22.3.2013 | Von:
Feline Engling Cardoso


Immigration to Italy has continued despite the financial crisis. The foreign population living legally in Italy has almost doubled since the beginning of the crisis, although the yearly growth rates have decreased overall in comparison to the years before the crisis (Pastore 2010, p. 121).

Ein Flüchtling in Rom zeigt den Anhänger seiner Halskette, der den Kontinent Afrika darstellt.Rome: A refugee in a home for asylum seekers from Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

According to the Italian National Institute for Statistics, after its peak in 2007, immigration has dropped slightly over the course of the economic crisis, but has still clearly exceeded emigration movements. In 2011, immigration decreased by 13.8% compared to the year before. During 2011, 386,000 people (62,000 less than in 2010) migrated in from abroad, whereas 82,000 people (up 14,000 from 2010) left Italy. The positive migration balance amounted to 304,000 people in this time period (ISTAT.IT 2013). [1]

On 1 January 2012, the national population registry reported 4.9 million foreign citizens living in Italy (+6.3%, or +289,000 people in comparison to 2011) (ISTAT.IT 2012g; ISTAT.IT 2012b). Immigrants originated mostly from European countries (53.4%), especially from countries which had recently acceded into the EU (Romania, Poland, Bulgaria) (cf. focus Migration country profile 23: Italy). The largest immigrant group living in Italy, with 969,000 people, comes from Romania. The majority of third country citizens (+102,000 from 2011 to 2012) come from Morocco and Albania (506,369 and 491,495 respectively) (ISTAT.IT 2012c).

In the wake of the unrest of the Arabic Spring and the Libyan conflict the number of irregular migrants who traveled by water and landed in Italy rose to over 60,000. The flight of thousands of people from North Africa led the Italian government to declare a humanitarian state of emergency in February 2011. [2]

The outlined developments show that the economic crisis has only minimally influenced Italy’s migration rates to date (Limes 2012). The political stance on migration is affected by the need for complementary foreign labor in the low-wage labor market, which has induced decision makers to keep legal immigration channels relatively open in times of crisis (Pastore/Villosio 2011, p. 3f.) A look at the employment rate of the foreign population in Italy shows, however, that the ability of the Italian labor market to absorb foreign labor has diminished with the crisis (EMN 2012, p. 7). In the beginning of 2009 the employment rate of the foreign working population exceeded the 10% mark and reached 12.1% in 2011 for the first time in recent years (ISTAT.IT 2012d; Pastore/Villosio 2011, p. 5). Meanwhile one fifth of immigrants are unemployed. However, the majority have not returned to their countries of origin (EMN 2012, p. 7). [3]

In total the nationwide unemployment rate in Italy stood below 10% in the last decade, despite low economic growth (Limes 2012). In the third quarter of 2012 it amounted to 9.8% (ISTAT.IT 2012f). In the same quarter, however, it rose to 35% in the 15 to 24 year age bracket (ISTAT.IT 2012d). In spite of the risen unemployment, emigration of the national population is lower than in other crisis-ridden countries in the euro zone (cf. article about Spain in this dossier). The makeup of the emigrant group is similar, however: they are predominantly young and have an academic degree (Limes 2012). Next to traditional immigration destinations such as the USA, Great Britain and Germany, Africa and South America are gaining popularity (Johnston 2012).

Translation into English: Jocelyn Storm


Net migration has decreased from 5.2/1000 (2010) to 4.3/1000 (2011). ISTAT.IT (2012a); ISTAT.IT (2012e).
The humanitarian state of emergency was extended until 31 December 2012 with the ordinance of 6 October 2011. EMN (2012, p. 43 and 49).
The exact number of immigrants that left Italy to return to their country of origin or to migrate into another country is difficult to determine due to unreliable data. According to ISTAT, in recent years less than 1% of the foreign population has been stricken from the Italian population registry every year. Nevertheless the institute concedes that this number is considerably too low. See Pastore/Villosio (2011, p.11f).
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