Italian report: Rapporto Italiani nel Mondo 2023
- WTI Magazine #169 Nov 17, 2023
Italy with a thousand problems and a serious youth issue to deal with
Gallup's “State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report” says that 53% of workers globally think it is a good time to change jobs, and about half (51%) say they plan to leave their jobs considering the recovery of the employment world after the disruption due to the global pandemic.
In Europe, things are different: while Danes (69%), Germans (52%) and British (40%) think it is a good time to change jobs, Italians feel as if nailed to their professional fate (18%), they are the least involved workers, the most stressed (49%) and the saddest (27%), those who feel they have no other job choice, certainly the most resigned to their fate.
Resignation increases as age groups decrease. In an increasingly resilient Italy, young Italians suffer the most in Europe. Between the ages of 18 and 34, almost one out of every two young people in 2022 (4.8 million) has at least one sign of deprivation, and two are the existential spheres most in trouble: education and work. Increasingly vulnerable, as many as 1.7 million of Italy's young people are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). The comparison with Europe is merciless: Italian workers earn about 3,700 euros less than the average of their European colleagues and, in particular, more than 8,000 euros less than the average of Germans.
A college degree offers better employment and income opportunities especially for the South and women: the employment rate of college graduates is 30 points higher than those with lower degrees in the 25-64 age group, a difference that reaches 35 points in the South, 44 for women and almost 50 points for women in the South.
Southern Italy is one of the most advanced points of an unprecedented phenomenon, which sees a structural reduction in the weight of young people to a level never experienced in the past. This is a primary symptom of the difficulties that characterize the condition of youth in these territories.
It is clear, then, that we are facing a major new Italian (but also European) youth issue. One for which too little is still being done in Italy. And young people, young adults and, increasingly, even the very young are burning time and, tired of waiting, are finding solutions and answers in other places far from home.
Young Italians and departures: when destiny is far away
In 2022, internal migration movements in Italy (1 million 484 thousand) are on the rise again: +4% compared to 2021 and +10% compared to 2020. It is slowly returning to 2019 levels, but once again the South of Italy is the loser. The northern regions turn out to be the most attractive, especially Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Lombardy, but Italian mobility is, as a whole, something very complex. It, in fact, concerns both movements that occur within the country between different regions, especially from the South to the North, and movements from urban to suburban areas to live or work.
Forty-four % of departures for expatriation, which took place from January to December 2022, involved young Italians between the ages of 18 and 34: compared to previous years, two percentage points more in this specific age group, which continues to grow despite the fact that in general, still for this year, a decrease in official departures - and therefore with registration in the Registry of Italians Resident Abroad - of our compatriots and compatriots across Italian borders was detected - for the expatriation reason alone.
The prolongation of these decreases (-2.1%, -1,767 expatriate-only registrations compared to 2022) and the delay of departures in numbers comparable to the pre-pandemic period (always more than 100,000 expatriate-only departures per year) prompts the thought that we are probably in a new phase of Italian mobility. The latter, in fact, has accustomed us to sudden and continuous changes that take into account the historical period and events, of any kind, that happen. It is as if the Covid epidemic has made Italian migrants leaving today less fearful, less inclined to risk, but with a greater sense of responsibility and a more intense anxiety about a life choice that could be final - considering the experiences of others (relatives and friends) close to them - and for this reason even less easy to take.
It is also true, however, that the post-pandemic recovery has kindled hopes in the possibility of a transformation of our country, that is, of the advent of a series of projects and reforms mi- rate to combat and overcome most of the fragilities with which Italy has been struggling for quite some time. Specifically, the reference is to unemployment, the depopulation of territories, demographic winter, the absence of policies and incentives for parenthood and families, greater attention to new generations and their training, their valorization and introduction to the world of work, their civil and social participation, and support for the world of research.
