ROME—The drain does not stop, Italy is packing, and depopulating. More and more people take the decision to leave behind the country, and embrace a new residence abroad. The number is almost double compared to new arrivals.
We are certainly not at the level of the emigration wave from end 1800, beginning 1900, when millions of Italians, first those from northern regions, then from the south, escaped from misery and hunger, most of them reaching the American continent. Yet a constant stream of one-way tickets is recorded by ‘Migrantes Foundation’, and it sees economic recession, and fear of unemployment as the main reasons for changing nations.
After World War II, there were cardboard suitcases, weeks of travel, plus quarantine. Now however, the new face of Italian migration shows us low-cost flights, and smartphones to keep in touch with parents and friends. Among the data provided by the report ‘Italians in the World’ presented in Rome on October 8 2014, about 94,000 people left their Italian hometown in 2013, 16% more than the previous year.
The main destination is the United Kingdom. Just in the first six months of 2014, Aire (the Registry of Italians living abroad) got 12,933 new subscribers: a boom in demand (75% more than 2013). Following closely are other European countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and France. These figures add to the already 4,482,115 Aire registered Italian citizens residing abroad.
During the past years, they are mostly men who left, even though the difference is not that big: in 2013 they reached 56.3%, while in 2012 it was 56.2%. It’s not a surprise that young generations feel the urge to try their luck elsewhere: with one of the worst unemployment rate in OECD countries – around 40% in the range of 18 to 34 years old, while among those working, half of them are occasional workers – one out of three of them are now living in another country.
“It is not correct to talk about brain drain,” commented Mario Giro, Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, at the presentation of the report. He is also responsible for Italians worldwide. Mr. Giro was referring to the migration of high-level workers to countries which can offer better working and living conditions. Mr. Giro says the phenomenon is more widespread, pointing out that nowadays, Italians are not fleeing away from wars and religious persecution, but they are able to make a choice.
“[Today] to migrate means moving, but also maintaining in constant contact with your family through skype, plus the chance to return. People are not leaving definitely,” Giro added.
Last year, European Research Council (ERC) awarded 312 researchers by dividing €575 million to improve their projects. Among them, 46 were Italians, second only after Germany (48). The other side of the coin is that only 20 of them are currently working in Italy.
Also, on social networks, groups and pages dedicated to Italian communities abroad are increasing. It is a digital spot where people share their successes and setback. It’s a way to keep going the old mutual aid societies, which were set up in the past centuries, to help Italian families in trouble. Nowadays, the online portal italianinelmondo.it (Italians in the world) tells us there are over 7500 Italian associations worldwide, most of them in North America. Typing on Facebook ‘Italiani in …’, opens dozens of choices, including those in Australia, and in Japan with tens of thousands of contacts.
A perfect passing of the baton in the digital era. “For more than a century, Italian associations abroad have compensated for the absence of the State. Today still, this peculiarity of mutual aid can often be traced among members, a tradition of mutual solidarity that has become part of a way of being Italian, and it operates outside national borders,” it’s written in the report.
The data presented, the report says, also take into account internal reflections on migration from south to north, mobility and training of Italian researchers who are working at the border of the Swiss Canton Ticino, and the comparison with major European countries. What we can see is an “articulated picture on the significance of Italian mobility today, its characteristics, trends, and evolution that can emerge.”
*Image of “Stamp” via Shutterstock