Italy’s population at the beginning of 2018 was estimated to be almost 60.5 million, while around 464,000 babies were born in 2017, according to the latest figures from national statistics bureau Istat.

That was 9000 below the 2016 total - which was already 12,000 less than the previous year – and makes it Italy’s lowest birth rate so far.

Only four of Italy's 20 regions experienced any population growth: Trentino-South Tyrol, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio.

The regions with the most notable decline were Sicily, Basilicata and Molise, all located in southern Italy.

The declining birth rate, combined with longer life expectancy, has left Italy with a significantly older population.

By the start of 2018, the mean age of Italy’s residents was over 45 years old, marking the first time this has ever occurred.

Nearly 60 per cent of residents were 40 or older, while nearly 23 per cent were over 65.

In contrast, only 27 per cent were aged between 15 and 39, and around 13 per cent were 14 or younger.

Meanwhile, the trend to have children at later ages was confirmed: the mean age at childbearing had grown to 31.8 years.

Deaths also increased in 2017, leaving Italy with around 100,000 fewer people than at the start of the year.