There is an increase in the undecided, those who are in a sort of limbo between here and there, those who have gone abroad and are also working there, but who continue to keep one foot still even in Italy by not complying with the obligation to register with the Registry of Italians Resident Abroad (AIRE). Modern illegal immigrants are increasing, those who do not respond to the right-duty to move their residence from Italy to abroad, those who live between two realities taking from each what they can, from time to time justified by the fact that they have been poorly considered and valued and that Italy has not taken care of them by preventing them from going to live far away.
Italy growing outside of Italy
Italy outside Italy's borders now consists of about 6 million citizens. The analysis of the numbers crosses the history of Fondazione Migrantes’ Rapporto Italiani nel Mondo, whose first edition dates back eighteen years. A presence that has grown since 2006 by +91 %. Italians abroad have practically doubled (99.3%), minors have increased by +78.3% and the over-65s by +109.8%. Those born abroad have grown, since 2006, by +175%, acquisitions of citizenship by +144%, departures for expatriation by +44.9%, transfers from other AIRE by +70%.
As of January 1, 2023, there were 5,933,418 compatriots registered with AIRE, 10.1% of the 58.8 million Italians residing in Italy. While Italy continues inexorably to lose residents (in one year -132,405 people, -0.2 %), Italy outside Italy continues to grow, albeit less strongly than in previous years.
Of the nearly 6 million Italians living abroad, 46.5 % are from the South (15.9 % from the Islands alone), 37.8 % from the North (19.1 % from the Northwest), and 15.8 % from the Center.
In the last 20 years, therefore, and then even more so in the last decade, we have witnessed not only a revival of the phenomenon, but a drastic change in it. Compared to the traditional characteristics-Southern origin, overseas prominence, family emigration-the more recent mobility of Italians, characterized by departures from the regions of the Center-North after, in most cases, a more or less long period of internal South-North mobility, is rewriting the history of Italy related to the migratory flows of its residents.
Sicily is the region of origin of the largest community (over 815,000). It is followed - staying above 500,000 - by Lombardy (almost 611,000), Campania (+548,000), Veneto (+526,000) and Lazio (almost 502,000).
48.2 % of the 6 million Italians abroad are women (more than 2.8 million). The presence of Italians is growing steadily: it has practically doubled since 2006 (+99.3%). 58.2% of AIRE members are single/unmarried, 35.3% married. Widowed are 2.2% and have been surpassed by divorced (2.8%). Civil unions are growing (3,815, 0.1%).
In contrast to Italians in Italy, Italians residing abroad are getting younger. The middle age groups made up of young people, young adults and mature adults are growing: 23.2% (more than 1.3 million) are between 35 and 49 years old; 21.7% (more than 1.2 million) are between 18 and 34 years old. Looking at the more mature age groups, 19.5 % (more than 1.1 million) are between 50 and 64 years old while the elderly over 65 are 21.1 %. Among them, the most represented age group is 65-74 (9.6 %, about 570 thousand). Minors number more than 855 thousand (14.4%).
51% have been abroad for more than 15 years, 19.3% for less than 5 years. 49% are abroad by expatriation, 40.4% were born abroad to Italian citizens. Both the work of rectifying irregular positions (re-registrations from non traceability) at 4.4% and the acquisitions of citizenship (3.3%) are increasing
The current Italian presence abroad is European. Europe hosts over 3.2 million compatriots (54.7 % of the total) while the American continent follows with over 2.3 million (40.1 %).
Today, the largest Italian communities are found in Argentina (over 921,000 members, 15.5 % of the total), Germany (over 822,000, 13.9 %), and Switzerland (over 639,000, 10.8 %). This is followed by Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
As many as three continents - North and Latin America, Europe and Oceania - are recorded in the top ten positions.
Mobility in the past year
In the post Covid year, we are surprised that the departure for our compatriots has been underwhelming. This, however, does not change the fact that Italy abroad continues to grow, rejuvenate and underscore the fact that the link with migration is the supporting feature of a national history that has never ceased to write important pages for our existence as a state and as a people, especially today in the presence of a long-lived, demographically increasingly in crisis and extremely fragile Italy.
