Mario Draghi | PASS Academician


Your Eminence Cardinal Turkson,
Your Excellency Bishop Sánchez Sorondo,
Your Excellency Monsignor Viganò,
President Zamagni,
Distinguished Colleagues,

It is a great honour to be here with you at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

I would like to thank His Eminence Cardinal Turkson, His Excellency Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, and President Zamagni for the invitation, and His Holiness Pope Francis for the appointment as a member of the Academy.
Today’s event is an opportunity to reflect on the role families have in strengthening our social bonds. And to discuss what all of us – starting with governments – can do to support them.

Our societies are living through an age of extreme uncertainty. The Covid-19 pandemic is increasingly under control in many countries thanks to extensive vaccination campaigns, but is not over and continues to take a heavy human and economic toll.

The war in Ukraine has caused enormous losses: the death of thousands of innocent civilians, the displacement of millions of people, the destruction of large portions of the country. Its indirect consequences reverberate widely: a spike in energy costs, disruptions to supply chains, the risk of military spill-overs elsewhere in the region.

We now face the threat of a catastrophic food crisis, especially in some of the world’s poorest regions, which already suffer from inadequate access to Covid-19 vaccines.

In the rich world too, these events risk hitting families the hardest, in particular the most vulnerable ones. Advanced economies must continue to support financially the Ukrainian government and its people at this time of need. We must also strengthen the global safety net for low-income countries, especially through multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

At home too, we must take steps to reduce uncertainty for the poorest. This is what we have done in Italy over the last year – and what we strive to continue doing in the future.

The pandemic has caused a sharp increase in poverty, especially among families. The poverty rate among those under the age of 18 has risen by nearly three percentage points between 2019 and 2021, to 14.2%.

In order to help families, the Italian government has taken several steps including the creation of the so-called “Assegno Unico”, a parental allowance that merges multiple benefits into one. It is a universal measure, granting at least 600 euros to all families with children, and provides higher benefits for those with children with disabilities.

The government is aware of the new economic challenges facing families, in particular the rising cost of living. The inflation rate has hit 6.7% in Italy, the highest since 1991. For this reason, we have cut fuel duty and protected 5.2 million families from recent rises in energy bills. We are ready to do more to defend the purchasing power of our citizens, while at the same time preserving the stability of our public finances.

The roots of uncertainty go deeper than Covid-19 and war. In Italy, even before the pandemic ever fewer families felt confident about having children – and this trend has only become worse. Italy’s population has shrunk continuously since 2014, losing more than 1.3 million residents. In 2021, just under 400 thousand children were born. This is the lowest number in the history of our Republic: ten years ago, it was 540 thousand.

Having a child is a personal choice, but it also depends on the ability of young people to plan their future with confidence. The government can play an important role in ensuring that those who want to have children can do so. For example, it must put young people in the position of having a home and a secure job.

In Italy, we are providing substantial financial help for young people who buy their first home. The State guarantees a large portion of their mortgage and provides them with generous tax breaks. We are also giving support to young people with low incomes to pay their rent. These are only initial steps and others must follow.

The Family Act, approved by Parliament earlier this month, commits us to strengthening these measures further. Families also need reliable welfare services. This is a priority of Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Over the next five years, we will create 230,000 places in nurseries and kindergartens.

We have also strengthened parental leave to support working parents. In particular, we want to help young women, who too often are forced to give up their careers after giving birth to a child. At the end of last year, we made a 10-day mandatory paid paternity leave permanent. And we introduced tax breaks for women returning to work from maternity leave.

Fighting poverty also requires greater investment in education – a key driver of social mobility. Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan includes investment plans worth around 1.3 billion euros to renovate or build school canteens and gyms. With the Family Act, we help families pay for educational activities for their children, including music and sports. With the Recovery and Resilience Plan, we also invest nearly 1.5 billion euros in student benefits – such as scholarships and student housing.

In recent weeks, Italian families have shown once again their generosity by welcoming into their homes those fleeing the war in Ukraine. More than 100,000 people have come to Italy, mostly women and children. I would like to thank all citizens who have helped refugees, as well as all volunteers.

The government must support such a display of love and solidarity. We have allocated more than 500 million euros in aid for those who come to Italy, and a further 5 million euros for the National Fund for Migration Policies. We have also donated goods to Ukraine and neighbouring countries, such as Poland and Moldova, and funds to humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the Red Cross.

Most of us learned about love, generosity, solidarity in our families.We did so thanks to our parents, our siblings, our grandparents. And we have passed on these lessons to our children and grandchildren. A stronger family is essential for a fairer, more cohesive, more caring society – especially at a time of crisis.

Italy’s government is determined to support families, and will continue to do so in the future. Thank you.