Italy: Aging but saving

By Diana Farrell, Tim Shavers, Sacha Ghai, Ezra Greenberg, Piotr Kulczakowicz, Carlos Ocampo, Yoav Zeif

Italy’s situation is particularly difficult because of its surging aging population. For example, by 2024, it will already have more than 1 million people over the age of 90. Mitigating the demographic forces already at work in Italy will require sustained, coordinated efforts by the public and private sector.

Demographic pressure is expected to continue to drive down Italian household savings flows, further slowing the growth rate of household net financial wealth accumulation, with potentially significant implications for economic growth in Italy. MGI’s analysis suggests that—absent dramatic changes in population trends, savings behavior, or rates of financial asset appreciation—Italian household savings will decline at 1.7 percent annually over the next two decades, causing a sharp slowdown in the growth of household net financial wealth, from the historical rate of 3.4 percent over the 1986–2003 period to 0.9 percent through 2024. By 2024, this slowing growth will cause net financial wealth to fall some 39 percent, or €1.8 trillion, below what it would have been had the higher 1986–2003 growth rates persisted.

The demographic transition has been underway in Italy for the past two decades. Since 1986 the median age in Italy has surged up 7 years, and over the next two decades it is expected to increase another 9 years, reaching 51 in 2024. Italy will have more than an estimated one million people over the age of 90 by 2024.

With its aging population and the number of working-age households continuing to grow more slowly than elderly households, the demographic structure of Italy will become increasingly less able to support wealth accumulation, a good proxy for economic well-being. Slower growth in wealth is likely to mean slower growth in future living standards. For the economy, there will be less household savings to support a fast-growing retiree population, and it will become more difficult to support domestic investment and sustain strong economic growth. The fact that the rest of the developed world is experiencing or is about to encounter similar aging trends means that Italy cannot rely on inflows of foreign savings to make up for its domestic shortfall.

To navigate smoothly through this transition and to offset this strong demographic pressure, Italian households and their government will need to take steps to reverse the decrease in saving and to improve the returns that households obtain on their portfolios. Mitigating the demographic forces already at work in Italy will be challenging and will require sustained, coordinated efforts by the public and private sector.

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