If before the advent of Covid, AIRE registrations in a year were as high as 260,000 and more than 50 % were for expatriation, the weight of this type in total registrations has been waning-from 49.3 % in 2021 out of more than 222,000 registrations to 42.8 % in 2022 out of more than 195,000 registrations. In the past year, out of nearly 209 thousand enrollments for all reasons, 39.2% were for expatriation, a reason that, for the first time, was surpassed by birth abroad to Italian citizens (43.4%, nearly 91 thousand enrollments).
From January to December 2022, 82,014 Italians enrolled in AIRE for the sole reason "expatriation" (-2.1% from the previous year or -1,767 enrollments). Despite the general reduction, the overall characteristics remain the same as in 2022: a mobility that is predominantly male (54.6% of the total enrolled), unmarried (67.1%, while those married are 27.3%), young (44.0% are between 18 and 34 years) or young adult (23% are between 35 and 49 years old).
Compared with the previous year, important peculiarities emerge: minors experience the largest decrease (-17.8% or about 3 thousand fewer registrations), and also decreasing are young adults (-5.7% of those aged 35-49).
53.9% (44,210) of those who left Italy for expatriation from January to December 2022 did so from Northern Italy, 30.2% (24,729) from the South and 15.9% (13,075) from the Center.
Lombardy and Veneto - with, respectively, 18.8 % and 11.4 % of the total - are, once again, the regions from which most depart today. They are followed by Sicily (8.9 %), Emilia Romagna (8.2 %) and Piedmont (7.6 %). Northern Italy thus continues to be the undisputed protagonist of current mobility from Italy to abroad, a mobility that is also reduced this year, but in line with 2022.
From January to December 2022, Italians departed from all 107 provinces of Italy to 177 different destinations around the world. Milan, Turin, Naples, and Rome are, in order, the top four provincial contexts.
Mobility is no longer escaping from situations of economic and employment fragility. Mobility is a desire for revenge and growth. This need is found as much in medium-large metropolitan areas as in medium-small cities. It accompanies those who live in depressed areas as well as those who reside in wealthy areas of our country, those territories seemingly devoid of problems but which, in the age of mobility and the fluidity of identity, become for some too narrow to the point of pushing them to seek wider living spaces anyway.
75.3 % of those who left Italy for expatriation during 2022 went to Europe; 17.1 %, on the other hand, came to the American continent (10.5 % to Latin America), and 7.4 % spread throughout the rest of the world.
16.4 % of expatriate enrollments went to the United Kingdom; 13.8 % to Germany; 10.4 % to France; and 9.1 % to Switzerland. The top four countries, all European, gather 50 % of total departures.
Since 2022, all destinations show negative changes (especially in Latin America, Brazil -57.1% and Argentina -50.7%).
Social security mobility
If the pandemic had wiped out social security mobility, that is, that of Italians and Italians aged 65 and over, in the last year there is a glimpse of some recovery.
It is since 2012 that Fondazione Migrantes, together with INPS (National Institute of Social Security), has been monitoring the health of Italian pensioners who reside abroad, who return to Italy from abroad or who are part of the recent outflows from our country. A mobility, that of pensioners, characterized by inconstancy, so much so that in 2019 there were almost 6,000 departures per year and then dropped to more than half during 2020 and 2021. In 2023, within the overall decrease in departures compared to 2022 (-2.1 %), AIRE registrations for expatriate motivation alone for the over-65s totaled 4,300. The changes recorded, compared to 2022, are: +17.8% for those aged 65-74, +15.1% for those aged 75-84, and +5.3% for those over 85.
