• Old Italy

    From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Wed Feb 9 21:13:09 2022
    Old Italy
    Low birth rates and an aging society are recurring subjects of
    national debate in Italy. Pundits, politicians and religious
    leaders regularly issue warnings about “empty cradles” and
    demographic decline. Does Italy really have an aging problem?
    By Gaia Baracetti, February 8, 2022

    Italians have a special reverence for their Constitution. It was
    written after the most traumatic time in our history as a unified
    nation by those who had risen up against Nazi fascism and thus
    redeemed their country. Putting aside their differences – not an
    easy feat in a country as divided as Italy – they agreed on a
    common set of principles and rules for the nascent democracy.

    The first article of the Italian constitution states: Italy is a
    democratic Republic founded on labour. As far as I know, this
    emphasis on labour in the first article is unique among Western
    democracies. It says something deep and meaningful about who we
    want to be as a society and what we want to value. The irony is,
    by looking at Italy now, you’d never guess it. Only about a third
    of the Italian population is officially employed; among the
    working-age population, Italy has one of the lowest employment
    rates in Europe. An Italian sociologist, Luca Ricolfi, has devoted
    a book to explaining the paradox of a country where everyone is
    living large but no one seems to be working. As he points out, a
    small cohort of workers (and many de facto slaves) is supporting a
    large number not so much of children, as of spouses, older people,
    and unemployed. Sometimes I wonder whether we should reformulate
    our famous first article to read instead: Italy is a democratic
    Republic founded on pensions.

    Italy has one of the oldest populations in the world; almost a
    quarter of its population is 65 or older. Our pension expenditure,
    the second highest among OECD countries, amounts to around 15% of
    total GDP and to about a third of all public expenditure (though
    not all pensions are given for age-related reasons). We also have
    a comparatively low actual retirement age; statistics here are
    harder to provide because, in typical Italian fashion, what the
    law prescribes and what happens in practice are very different
    things. The Italian island of Sardinia is one of the world’s only
    four “blue zones”, that is places where people are exceptionally long-living (you guessed it: Japan has another).

    Is all of this good or bad?

    Hard data can only tell you so much about the state of a country.
    Being an extended family-based society means that a lot of the
    work that in other Western countries people have gotten used to
    paying for is often performed by parents, spouses or relatives.
    Not all contributions to society come in the form of paid work.
    And if the American “Great Resignation” is any indication of the
    future, it’s possible that other societies might start following
    our example rather than the other way round. Still, this is not
    happening because salaries in Italy are so high that they make
    it easy to support a family with one income alone. On the contrary,
    a combination of nepotism and lack of recognition for merit, low
    salaries and a general disillusionment means that many young people
    are looking forwork abroad. What’s left behind are a lot of
    pensioners and a crushing public debt. The question on everyone’s
    mind is: with so few young people, who will pay for pensions?

    Preoccupation about low birth rates, an aging society and the
    depopulation of the uplands are almost a national obsession
    (looking at a map, you’ll see that Italy is largely made up of
    hills and mountains; these are much more forested and less
    populated than they used to be). Every time a new report comes
    out about Italy’s low fertility rate, any sensitive overpopulation
    activist must switch off all media for a while to avoid being
    bombarded with lamentations and ideas about how to “solve” the “problem”. Not to mention the Vatican.

    There are a few, mostly common citizens, who dare point out that
    Italy is too crowded already and that the very slow decline in
    population we’ve begun experiencing in the last few years might
    even be a good thing. You’ll never hear a journalist, academic,
    let alone a politician, say anything of the sort.

    My reading of the situation is that all of this is mostly the
    fault of a very selfish generation or two – mostly the Boomers –
    who do not want to give up their privileges and refuse to
    understand that their children, the grandchildren they claim to
    want and the environment itself are paying an extraordinary price
    for it.

