concluded.

The statement from the former deputy prime minister comes as Italy’s native birth rate has plummeted to historic lows, with foreigners accounting for around nine per cent of its total population as of 2019.

Matteo Salvini, who has repeatedly emphasised the importance of family values in Italy, is far from the only European leader to stress the importance of boosting birth rates rather than relying on increased immigration to keep populations steady.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example, has implemented a number of measures designed to raise the native birth rate. Married couples can apply for loans of up to around €30,000, the interest of which is suspended should they have a child within five years, and the loan is totally written off if the couple has a third child.

Women who have four or more children also no longer have to pay income tax, and IVF treatment is also being offered by the government free of charge. Orbán has pledged to refund income taxes to families in 2022 as well.

The wide variety of pro-family policies implemented by Hungary appears to have had an effect. Birth rates rose by about 5 per cent in the first half of 2020, despite rates in other countries being suppressed by the pandemic.

Poland has also implemented measures to raise the number of births, such as introducing a “maternal pension” for women who have four or more children, as well as introducing payments to parents for every child they have after their first.

The issue of birth rates is also set to become a hot topic during the upcoming French presidential election next year.

France saw one of its lowest birth rates on record since the end of the Second World War in 2020. The centre-right Republicans, centrist Democratic Movement (MoDem), and the centre-right Agir parties have all promised to release proposals to tackle the country’s declining birth rate.

The United Kingdom is also facing a “baby shortage“, with Britain’s birth rate dropping to nearly half that seen during the post-war baby boom, according to a recent report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF).

“Many other liberal democracies are exploring the use of policies like cash payments to parents, more generous parental leave and cheaper childcare to make it easier for those that want children to have them,” Aveek Bhattacharya, chief economist at the SMF said in September.

“Here in the UK, we should consider the merit of these policies – not least because they would bring many other benefits to parents, children and wider society,” Bhattacharya added.

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