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Poland, with one of Europe’s lowest fertility rates, recently began a costly program of tax exemptions, longer maternity leaves and better preschool services to encourage bigger families.

But Italy’s center-left government, pressured by unions, which comprise much of Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s constituency, proceeds in the opposite direction. It promises to undo the previous, conservative government’s reform to raise the retirement age from 57 to 60.

c Daniele Pinto in Rome contributed to this report.