Foreign professionals and executives, that’s why they don’t choose Italy | Milena Gabanelli

To remain competitive on global markets, countries must attract talent and professionalism. There are not a few governments that adopt “strategic” migration policies, aimed at attracting and retaining the most requested profiles from the world of work. The majority of migrants move regularly, in search of better opportunities, and usually choose to live in one of the 37 OECD countries. Since the latest study published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, about 120 million economic migrants live in the most developed nations (there were 78 million in 2001). They come not only from developing territories but also from rich countries and are moving to improve their professional or economic condition. The majority are from Europe (41.5 million), followed by Asia (31 million) and Latin America (30). Only 12 million come from African states.

Countries of origin of skilled migrants

There are about 40 million migrants residing in OECD countries with professional or academic training. In 15 years (2001-16) they increased by 20 million while those with low education grew by only 5 million. Where do the most qualified come from? At the top are India (3.1 million), China (2.2 million), the Philippines (1.9 million), Great Britain (1.7 million) and Germany (1.4 million). Italy is fifteenth with 587,000 people who have left the country to join another of the OECD. Movements between Western countries are also part of this great migratory shift. In Europe, the percentage of highly skilled expatriates recorded in 2016 was 8.8% for the United Kingdom, 7.2% for Italy, 6.3% for Germany, 4.8% for France.

The attractiveness indicator

The OECD recently launched the “Indicators of Talent Attractiveness”, a tool that indicates the strengths and weaknesses of the most advanced countries in the ability to attract and retain “strategic” migrants. 7 indicators were examined: opportunities offered, income and taxes, future prospects of the country, possibility of family reunification, development of infrastructures and research, quality of life and openness to immigration. The OECD countries that obtain the best scores (maximum 1, minimum 0) taking all categories together are Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, the United States, the Netherlands. The last three are Italy, Greece and Turkey. Even analyzing each single category, our country always obtains negative results. In particular, it ranks last in the ranking for “income and taxes”, which remain the main reasons why the most qualified migrants do not choose Italy.

Where skilled migrants go

The main destinations for highly skilled foreigners remain countries with selective immigration policies such as Israel (49%), Australia (47%), New Zealand (39%) and the United States (34%). In Canada, 60% of immigrants have a vocational training. In Europe, the nations that manage to attract the most highly skilled migrants are Luxembourg (45%), Ireland (43.1%), the United Kingdom (42%) and Denmark (41%). In Italy only 12% of immigrants have high qualifications. France (26.6%), Spain (24.2%) and Germany (21.7%) do better, but the main EU countries remain very far from the top positions. To relaunch skilled migration, the European Parliament approved on 20 May a resolution addressed to the Council and the Commission to promote legislation on the subject common to the 27 member states. The project envisages greater flexibility in issuing the “Blue Card” and the creation of an online platform to select talents and link supply and demand.

Immigrants in Italy

From the latest report by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies “Foreigners in the Italian labor market”, in 2019 in Italy there were 5.2 million regular foreigners (3.7 million non-Europeans). Those of working age are now over 4 million: the employed are 2,505,186, the people looking for work 401,960 and the inactive 1,175,059. Romanians are more numerous, followed by Albanians, Moroccans, Chinese, Ukrainians. The presence of foreign workers in managerial roles is scarce: just 1.1% of the employed have the position of manager or middle manager, while 77.1% are employed with the qualification of worker, farm laborer, merchant, waiter, craftsman and domestic worker.

The latest arrivals

In 2018, 242,000 regular migrants from outside the EU arrived in our country, but only 6% obtained a residence permit for work reasons. The majority (50.7%) reunited with their family, 26.8% obtained protection for humanitarian reasons, 9.1% permits for study. The remaining 7.3% entered for “other reasons”. Most of the new residents come from Albania (9.7%), Morocco (8.4%), Nigeria (6.4%), India (5.6%) and Pakistan (5.5%). About 75.8% of these come from non-European countries and have a low level of education. Almost a quarter of young people from outside the EU are unemployed, while 90% of those who work perform unprofitable jobs: this is due – explains the dossier – to the lower number of days worked and to having qualifications with lower wages. On average, the annual salary of non-EU workers is 35% lower than that of Italian workers (14,287 euros against 21,927 euros). It is no better for graduates: their unemployment rate is 5.7 percentage points higher than Italians and 15.7 percentage points higher than young people from other EU countries.

Canada and Italy, two opposite strategies

Both countries belong to the G8, have a very low birth rate and a high average working age. Migration policy is therefore strategic. Since 1988, the Canadian government has welcomed at least 200,000 foreigners with selective immigration policies, and in October 2020 it declared its intention to open its doors to 1.2 million new residents by 2023, or 3% of the population. According to the Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino “within 15 years the ratio between workers and pensioners could drop from three to two”, and therefore immigration is increasingly “a key element” of the economic recovery and long-term prosperity of Canada . The pandemic – writes theEconomist – has further sharpened Canada’s zeal in attracting foreign talent. On April 14 Mendicino announced that Ottawa would open permanent residency paths for 90,000 immigrants. Most are health care workers and other ‘essential occupations’, such as truck drivers and construction workers. The others are foreign graduates from Canadian universities. 60% of new permanent residents by 2023 should be skilled workers, who will be reunited with about 312,000 family reunions, the rest seeking asylum.


The mobility of workers, like that of goods and capital, will remain one of the pillars of globalization as long as there are profound income inequalities between the various areas of the world.

Italy still lacks a strategy capable of identifying, selecting and attracting workers with the skills necessary to propel the economy

In our country, the labor market remains blocked: Italians with low qualifications struggle to find employment, more than immigrants with similar training who accept lower wages. For the qualified, Italian or immigrants, the possibilities of integration are however insufficient. In essence, the structural reforms that have never been made anchor us downwards, while the best young people they go via.

June 2, 2021 | 23:09


PREV Spain, former minister of the Rajoy government investigated for espionage: “He wanted to steal compromising acts from the party treasurer”
NEXT Donald Trump’s communications platform launched on his website in early May has been shut down