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Pope calls couples who choose pets over having children ‘selfish’

Pope Francis risked the ire of the world's childless dog and cat owners Wednesday, suggesting people who substitute pets for kids exhibit "a certain selfishness".

Pope Francis blesses a child during his general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on January 5, 2022 (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
Pope Francis criticises couples who have pets and children for being selfish. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Speaking on parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican, Francis lamented that pets “sometimes take the place of children” in society.

“Today… we see a form of selfishness,” said the pope. “We see that some people do not want to have a child.

“Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality.”

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The practice, said the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”.

Thus, “civilisation grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers”, the pontiff said at the Paul VI Hall.

Francis has been photographed petting dogs, allowed a baby lamb to be draped over his shoulders during Epiphany in 2014 and even petted a tiger and a baby panther.

But while his predecessor, Benedict XVI, was a cat lover, Francis is not known to have a pet at his Vatican residence.

In 2014, Francis told Il Messaggero daily that having pets instead of children was “another phenomenon of cultural degradation”, and that emotional relationships with pets was “easier” than the “complex” relationship between parents and children.

On Wednesday, while inviting couples who are unable to have children for biological reasons to consider adoption, he urged potential parents “not to be afraid” in embarking on parenthood.

“Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child, in denying paternity,” he said.

The Argentine pontiff has in the past denounced the “demographic winter”, or falling birth rates in the developed world.

READ ALSO: Italy heading for demographic ‘crisis’ as population set to shrink by a fifth

Earlier this year, he criticised modern society, in which career and money-making trumps building a family for many, calling such mentality “gangrene for society”.

But a study by the Istat national statistics agency revealed that most Italians do want to have at least two children.

Experts pointed out that Italy’s high levels of unemployment, the broadly badly-paid, short-term work contracts, and a lack of affordable housing and childcare mean many young people put off starting a family as they think it’s unaffordable to do so in Italy.

Italy has for years recorded one of Europe’s lowest birth rates and is set to lose a fifth of its population in 50 years, further official data from Istat suggests.

The agency stated that the data marked “a potential picture of crisis”.

Italy’s population is expected to decrease from 59.6 million people in January 2020 to 47.6 million in 2070, it predicted, representing a drop of 20 percent.

In 2012, Italy saw births fall to the lowest level since it became a nation state in 1861, to around 534,000. Since then, new record lows have been established every year.

In 2020, the Italian population shrank by almost 400,000 due to the effects of the pandemic.

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MONEY

Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Working parents in Italy face some of the highest rates of taxation among developed countries, according to a new international report.

Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Italian employees pay one of the highest rates of tax relative to income of all countries included in a new study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), coming only behind Belgium, Germany, Austria and France.

The OECD report measured the ‘tax wedge’ or tax burden faced by both the employee and the employer in each country last year.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

The figure includes income tax paid by workers, and social security contributions, which in Italy are paid by both the employee and employer.

According to the findings, Italy’s tax wedge is especially high for families with children, compared to a single worker with no dependents, ranking fourth-highest in this case among the 38 OECD member countries.

Only France, Finland and Turkey came higher.

In most of the countries studied, there are tax benefits for families with children. That’s because “most OECD countries provide benefits to families with children through cash transfers and preferential tax provisions,” reads the report.

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But Italy recorded lower than average reductions, with a decrease of just 8.6 percentage points for family benefits – less than the OECD average of 10 percentage points.

That meant Italy ranked as having the fourth-highest tax wedge for an average married worker with two children, amounting to 37.9 percent in 2021, while the OECD average is 24.6 percent.

The Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help families with the cost of living, including by introducing the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale).

However, this payment replaces various so-called ‘baby bonuses’, meaning the government is scrapping lump sums of hundreds of euros previously paid to help new parents cover the cost of starting a family.

Looking solely at the net tax that a worker pays on income, the same category of employee paid an average tax rate of 18.3 percent in 2021, compared with the 13.1 percent OECD average.

In other words, the take-home pay of an average married worker with two children in Italy, after tax and family benefits, is 81.7 percent of their gross wage, compared to 86.9 percent for the OECD average.

The discouraging figures come after a recent report estimated the total cost of raising a child in Italy up to the age of 18 at €321,617.

For a single employed person with no children, Italy had the fifth-highest tax wedge, slipping slightly from fourth place in 2020.

The tax wedge came to 46.5 percent in 2021 for single workers, while the OECD average tax wedge was 34.6 percent.

READ ALSO: How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

The OECD also reports that, in Italy, contributions and income tax account for 84 percent of the tax wedge, compared to 77 percent on average.

Employment taxation has bounced back for most countries in 2021 following the Covid-19 pandemic, the findings showed.

“Increases to the tax wedge in 2021 have more than offset the sharp declines recorded in 2020 and have seen the tax wedge rebound to higher levels than in 2019, before the pandemic,” the report stated.

Taxation rates for Italian workers remain relatively high despite employment taxation reforms in 2021 that included cutting income tax for lower earners.

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