What drives our retirees to leave Italy? There are several reasons - search for exotic places that are more culturally or climatically beloved, need for countries with defiscalization policies - but the one that, from crossing the data, appears to be the most beaten reason is that the elderly go to the same places where their children and grandchildren have moved. The desire that drives a man or woman ahead in age, many times widowed, to experience a migratory per- course today, questioning themselves and facing the unknown is, therefore, a kind of modern family reunification process often carried out unofficially. The data are, in fact, absolutely underestimated because especially for those who move to Europe, a change of residence is not always carried out. This happens for several reasons: because one hopes that the children will return; because one moves on a "temporary" basis, until, that is, the grandchildren are independent; and because, since they are people advanced in years, they perhaps need to have periodic medical checkups, treatments, or more simply do not want to leave the attending physician and, in general, Italian health care.
Another issue closely related to today's departures is that of the possible return to Italy of Italians and Italians who, living abroad, have reached retirement age. The theme of re-entry is linked to the analysis of territorial contexts where, precisely the presence of returning migrants and their pensions, generates wealth and allows territories a vitality that they would not otherwise have today. It is crucial today to try to understand how to deal with the phenomenon of re-attracting even pension migrants by looking at where it is that this migration today creates wealth. There are, in fact, certain pockets of our national territory, the so-called inland areas, where the impact of pensions paid in Italy to people who have had experience abroad is very strong and affects so much that these territories manage to have a happy and dignified subsistence precisely because of the older workers who have chosen to return.
Female mobility: aspirations and achievements despite the gender gap
In contrast to previous waves of migration, in which the traditional figure of the female migrant was driven to relocate in order to reunite with her family and rejoin the men who had gone before her in search of fortune, in recent years she has been replaced by that of a modern, dynamic woman, motivated in part by the prospect of independent living, greater economic well-being and a more rewarding professional career.
It is precisely the career-related motivation that is driving many women, often with high professional skills, to move to countries with fewer gender barriers that hinder their access to positions of responsibility, or to high pay levels.
The issue of equal pay has received strong institutional attention, but in the face of the increase in employment found, the gender gap is not improving in Italy. Among the data reported is the mere 6.6 % of women who find work after childbirth, and with reference to the so-called "brain drain," it is found that one of its most significant causes is the "failure to support and enhance female employment," which, among other things, is one of the main causes of the decline in birth rates, of which, precisely in 2022, the all-time low has been reached.
Of the preferred destinations, Europe remains the most sought-after destination, both because of its geographical proximity, being able to return quickly and inexpensively, and because it is easier to move around and take care of administrative matters, as well as because of language understanding: almost all women with a university education speak at least one or two of the idioms used in European countries.
Who goes and who comes back: civil registry registrations and cancellations
In 2021, cancellations for abroad of Italian citizens totaled about 94,000, including 42,000 women (45.1%), while the number of registry registrations from abroad was nearly 75,000 individuals, including 33,000 women (44.2%).
In general, emigrants have a median age of 31 for men and 29 for women, while the median age of returning Italians is slightly higher, 35 for men and 32 for women.
Specifically, analysis of the age structure of the outflows of Italians highlights that expatriates are particularly young (52 % in the 20-39 age group); substantial, too, is the number of minors presumably moving with their families (19 % in the 0-17 age group). Also noteworthy is the significant share (23%) represented by 40-65 year olds, the latter a sign of an increasing propensity and/or need to emigrate abroad for work even at an older age.
As for the level of education, predominantly Italian emigrants have a medium-high educational qualification (about 58 % hold at least a diploma), with a gender difference in favor of men (55 % versus 45 % of women).
The regions for which the migration of Italians to foreign countries is most substantial are Lombardy (20 % of total cancellations), Veneto (10 %), Sicily (9 %), and Emilia Romagna (8 %).
Looking at the citizens who returned to Italy in 2021, it turns out that they too are predominantly men (55.8%); in 47.5% of cases they have an average low educational qualification, in 28.5% of cases a high school diploma, and in the remaining 24% a high level of education (bachelor's degree and post-graduate). 24.1% of returnees are over 50 years old.
Repatriations are mainly to Lombardy (19 % of total entries), Lazio (10 %), Sicily (9 %) and Veneto (8 %).
