The Republic of Italy is a country in Southwestern Europe, located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, sharing borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Italy, the third most-populous country in the European Union, is home to an ageing and declining population of almost 60 million people . Around 72% of inhabitants live in urban centers with 28% residing in rural communities. Like many areas in southern Europe with proximity to regions of political and social unrest, Italy has become a country of immigration, with over 500,000 people seeking asylum in the past decade.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Italy since 1956.
Around a third of children in Italy live below the poverty line and at risk of social exclusion. However, about a third of those live in extreme poverty, equating to over 1 million children (14% of all children) in Italy facing deprivation. Children in extreme poverty experience harmful, and sometimes deadly consequences to their health, both in the short- and long-term, including malnutrition and a weakened immune system. In addition, they are at risk missing education, losing their home, and lacking stability, with dire consequences to their mental health.
Around 10% of Italy’s population are unemployed, however over 20% of young people face unemployment. Contributing to this is the fact that over 13% of 18-24 years olds have left school early and almost 1 in 4 are neither in employment, education, nor training. A poor educational background has a marked effect on young people, with worse prospects for future employment, long-term reductions in wages, increased likelihood of poverty, and poorer physical and mental health outcomes.
Italy is home to over 1 million foreign minors, around 10% of the child population. More than 12,000 came to Italy as unaccompanied children seeking international protection. While the law prioritizes foster and family-based care, only 3% of unaccompanied and separated migrant children benefit from it. Children who have been displaced face great risk poverty, malnutrition, and poor health. Without adequate parental care, they are vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and psychosocial distress.