Whereas a part of the Italian society – and the political class – seems terrified of the arrival of a new wave of migrants in the country, economists don’t express any concern. Immigration is not a danger for growth, employment or public spending, they say.
Italy is a country that welcomes many migrants, and its net migration is positive. The country has a population of almost 60 million people, including 5 million legal residents who are not Italian citizens. Economists’ data indicate that these migrants have a positive impact on the Italian economy.
This is especially true regarding the funding of retirement pensions. In fact, migrants support 600,000 annual pensions with their social contributions. Another positive effect of migrants is their contribution to Italian companies. They are responsible for establishing one in five new Italian firms, and allow many other businesses to survive. In total, the contribution of foreigners to wealth generation is €125 billion.
Debunking false myths
Despite the reassuring data, there are still too many prejudices about the impact foreigners have on the economy, even though all economists refute these sentiments.
- The idea that "migrants steal our jobs" is just plain wrong. On the contrary, immigration does not increase the unemployment rate, nor does it reduce wages. In fact, immigration has led to Italians’ social advancement, since migrants accept jobs in marginalized and low-paid sectors.
- It is also said that "migrants cost us money," and this, too, is wrong. In the majority of cases, migrants are young and employed. Of the 5 million migrants, 3,460,000 are taxpayers contributing to the social welfare system.
- "Migrants come to Italy to reap social benefits" is another false belief. On the contrary, immigrants contribute more than they receive in terms of social benefits: in 2014, non-EU immigrants contributed some €8 billion to social benefit schemes, but received only €3 billion.
The only possible cost of immigration is in the short term, if migrants are poorly integrated. European societies have a direct interest in integrating migrants, so that they may find a job and a home and contribute to growing the Italian economy.
Read more with Open Migration's in-depth analysis of how immigrants are saving the Italian economy and pensions.