Over the past decade, returns increase and expatriations decrease
During the decade 2012-2021, the number of returns from abroad of Italian citizens more than doubled from 29,000 in 2012 to about 75,000 in 2021 (+154%). A trend that, after substantial stability in the first four years of the decade, appears to be steadily increasing. However, the volume of returning compatriots is not sufficient to compensate for the population loss due to expatriates.
In the past decade, the total number of returnees was 443,000. Two out of every five Italians return from a European Union country.
Returning accompanied and supported by Italy
After the freeze on international mobility imposed by the early stages of Covid, 2021 had been a year of strong acceleration of return flows to Italy. 2021 was the year in which the impact of the introduction of the new tax breaks for attracting expatriates to Italy became apparent: the number of returns doubled from an average of 2,000/3,000 per year to more than 6,500. The concessions have worked, but Italy still needs to do more.
Confirming the attractiveness of the new tax breaks and Italy's potential, the share of highly skilled foreign nationals choosing to move to Italy continues to grow: their incidence was less than 4 % (3.8 %) in 2018, and has gradually risen to 7.8 % in 2022, essentially doubling.
Another phenomenon evident from the data is the change in the average age of those moving to Italy from abroad.
The over-40s bracket has always been very stable as a percentage in past years around 30 % of the total, and in the three-year period 2021-22-23, it grows by a modest two points. But the 20-30 age group more than doubles from 7-8% to nearly 20%, while the 30-40 age group loses 10 points.
Returnees in the 20-30 bracket rose first due to a mix of emergency reasons (Covid) and now mainly economic, thanks to the boost of tax breaks; the latter remains active, but it must be kept in mind that these people remain very internationally mobile, and partly re-expatriate later. The 40-plus age group is now more attracted to the benefits, being made up of people now largely disengaged from family issues and with children on their way to independence. On the 30-40 age group it is harder to be attractive, because it is in this group that families with minor children are concentrated, who are more difficult to move, and it is here that labor issues have to clash with the (low) attractiveness of Italian family welfare.
Interestingly, the relative increase in the share of returns in southern regions is continuing, at the expense of northern regions. In the South, albeit with some variability, the region that has captured the largest share of returns over the past three years has been Campania, followed by Puglia and Sicily. As for the northern regions, the relative incidence drops, but in the context of growing absolute numbers.
The Lombardy region is confirmed as attracting the largest number of workers from abroad, with an estimated 42 % of returnees by 2023. The phenomenon is closely linked to the presence of numerous companies in the tertiary sector, especially in the Milan metropolitan area where many international employers are also concentrated. The only region in the North that sees its share increase is Trentino Alto Adige: this region stands out for the quality of services made available with particular reference to those supporting families, which enjoy better health, social and labor treatment than the national average, as evidenced by a territorial birth rate 30 % higher than the national average.
Return, roots, “restanza”
Even before simplifications, fewer constraints, and increased salaries, to make human capital attraction policies even more incisive, the aspects related to families with children and family welfare need to be strengthened. Focusing legislation on entrenchment, as was done in 2019, has made it possible to raise the potential of tax breaks, introducing a medium-term horizon and thus attracting more people. Families of those who return or have returned from abroad should now be encouraged. Supporting the family not only further contributes to permanent rootedness, but also enables a curb on the demographic winter looming over the country. Stimulating the birth rate also has the effect of creating a huge inducement from the families involved, with positive repercussions for the entire Country System.
Also not to be underestimated is the potential of those returning from abroad who want to actively contribute to investing in the country. By designing targeted proposals and incentivizing such forms of investment, another virtuous circle could be triggered with benefits for all citizens and for all Italian territories, starting with the inland areas, also called areas of the margin.
Italy's inland areas, historically characterized by low population density and distance from essential services, are facing significant challenges in terms of depopulation and economic decline. Of the 301,000 square kilometers of Italy's land area, about 177,000 are currently classified as inland areas, accounting for just under 59 % of the total. There were 13 million people residing in them as of 2020, less than 23 % of the total number of residents, with a density of 75.7 inhabitants per square kilometer, very low compared to the national average of 196 inhabitants per square kilometer.
