Italy’s populist government plans to reward parents who have a third child by awarding them a piece of land, in a bid to reverse the country’s plummeting birth rate.

Mama mia: Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe and the government is planning incentives to encourage parents to have lots more bambinos and bambinas

The plan, cooked up by the far-right League and included in the draft budget for next year, would see the state hand over parcels of agricultural land for 20 years to parents who have a third child between 2019 and 2021.

‘They say that Italians have few children and that something is needed to turn the trend around,’ said agriculture minister Gian Marco Centinaio.

‘That’s why the ministry wants to contribute, favouring rural areas in particular, where people still have children,’ he added.

Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe.

Last year, about 464,000 births were registered, a record low, leaving Italy with a significantly older population and a demographic time bomb.

You can crawl, but you can’t hide: The plan to Italy’s association of agricultural companies says the state owns about £9billion worth of land. A leading Italian newspaper says the land should be sold, not given away

The land-for-children idea is supported by Italy’s ultra-Catholic families minister Lorenzo Fontana.

He added, however, that the incentives will be limited to married couples, rather than those in civil unions.

Political commentators said that would not be easy, as the law provides civil unions with most of the same rights as marriage.

Foreigners interested in the offer would need to have been resident in Italy for at least 10 years.

According to Coldiretti, the association of Italian agricultural companies, the state owns 1.2million acres of farmland worth nearly £9billion.

‘Why give them away rather than sell them, particularly at a moment when all that money could go towards the government’s many [and costly] pledges?’ asked the Corriere della Sera daily.

Because ‘for the most part, the lands are what is left at the bottom of the barrel,’ it said, adding that in some cases local councils were currently having to shell out for their upkeep.

Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe, and only around 464,000 new babies were registered last year. The birth rate has plummeted from 9.8 births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2008 to 7.6 per 1,000 in 2017

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