Pink is still in. Even more so in Milan, Italy’s fashion capital, where pregnant women can park for free in special pink spaces.
The city recently launched a Pink Parking Program that by 2011 will give pregnant women a total of 17 “courtesy areas” (hospitals, pediatric clinics) where they can park free for 90 minutes. (The “pink is for girls” idea is common in Italy, where even steely feminists seem to accept that any women’s initiative usually has the word associated with it, such as “quote rosa” (pink quotas) for women in politics.)
With one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, Italians are scrambling to create bambini bonuses and oddball initiatives to convince women to have more children.
A recent study showed, however, that countries like Italy where women feel less able to control their lives — birth control, abortion, divorce, work — they have fewer children. In Sweden, for example, 72% of women use birth control, 2.4 every 1,000 women are divorced and a whopping 3% of the GDP is dedicated to social programs that favor maternity (inexpensive and plentiful childcare, real paternity leave, etc) resulting in an average of two kids per woman.
Italy, on the other hand, only 39% use birth control, the divorce rate is 0.7 and 1.1% of the GDP is dedicated to family initiatives. The result? In the poorer and rural areas of Italy, the average is 1.06 child per woman.
Presenting the research, demographic expert Letizia Mencarini told papers that “Italy’s reputation as the country for families lives on only in stereotypes.”
Though Milan, the city with the highest number of working mothers in Italy has also been enjoying a baby boomlet, aided but not entirely bolstered by resident foreigners.
I have my doubts about how useful the initiative is, how much of the population it might touch when the city couldn’t even get a few future mamme for the photo op, which shows two elderly city councilmen standing sheepishly with hands in suit pants on a parking space the shade of Pepto-Bismol.