The Italian government launched a remarkable campaign to raise awareness for falling birthrates. Named Fertility Day, the operation (that took place on September 22) might sound like a national holiday, but it is meant to encourage family planning and maternity. Along the campaign, 12 promotional “postcards” were launched, which went viral for all the wrong reasons. Together with the campaign images, the government created a website and an online game, both currently offline.
Italy suffers from one of the lowest birthrates in Europe. Fewer babies were born in 2014 than in any other year since the modern Italian state was formed in 1861. Italian women give birth to 1.39 children, whereas the EU average is 1.58. Therefore, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi introduced the so-called “baby bonus”, meaning a tax break of €80 a month in the first three years of newly born children’s lives. Earlier this year Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin outlined her plans to double the baby bonus, as birthrates were still dramatic. “If we carry on as we are and fail to reverse the trend, there will be fewer than 350.000 births a year in ten years' time, 40 percent less than in 2010—an apocalypse” she said. “We are very close to the threshold of non-renewal where the people dying are not replaced by newborns. That means we are a dying country”.
The campaign was a hashtag trend on Twitter, but in most cases people used it to criticize the initiative. Twitter users for one have pointed to the youth unemployment as a result of the economic crisis. Further criticism towards the campaign are in regards to Italian women, who are still being asked to sign undated letters of resignation, a phenomenon known as dimissioni in bianco. This allows the employer to discharge pregnant women while dodging a penalty. Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorra, publicly commented the campaign saying that the government should "do research and make procreation accessible for those couples who are suffering from infertility instead of generally encouraging people to have children".
Though Health Minister Lorenzin announced the ministry's Director of Communications has been fired, it is not just the posters being questioned, but the entire reasoning behind the campaign.