However, in recent years, there have been phenomena of “restanza” that represent a potential solution to these trends, offering a prospect for the revitalization and transformation of these areas. “Restanza” means the decision of individuals or families to remain or return to their communities of origin: a personal choice motivated by a strong bond with the territory that also moves on a community level as it can translate into entrepreneurial initiatives, cultural and social projects. The term itself, “Restanza”, combines the concepts of “restare” (remaining) and “resilienza” (resilience).
Italy's inland areas, though marked by adverse demographic dynamics, possess immense potential that can be unleashed through well-considered public policies, transforming these areas into beacons of sustainability, innovation and growth. “Restanza”, supported by these policies, can become the key to a prosperous and inclusive future for Italy.
The phenomena of “restanza” in inland areas and young people
The phenomena of “restanza” in inland areas that affect the youth population take on a value that goes far beyond the individual dimension of an existential choice, but should instead be framed within a shared path of contrasting social, economic, cultural and anthropological impoverishment, a true act of collective trust in the potential of one's community of origin, in its productive vocations and in the resources to be enhanced in it.
Underlying the “restanza”, in fact, there always seems to be a desire on the part of young people to preserve a strong bond with their communities of origin-sometimes not of direct origin, but belonging to their parents or grandparents-and to decline this bond as a choice of ways of life more in keeping with their own aspirations, including through the rediscovery of local identities and traditions.
This choice, despite the practical difficulties it may configure, translates into the aspiration to strive for an economic rebirth of the territory subject to the phenomenon of return, either by resuming activities typical of agro-pastoral contexts, or by introducing new activities such as those related to experiential tourism, the subject of particular attention by youth entrepreneurship.
It is from the skillful combination of these old and new productive activities that the economic sustainability of the phenomena of “restanza” in inland areas can be generated: by enhancing resources and potential absent in other areas of the national territory, this becomes source of concrete economic opportunities.
Roots tourism: the journey of a lifetime for special travelers
The global pandemic has shown that a return is possible and, in fact, this report has as its common thread that of returns that have occurred or are possible.
The theme of returns can be approached from multiple perspectives. First of all, the returns of Italians in activity who return after having experienced years of mobility and, therefore, with a migratory background that, if properly valued, could be a fundamental investment for a different and avant-garde Italy: think of bilingualism or trilingualism, but also of the experience of the working world made in another country, of the cultural expansion, of customs and traditions, of experience.
There is, however, a second type of return: that of Italians or, rather, Italodescendants, who return to get to know the places from which they or their ancestors left. It is a theme that ties in with root tourism whose year will be celebrated in 2024. It is a special form of tourism and special travelers who, through traveling to Italy, retrace a path of discovery or rediscovery of themselves, their identity and their family history.
Roots tourism, then, is a particular segment of tourism offerings that combines the fascination of travel with the memory and curiosity of regaining or grasping for the first time elements that are part of one's history and identity. Here is why many people end up calling it the journey of a lifetime: after taking it, you are never the same as you were before. It is a journey that transforms, evolves, makes one aware of riches already possessed or lacks to be filled, brings one back to the essence of who one is and who one wants to become as time passes.
The study “Scoprirsi italiani. Il turismo delle radici in Italia” (Discovering Italians. Roots Tourism in Italy) contains the results of a multidisciplinary research involving 10,185 people from 80 different countries around the world with more than 100,000 data collected, from which emerges the profile of the roots traveler/tourist: a highly educated Italian-descendant (mostly third or fourth generation), who thirsts for Italy, regardless of whether or not he has citizenship.
They tend to stay in their places of origin for a long time, are willing to make economic sacrifices to connect with their origins, and, in addition to wanting to meet their family of origin and get to know the places of their roots, are highly interested in taking Italian language and culture courses, food and wine workshops, or activities designed to introduce people to ancient crafts.