By Alessandra Cardone
ROME, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Italy's population was expected to keep shrinking in the next decades, losing up to 6.5 million by 2065, the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) said on Thursday.
Outlining a medium-term scenario, ISTAT forecast the country's resident population -- some 60 million people today -- would drop by at least 1.6 million by 2045, and by 6.5 million in further 20 years.
Taking into consideration the variability of demographic events, researchers said the population estimate in 2065 would range "from a minimum of 46.4 million to a maximum of 62 (million)".
"The chance of a population increase scenario by 2065 is 9 percent," ISTAT added.
A shift in demographic distribution was also expected. The number of residents living in northern Italy was likely to start decreasing only from 2045 onwards, while southern regions and major islands (Sicily and Sardinia) would go through the declining demographic trend during the whole period of projection taken into account.
"The empirical probability that in 2065 the Center-North will have a wider population than today is 30 percent, while for the South and Isles area it is null," researchers wrote.
In 2065, the northern and central regions of Italy were as such forecast to host some 71 percent of the country's residents, against the current 66 percent. On the contrary, southern regions and major islands would give hospitality to 29 percent of residents compared to the current 34 percent.
Fertility was projected to increase from 1.34 children per woman today to 1.59 children per woman by 2065, although uncertainty on this factor would grow higher in the last phase of the projection period, ISTAT specified.
Finally, the Italian population -- already known for its longevity -- would see its survival rate increase further in the next decades. Life expectancy at birth for men and women would grow from 80.6 years and 85 years in 2016, respectively, to 86.1 years and 90.2 years by 2065.
Italy has the second largest population aged 65 or over in the world, behind Japan and before Germany and Portugal, according to several global statistics including from the World Bank.
In January, the country had a resident population of 60,494,000 million, down about 100,000 persons against January of last year, ISTAT estimated. People aged 65 and above counted for 22.6 percent of the whole.