    The main problem is that our pension scheme was designed when the
    population was younger and life expectancy lower, the economy was
    booming, and letting people retire handsomely in their 40s (really)
    was seen by political parties as one good way to keep getting votes
    (and achieving formal full employment). Even now that we’ve realised
    we need to course correct, pension reform is one of our biggest
    taboos and even the young don’t want it. I know a few young people
    who cannot wait to retire, like the exploited worker dreaming of
    becoming a millionaire because he cannot even imagine a less unequal
    society. But if everyone either is a pensioner or wants to be a
    pensioner, who will support them? Immigrants! The babies we must
    absolutely convince young people to have!

    But it will never be possible to solve the pension problem through
    demographic growth; if anything, it will make matters worse.

    As we’ve seen, a large number of those already here do not work
    anyway. Since wages are low and pensions are high, many prefer to
    stay home and be supported by their parents or grandparents
    (inheritance taxes are low too, so even your elders’ deaths can
    buy you a few years). This is not true for most migrants, who do
    not have such support networks and will take whatever work is
    available, thus contributing to keeping wages low. Also, hiring in
    Italy is prohibitively expensive; many small business owners prefer overworking themselves than getting help. And why is hiring so
    expensive? Mostly because taxes are high – those pensions need to
    be paid for somehow – and there is an infinite number of costs and regulations that in many cases serve no purpose at all, except to
    provide jobs to other people who are employed, but whose work brings
    no actual benefit to society.

    Should we magically manage to employ all existing residents and
    then all those extra babies and extra immigrants many politicians
    tell us we should have, what happens when they, too, reach retirement
    age? We then have the same problem we were trying to solve, except
    now it is even bigger. This is how Ponzi schemes work. And they
    always crash.

    All of this seems obvious to me, but apparently to no one else.
    Everyone wants to keep the retirement age low so that young people
    will enter the workforce. Literally everyone from the extreme right
    to the extreme left is campaigning for the rights of pensioners,
    and that includes labour unions – work has become so exploitative
    and dangerous that the main right workers want is that of leaving
    it as soon as possible. I’d even say that this refusal to negotiate
    on the inalienable rights of the elderly is one of the reasons we
    keep getting unelected prime ministers doing what the elected
    cannot or will not do, such as raising the retirement age or
    convincing the EU to let us take on even more debt.

    Until we solve the pension problem, Italians will never accept a
    shrinking population as the blessing it is. It's really disheartening
    that all the benefits that come with an aging, demographically
    contracting society – less violence and conflict, a healthier
    environment, more wild or open spaces, lower house prices even –
    are not widely recognised due to greed and lack of imagination.

    I’m stressing the pension issue because, even though many countries
    in the world are facing the same “problems” (or blessings perceived
    as problems, such as low birth rates), the solutions should be
    specific to each context. I believe that Italians are not worried
    about aging per se. As I mentioned, family bonds are strong and
    grandparents are valued. What people worry about is not having
    children around, on the one hand, and not being supported in their
    old age, on the other. They also worry about being “replaced” by foreigners, but this is beyond the scope of this discussion.

    A society with few children might look “sad”, but that’s only
    because we’re looking at it the wrong way. It needs to be pointed
    out that children are an economic “burden” even more than the old
    (you can work at 70, but not at 7, and Italians also tend to spend
    an inordinate amount of time finishing their schooling). The
    disproportionate number of older people also might be more of a
    phase before a new equilibrium. At the moment the biggest age
    cohort in Italy is made up of those in their late 40s and early 50s.
    Some of those will die before old age; others will move up the
    pyramid like a snake’s meal, then die, and our population might
    settle into a more even distribution.

    We are unlikely to go back in the foreseeable future to an actual pyramidal-looking population pyramid, but we should not aspire to
    that, as it would mean we’d have a growing population, and/or not
    many people surviving to old age. Yes, children are joyful, but
    they also need to be taken care of properly. Smaller families tend
    to endow children with better nutrition, healthcare, and parental
    support. Moreover, children don’t stay children forever. If, when
    they reach young adulthood, they are unable to find suitable
    employment, they will either migrate en masse or turn violent
    against each other as they compete for very limited resources,
    including jobs. We see this happening from Central America to
    Afghanistan to Nigeria to the Middle East, yet we don’t recognize
    it for what it is.

