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Immigrant Integration and Integration Policy | Italy |

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Immigrant Integration and Integration Policy

Dr. Giorgia Di Muzio

/ 5 Minuten zu lesen

Integration into the education system

The inclusion of non-Italian students into the education system is at the centre of social policy debate in recent years, mainly due to the fact that the number of foreign students in compulsory education is steadily increasing. Data on education shows that in the School Year (S.Y.) 2010/2011 in the Italian School System there were 711,064 students without Italian citizenship (7.9% of the total student population in Italy). The number of non-Italian students increased by 5.4% over the previous S.Y. In comparison to the years before, this increase was lower than that which occurred in the school years 2009/2010 (+7% over previous S.Y. 2008/2009) and 2008/2009 (+9.6% over S.Y. 2007/2008). This increase is mainly due to a growing number of second-generation immigrants - non-nationals born and raised in Italy - entering the Italian school system.

Currently, primary schools hold the biggest share of non-Italian students with 254,644 admissions (9% of all children enrolled in Primary School are non-nationals). However, the most significant increase in non-Italian students the last decade was registered by Upper Secondary Schools, although at this school level the incidence of non-Italians on the total of students is still quite low (5.8%).

Italians and foreign students show differences in the type of Upper Secondary Schools they chose to go to: while non-Italian students are concentrated in "Istituti Professionali" (Vocational Institutes) (40.4%) and in "Istituti Tecnici" (Technical Institutes) (38%), and only to a lower extent in "Licei" (High Schools/Grammar Schools) (18.7 %), Italian students most commonly prefer "Licei" (43.9%) and "Istituti Tecnici" (33.2%) and, to a lesser extent, "Istituti Professionali" (19.2%). There is also a significant difference in school performance between Italian and foreign students, especially at the Upper Secondary School level: in the S.Y. 2009/2010, about 30% of non-Italian students were not promoted to the next S.Y. (about twice the rate recorded among Italian students) and thus had to repeat one year in order to improve their grades.

Labor market integration

Another key indicator of integration into society is job placement: the employment rate of foreigners in Italy is, in fact, higher than that of Italians (in 2010 it was 67.0% compared to 60.6% among Italians). However, the unemployment rate among foreign residents is higher than that of Italians (11.6% and 8.1%, respectively). This is partly due to the fact that foreigners are concentrated in low-skilled job positions, the ones most affected by the current economic crisis.

Social rights and political participation

Italy lacks a systematic and coherent integration policy, though there are numerous laws regulating the various areas of social integration of migrants. Insufficient long-term political planning has resulted, up to now, in "emergency" reactions to the needs associated with the phenomenon of migration, mostly limited to the sphere of social policies. Immigrants have been granted social rights (especially regarding employment, health and education) while recognition of political rights lags behind. Despite numerous reform attempts over the last years, political representation, undoubtedly a fundamental element of inclusion into society and participation in public life, is limited. The right to vote is reserved for EU members who request it, limited to local elections and elections to the European parliament. On the local level, some cities such as Modena, Padua, and Turin, but also some provinces and regions have established so-called "Consulte degli Stranieri", political consultative bodies composed of locally elected migrants, which are supposed to politically represent non-EU citizens. These consultative bodies do, however, only have advisory and not decisional power, therefore political influence of non-EU citizens is very limited.

Weaknesses of Italy’s integration policy and current developments

Weaknesses of Italy's integration policy are especially due to the ineffective and inhomogeneous implementation of actual policy. Decentralization and different socio-economic conditions in the various regions of Italy lead to an unequal treatment of the immigrant population, some regions providing more opportunities and rights to immigrants than others. In general, the implementation of immigrant integration policies is more effective in the North of the country, where social, welfare and health services are more efficient, than in the South, where there is more competition with the local population for access to resources and services, and it is more difficult to find work. Also, the recent economic recession has an impact on immigrant integration policies because it erodes the social sector and therefore the backbone of such policies. Policy gaps and lacking implementation is oftentimes substituted by religious institutions, trade unions and non-profit organizations which provide support for immigrants in situations such as their initial reception or job placement. Integration thus takes place on an informal level, through mediation from voluntary associations, the actions of ethnic networks and through the workplace. Good practices, especially at the local level, play a much more important role in integrating immigrants than official policies do.

The Security Act 94 of 2009 has brought about conditions that are slightly less favorable to integration since they declare illegal migration a crime and clamp down on conditions for family reunification which is currently only possible if the immigrant who wants to bring his family to Italy can ensure their subsistence and if Italian authorities have verified that housing conditions meet sanitary requirements. EU citizens are exempt from these rules. By D.P.R. 179/2011, passed by Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano on March 10th, 2012, non-EU foreigners who intend to request permission to stay longer than one year must sign an Integration Agreement with the Italian State. This involves an evaluation of the applicant's capacity for integration, based on several socio-economic indicators such as knowledge of the Italian language and culture, the educational level reached, professional qualifications and employment. Within two years of stay, immigrants must reach a minimum point score in order to be able to renew their residence permit.



  1. Levels 0 (Early Childhood Education), 1 (Primary) and 3 (Lower Secondary) of ISCED classification 2011 (International Standard Classification of Education) (Cf. The education system in Italy is divided into five levels. The first three levels are the same for everyone: "scuola dell'infanzia" (Kindergarten, for children aged between 3 and 6 years), "scuola primaria" (Primary School, for children aged between 6 and 11), "scuola secondaria di primo grado" (Lower Secondary School, for students aged between 11 and 14 years). Having passed these three stages, students make a choice between several types of Upper Secondary Schools (5 years) differentiated by subjects and activities or between Regional Professional Schools (2 or 3 years). Concerning Upper Secondary Schools, the main division is between the "Liceo" (High School/Grammar School), the "Istituto Tecnico" (Technical Institute) and the "Istituto Professionale" (Vocational Institute). The fifth educational level is University which is accessible after having completed 5 years of any type of Upper Secondary School.

  2. Miur (2011), Ismu (2011b).

  3. Istat (2012).

  4. Ambrosini (2005).

  5. D.P.R. ("Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica") is an Act passed by the President of the Republic.

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Dr. Giorgia Di Muzio studied political science and sociology at the University of Bologna. She wrote her doctoral thesis on Eastern European women in the household and care market in Italy.

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