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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Population: demographic situation, languages and religions


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.3Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Last update: 27 November 2023

Demographic situation

The Italian territory, with the exclusion of Republic of San Marino and Vatican City State, covers an area of 302 068 square km. The territory is made up of 35.2% of mountains, 41.6% of hills and 23.2% of plains. The 49.1% of the population lives in plain areas, the 38.8% on the hills and only the 12.1% on the mountains.

On 1st January 2022, residents in Italy were 58 983 122 (28 747 417 males and 30 235 705 females), approximately 250 000 residents less than the previous year. In 2021, the birth rate continued to decree (- 15 461, 6.8%), with births equal to 399 431.

Foreign residents at 1st January 2021 were 5 171 894 (8.7% of the total resident population). The majority of foreign citizens come from EU countries (27.2%), whereas the highest number of non-EU migrants come from central-east Europe (19.6%) and Northern Africa (13.3%).

On 1st January 2022, the ratio between old population aged 65 and over and population aged 0-15, was equal to 187.2%, with a steady increase compared with the previous years. The aging process concerns the whole national territory; however, the aging rate is higher in the Centre and in the North (198.4%), whereas it is lower in the South with the lowest percentage in Campania (143.8%) which is the ’less old’ region of the country.

Life expectancy at birth is 80.1 years for males and 84.7 years for females.

Source: ISTAT - Annuario statistico italiano 2022 Ch. 1 (data on the territory) and Ch. 3 (data on the population).

The tables below show the most recent available statistical data on the economic and demographic situation and data in years 2000 and 2005.

Table 1 - Age distribution of the population (1st January)

  0-14 years 15-64 years above 65 years
2000 14.4% 67.6% 18.0%
2005 14.1% 66.4% 19.5%
2022 12.7% 63.5% 23.8%

Table 2 - Rates of employment and unemployment

  Employment Unemployment
2000 53.5% 10.6%
2005 57.5% 7.7%
2021 58.2% 9.5%

Table 3 - Immigration and migration flows (1st January)

  Enrolments from abroad Cancellations to abroad Total immigrant resident population 1st January Percentage of the total resident population
2000 226 968 56 601 1 270 553  2.2%
2005 325 673 65 029

2 402 157 

2021 286 271 129 482 5 171 894 8.7%

Sources: ISTAT - Annuario statistico italiano, years 2001, 2005, 2022.


Italian is the official language. However, law 482/1999 protects the language and culture of minorities, as provided for by the Constitution and European regulations.

In Italy, the presence of minority languages is linked to both historical and geographical reasons. Official minority languages and culture are 12 and they are spoken:

  • in specific areas at the borders where people talk, together with Italian, French (Valle d’Aosta), German (Trentino/Alto Adige), Ladin (Trentino/Alto Adige), Slovenian (Friuli-Venezia Giulia;
  • in some communities spread all over the country (Albanian, Catalan, Greek, Croatian, Provençal-French, Languedoc);
  • in the Regions Sardegna and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where people speak Sardinian and Friulan, respectively.

According to law no. 482, school education has a key role in the promotion and learning also of these minority languages.

At central level, the Ministry of education and merit promotes and finances national and local projects through specific annual plans.

Single schools of the areas where official minority languages are spoken, organise the teaching and learning of the minority language and culture also upon the requests of parents. At preprimary level, this means that the minority language is used to carry out educative activities. At primary and secondary levels, the minority language is used as teaching language.


The most widespread religion in Italy is Roman Catholicism, which is not, however, a State religion. The Constitution states that "all citizens have equal dignity and are equal before the law without distinction of sex, race, language and religion".

The Italian Constitution establishes that the State and the Holy See are independent and sovereign and that relationships are ruled by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, subsequently amended in 1985.

Legal relations between the Italian State and the Catholic Church are regulated by a Concordat, included in the Lateran Treaty, which makes provision, among other things, for the Catholic religion to be taught in state schools to those pupils who so request.

Relations between the State and the other religions are based on agreements with the respective representatives.


Contents revised: 7 March 2023