    It’s true that healthcare for the elderly is very expensive, but
    modern, highly effective health care is expensive, and possibly
    unsustainable, in general. There aren’t many ways around this.
    We will need to work on prevention and make hard choices as a
    society about how much we want to spend on what. Children also
    require significant healthcare from pregnancy to the first
    vaccinations; the fact that we’ve made the choice to save every
    life means that children with rare and serious conditions will
    require a lot of financial support to receive the care they need.
    There are ways to find that money by reducing expenditure on other
    things or tackling the extreme inequality of contemporary societies.

    Or – I am just putting this out there – we could decide for once
    that quality is more important than quantity, and that we do not
    actually want to live 110 years having spent the last thirty of
    those in a retirement home, or having deprived the young of their
    time and income to prolong our life past the time it was still
    enjoyable. One of the saddest results of Italy’s relative wealth
    is that our elderly are cared for, mostly, by foreign women who
    often aren’t raising their own families back home. There are
    stories about children left behind in Eastern Europe who rarely
    see their parents; they are in Western Europe, making our life

    Yes, Japan is trying out robots to care for old people; is this
    the future we want? A lot of research about healthcare and care
    for the elderly focuses on quantifiable outcomes, but we need first
    and foremost, as we come to terms with a reality of limited resources,
    to have an honest discussion about our values and priorities in life,
    and what we are willing to sacrifice for them.

    At any rate, thanks to progress in healthcare, many pensioners are
    healthier than they could have expected to be a few decades ago.
    That is one more reason to ask people to retire later.

    Among the many “solutions” proposed for the aging problem and a
    supposedly shrinking workforce, many of them informed by Japan’s
    experience, I personally do not believe in automation. In some
    sectors it’s probably here to stay, but my informed guess is that
    we have neither the energy nor the raw materials that would be
    necessary to automate as many jobs as we project. For a country
    such as ours, that is energy-poor but has a big artisanal tradition
    as well as an inequality problem, it doesn’t seem like more
    automation is the solution. Even in the car-making industry one of
    our most famous brands, Ferrari, a few years ago was bragging about
    not using many robots because humans, among other things, are more
    flexible. Humans are irreplaceable in so many ways. We also need to
    keep being able to make things with our hands instead of delegating
    everything to machines.

    Yet another irony, in fact, is that a lot of people who do make
    their dream of retiring early come true are then bored, sad, or
    restless. So they find ways to keep working anyway – once again
    enjoying an unfair advantage over the working young who might then
    have to compete against people doing stuff for free.

    Boomers are finding themselves on the receiving end of a lot of
    generational resentment. Some of it, unfortunately, is justified.
    They’ve created a world to suit their reality and their expectations
    of the future. Many seem unable to comprehend that times have changed
    and that their projects were never sustainable to begin with. Aging,
    both at an individual and at a collective level, often means an
    acquired mental stiffness; an inability to look at things differently,
    to re-imagine the world and take it into a new, better direction.
    And this is the only true aging problem we have.


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  • From El Castor@21:1/5 to imbibe@mindspring.com on Fri Feb 11 08:54:32 2022
    On Wed, 9 Feb 2022 21:13:09 -0800 (PST), "(David P.)"
    <imbibe@mindspring.com> wrote:

    Old Italy
    Low birth rates and an aging society are recurring subjects of
    national debate in Italy. Pundits, politicians and religious
    leaders regularly issue warnings about empty cradles and
    demographic decline. Does Italy really have an aging problem?
    By Gaia Baracetti, February 8, 2022 https://overpopulation-project.com/old-italy/

    Once again David, make YOUR point briefly and clearly, and then post
    links to support your position. No one reads these endless posts of
    yours. Regarding Italian aging and birth rates, this is a problem
    infecting developed nations all over the world. When a population
    experiences low birth rates, birth rates of roughly 2 children per
    woman (or less), it cannot sustain itself. The existing population
    gradually declines in numbers and as it dies, average ages increase.
    The Italian situation is very bad, but it's just one of many, and its
    not the worst. This is a very serious World problem, not just Italian.
    Take a look ... https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/total-fertility-rate

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