The Italian youngsters “brain drain”: a contemporary mass migration
From the latest Italian official Istat report, in 2015 almost 100 thousand Italians left their home country, 15% more than in the previous year: half of them is less than 40 years-old and one third has a Bachelor degree. As a constant trend, these volumes continued also in 2016 and for this 2017.
The number of Italians aged 25-39 with college degrees registering at the Italian Government as living abroad every year (AIRE), has risen steadily, from 2,540 in 1999 to about 4,000 in 2008. The Italian research-institute Censis estimates that 11,700 college graduates found work abroad in 2006 – that’s one out of every 25 Italians who graduated that year.
According to a poll by Bachelor, a recruitment agency from Milan, 33.6% of new graduates feel they need to leave the country to take advantage of their own education. A year later, 61.5% feel that they should have emigrated abroad.
More and more Italians are leaving because they cannot get a job or they do not see the concrete opportunity to realize themselves in Italy, indeed, it should be pointed out that more than 30% of Italians also use to say that they are willing to go abroad, sometimes even to other continents, to get a new work. Currently, about 300,000 young Italians are living abroad. That is the so called “brain drain” phenomenon, the situation in which large numbers of educated and very skilled people leave their own country to live and work in another one where salaries and conditions are better.
Although this issue has always been a hot topic for Italians, especially for those who left the country at the beginning of the twentieth century, more and younger Italians think that leaving their home country is the only way to escape economic hardships. But there is one thing that should be underlined related to this (new) and contemporary mass emigration. These young Italians are not poor farmers and labourers but bright university graduates and other talented youngsters.
And that’s the point! Italians started to emigrate to North and South America in the second half of the 19th century and another wave of migration began after World War Two, but those ones were in the majority very poor families, unskilled workers who became coal miners in Belgium or worked on infrastructure projects in Germany, as pointed out by Pietro Luigi Biagioni, who heads the “Paolo Cresci Foundation” for the History of Italian Emigration.
“Actual migration is very different”, and that’s because qualified professionals are losing hope in Italy‘s ability to revive its stagnant economy. Indeed, Italy has been in recession since mid-20ll and the euro zone’s most sluggish economy for well over a decade. At 37 percent, youth unemployment in Italy is the highest since 20 years ago, so that the issue concerning the the “lost generation” has become an actual and very “hot” election issue.
Another point to stress concerns the fact that some youngsters join the “brain drain” even before finishing their studies, and – at the same time – the problem is that Italy is losing abroad top quality students and researchers but is not attracting in incoming a similar number of high-quality people. It is not a proportional exchange: a huge number of people leave and very few (and not so qualified) come!
A contribution to this problem is that Italian universities and workplaces are unattractive to foreign students and graduates because of: the low wages offered to researchers, the complex hiring process, lower wages and the systematic use of Italian. According to OECD data, only 4% of those studying at Italian universities are foreigners and there are fewer and fewer foreign teachers. In addition, offers for university jobs were only published in Italian and the selection system tended to favour internal candidates from local universities.
There are no large countries that have experienced a growth of this phenomenon as Italy. Today Italians emigrate, in proportion to the inhabitants, more than Spanish and Germans, a fact that has never happened before. If it were not for the sudden growth of British “fleeing brains” in 2016 (due to the Brexit?) even the UK would be overcome.
According to Eurostat surveys, Italy was ranked as the fourth place in terms of emigration increase of its citizens, with a + 104.3% between 2011 and 2015 and, in 2016, it was even before Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia. In addition to this, it should be noted that, in the same period, the outflow of foreigners from Italy was just 18.8%.
They are however mostly (and it could be a paradox!) from the north. The great majority leaves Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Lombardy, the richest regions in Italy. It is interesting to report that youngsters that leave the Southern Regions of Puglia, Campania and Basilicata, are one half of those who emigrate from the northern regions.
If we would like to be simply optimistic, we could say that it is a normal effect of the “globalization”, that young people go to work abroad in regions with more connections with the world economy to grasp new opportunities, and that there is no need to worry.
But the Italian government is aware of this high-volume emigration problem and it has to struggle to create new opportunities for its younger generation.
But even if it starts working on a new-style economy right away, it may take years before things in Italy will change. The government has already passed laws which will make it easier for doctors, lawyers and other academics to start a career in Italy, but – at the same time – many economic experts claim that Italy is doing a lot for its older generation but not enough (almost nothing) for its youth.