The number of births registered in Italy in 2018 was 439,747, the lowest since records began in 1861.

Deaths outnumbered births by 193,000.

The ongoing decrease in the Italian birth rate is most pronounced among first-time parents, with 204,883 first-born babies in 2018, 79,000 less than in 2017.

The average number of children for each woman in Italy dropped to 1.29 in 2018 after it was 1.46 in 2010, with 32 the average age of mothers having babies.

A generation ago, Italian mothers commonly had more than four children.

The dramatic drop in Italy’s birth rate raises concerns over the country’s future population.

Census figures show the national population is steadily shrinking for the first time in 90 years, due in large part to the declining birth rate.

Experts also warn that a shrinking population could yield an unprecedented economic crisis.

Italy’s economy has been reeling since the 2008 global economic crisis and youth unemployment rate stands at a staggering 35 per cent, prompting young people to both hold off on starting a family and leave the country in search of job opportunities.

Last year, more than 150,000 Italians emigrated abroad.

Furthermore, Italy is second in the world only to Japan for having the highest concentration of senior citizens.

This mass exodus combined with an ageing population and plunge in pregnancies means Italy is the only major European economy with a population forecast to decline even further over the next five years.