Italy needs more, better-qualified migrants to face future
By Alessandra Cardone
ROME, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Migration will be increasingly essential to Italy's economy and society, considering both the financial contribution of foreign workers and the country's ageing population, according to a report presented here on Wednesday.
Some 5 million regular migrants lived in the country in 2017, and 2.4 million were workers, which increased by 43 percent compared to 2008, the Leone Moressa Foundation said unveiling its "Report on Economy of Immigration" at a conference.
Since 2011, the Venice-based research institute issues the annual study, assessing the implications of migrant population on Italy's economy and social fabric.
GROWING LABOR FORCE
Foreign workers made up 10.5 percent of workforce in 2017 against 9.3 percent in 2012, and contributed at least 8.7 percent of Italy's national gross domestic product, or 130.6 billion euros in value added (150.4 billion U.S. dollars), the report said.
The GDP estimate was based on data by Italy's National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) in 2016.
At the same time, some 691,303 firms run by immigrants were registered last year, making up 9.2 percent of all businesses.
Foreign-run companies increased by 16.3 percent since 2012, proving more resilient than firms run by Italians, which dropped by 6.4 percent in the same period.
Morocco, China, Romania, Albania, and Bangladesh were the first countries of origin of foreign entrepreneurs, with the highest rise registered among Chinese (26 percent) and Bangladeshi (68.3 percent) between 2012 and 2017.
"Almost half of what we can call 'the GDP of immigration' (130.6 billion euros) comes from the service sector, followed by manufacturing and construction," the report highlighted.
Furthermore, migrants paid 3.3 billion euros in income tax (on total 156 billion euros paid), and 11.4 billion euros in contributions to the country's social security (5.4 percent of total) in 2017, the report estimated on data by the Economy Ministry.
Although migration was not to consider a universal solution to population trends, researchers said such figures were especially relevant in the perspective of Italy's demographic decline.
BALANCING A FAST AGEING POPULATION
Italy had a population of 60.5 million, of which 39 million between the ages of 15 and 64, and 13 million aged 65 and over. This meant there were three workers for every two pensioners, according to Chiara Tronchin of the Moressa Foundation.
"The forecast provided by Eurostat (EU statistical office) showed that Italy's population will drop by 3 percent by 2050," the researcher told the conference.
"This would not be a problem, but for the fact that all working age groups are expected to decrease by that date, and the over-65 will be the only group to grow."
In this scenario, Italy would count on one worker for every one pensioner by 2050, which would represent a major threat to the sustainability of the pension system and welfare.
At the same time, the country's birthrate has long been on a decreasing path, and was now among the lowest in Europe.
"Since 1977, the fertility rate among Italian women has been too low to ensure a positive natural population balance (meaning births outnumber deaths)," the report said.
Some 464,000 births were registered in 2017, the lowest figure ever recorded in the country's history.
"Not even during war times in the past century, Italy has been registering so few children," Massimiliano Valerii, director of social research institute Censis, told the audience.
"It can be said this is a country on the verge of a demographic default."
As such, migrants in Italy -- whose average age was 33.6 against 45.4 of Italian nationals -- were more and more important in terms of both number and economic contribution.
SKILLED MIGRANTS, MORE SOCIAL MOBILITY NEEDED
In this framework, the report said Italy would need to attract more qualified migrants, and at the same time to improve socio-economic conditions of those already here.
"At the moment, many young people in Italy are migrants, and they do not compete with Italian workers, since they mostly do low-qualified jobs," Tronchin told Xinhua.
"The other side of the coin is that these migrants doing low-qualified and low-paid jobs are able to disburse only a low amount in taxes and social contributions," she explained.
Researchers highlighted only 11.8 percent of migrants in Italy had a university degree against 21.4 percent in Spain, 26.7 percent in France, 50.6 percent in UK (and a European average of 28.5 percent).
"In a medium perspective, Italy needs to think about what kind of migration it needs," Censis' director Valerii stressed.
"At the moment -- without any sort of strategic planning -- the immigration Italy draws is young, with a very low education, and without skills."
Yet, researchers also acknowledged even highly qualified migrants rarely reached an appropriate job and economic status here, being trapped -- as much as Italians -- in a country lacking in social mobility.