Italy’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since the foundation of the modern state in 1861, prompting fresh alarm in a society that has been steadily ageing for decades.

The number of births per 1,000 people has fallen to just 8.4 per cent, down from 38.3 per centwhen Italy’s territories and kingdoms were unified a century and a half ago.

In Britain and the United States, the figures are 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

Last year 509,000 babies were born in Italy, 5,000 fewer than in 2013.

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