Migrant Workers Add Billions of Euros to Italy's Economy

A new report debunks some myths about foreign workers: far from stealing the jobs of Italian citizens, migrants are actually beneficial for Italy's economy and pension system.

At the headquarters of the Ministry for the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) on October 18, the Leone Moressa Foundation presented the 7th edition of its Annual Report on Immigration Economy. "The international dimension of migrations", published with the contribution of CGIA Mestre and with the sponsorship of OIM and MAECI.

According to the data provided by the Moressa Foundation, there are 5 million regular immigrants residing in Italy. Of these, 47.8% are employed and in 2016 they added 130 billion euros to the Italian economy, or 8.9% of the national GDP. From this perspective, we can begin to appreciate how large a part migrants play in Italy's workforce: when compared with the GDP of other European countries, foreign workers in Italy would constitute the 17th largest producing population, ahead of countries such as Croatia and Hungary.

Migrants don't steal jobs

The data gathered in the report helps debunk some of the central arguments of the anti-migration narrative.

Migrants do not steal jobs from Italians; instead, Italians and migrants tend to work in different fields. Among immigrants, only 11% are graduates of secondary education, while among the young Italians this percentage is 31%; this lead to differences in employment, with 37% of foreigners employed in unqualified positions (against 8% of Italians) and Italians who carry out qualified work at 38% (7% foreigners).

As recalled by Tito Boeri, president the Italian pension system, who spoke at the presentation, foreign workers are crucial to Italian pensions. In fact, Italy is an aging country with a negative birthrate - currently there are an average of seven births and eleven deaths per thousand inhabitants each day - and immigrant workers, paying 11.5 billion in contributions, provide a positive balance for INPS funds.

A photograph of Italy’s integration

As the report states, foreign workers are more present in the north of the country, with 59% located there. This is followed by the central region and southern Italy, with 26.1% and 14.9%, respectively. Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna are the two regions with the highest share of foreign workers - in Emilia-Romagna, the GDP contribution of foreign workers is the highest in Italy.

As stated, more than 30% of regular immigrants in Italy perform unqualified manual work. Of the over €130 billion of gross domestic product generated by immigrant work, almost half come from the service sector, while at least €26 billion are produced by the manufacturing sector, in which 17.5% of foreigners are employed.

The construction sector accounts for €12 billion of immigrant GDP, the trade sector €11 billion, and hotel and restaurant services almost €10 billion.

Help for home

In addition to showing the economic and fiscal impact of immigration in Italy, the 2017 edition of this report deepens an international situation and offers the Italian experience for consideration in a wider context. There are 250 million international migrants worldwide, of which more than 65 million are forced migrants. In Europe, more than one million requests for asylum were registered in 2016, of which almost 60% were made in Germany.

An interesting aspect emerging from the data provided by the Foundation, and stressed by the representatives of the OIM and UNHCR involved in the presentation, is the data about the remittances sent by foreign workers in Italy to their home countries.

In 2016, these amounted to €5.1 billion, or 0.30% of GDP, with positive impacts on the recipient countries - from Moldova to Senegal to the Philippines - that amounted to dozens of percentage points in the destination countries' GDPs. Much higher than the amount allocated by Italian government in public development aid, which was only €2.9 billion last year, or 0.17% of Italy's GDP.