Italy a 'dying country' as birth rate falls to lowest levelItaly’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since the foundation of the modern state in 1861, prompting fresh alarm in a society that has been steadily ageing for decades. The number of births per 1,000 people has fallen to just 8.4 per cent, down from 38.3 per cent when Italy’s territories and kingdoms were unified a century and a half ago. In Britain and the United States, the figures are 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. Last year 509,000 babies were born in Italy, 5,000 fewer than in 2013. The mortality rate also declined last year, stretching life expectancy for Italian women to 85 years, while the average man will live to 80. Beatrice Lorenzin, the minister of health, said: “We are at the threshold where people who die are not being replaced by newborns. That means we are a dying country. “This situation has enormous implications for every sector: the economy, society, health, pensions, just to give a few examples.” Italy’s five million immigrants, out of an overall population of 60 million, are also having fewer children, having previously registered high birth rates. The birth rate among immigrants has fallen to 1.9 children per woman, its lowest level for five years. Overall, the number of couples choosing not to have children has increased to 40 per cent in the last decade. Italian women have 1.39 children on average, against an EU average of 1.58. The birth rate decline was blamed on years of economic recession and high unemployment. The birth rate is lowest in the Mezzogiorno, or south of Italy, where the recession has hit hardest. Sardinia, for example, had a birth rate of 7.1 per cent. More