Battle for Births
The Battle for Births was one of four economic battles
Italian economic battles
The Italian economic battles were a series of economic policies undertaken by the National Fascist Party in Italy during the 1920s and 1930s. They were designed to increase the potential of Italy becoming a great power by reclaiming land, placing emphasis on home-grown produce and having a strong...

 that took place in Fascist Italy (1922–1943), the others being the Battle for Grain
Battle for Grain
The Battle for Grain was an economic policy undertaken by the Fascists in Italy during the 1920s as a move toward autarky.-Background:When Benito Mussolini took over as Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 the economy was in a bad state following World War I...

 (to make the country more self-sufficient
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

), the Battle for the Lira
Battle for the Lira
The Battle for the Lira was an economic policy undertaken by the Fascists in Italy during the 1920s as an attempt to raise the claims of Italy becoming a great power.-Background:...

 (an increase in the value of the currency), and the Battle for Land
Battle for Land
The Battle For Land, started in 1928 in Italy by Benito Mussolini, aimed to clear marshland and make it suitable for farming, as well as reclaiming land and reducing health risks.-Aims:...

 (which involved policies of land reclamation
Land reclamation
Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, is the process to create new land from sea or riverbeds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or landfill.- Habitation :...

). Prime Minister Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

, often known as Il Duce, envisioned an Italian Empire to rival that of the Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, and in order to carry out this objective, foresaw the need to increase the population. Mussolini pursued an often aggressive foreign policy to achieve his colonial aims: the Italian army
Italian Army
The Italian Army is the ground defence force of the Italian Armed Forces. It is all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 108,355 in 2010. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft...

 invaded Abyssinia
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

 (now Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

) in October 1935. The phrase "Battle for Births" was also used, in contemporary sources, to describe policies developed in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...



Mussolini feuded with the Catholic Church over a number of issues in his time in office, but their views, at that time, coincided on the issue of gender role
Gender role
Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...

s and contraception
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

: both felt that women should assume a role as wife and mother, and both disagreed with contraception
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

 and abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

, with Mussolini banning the former. The Battle for Births began in 1927: Mussolini introduced a number of measures to encourage reproduction, with an objective of increasing the population from 40 million to 60 million by 1950. Loans were offered to married couples, with part of the loan cancelled for each new child, and any married man who had more than six children was made exempt from taxation. Mussolini, who had developed a Cult of Personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

, argued that the Italian people had a duty to himself to produce as many children as possible.

In correspondence with these incentives, laws were brought in to penalize any citizens who proved to be less productive. Bachelors were taxed increasingly, and by the late 1930s, the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 began recruiting and promoting only those who were fertile and married. The state exercized some control over the number of women in employment through nationalized businesses, and the state-owned railway company sacked all women employed since 1915, bar war widows. These policies extended to private industry as well, with the majority of companies reserving promotions for married men.


Unlike the Battle for Grain and Battle for Land, which were considered to be moderately successful, the Battle for Births is seen as a failure. By 1950—seven years after Mussolini had been ousted by King Victor Emmanuel III, and five years since his execution—Italy's population stood at 47.5 million. Marriage rates stayed virtually the same during Mussolini's reign, and birth rates decreased until 1936, after which there was a modest increase. The birth rate of 112 per 1000 in 1936 was below that of pre-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 levels (1911: 147 per 1000). Mussolini felt that the lack of enthusiasm shown by the Italian nation had cost him 15 army division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (in which Italy had fought alongside the Axis powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

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