An Egyptian worker at a construction site in Milan | Photo: ANSA Archive/Daniel Dal Zennaro
An Egyptian worker at a construction site in Milan | Photo: ANSA Archive/Daniel Dal Zennaro

Foreign workers in Italy paid almost €18 billion euros in taxes and social security dues in 2019, according to a new report. Foreign employees reportedly produced 9.5% of the Italian GDP.

In Italy, foreigners pay more to the state than the state spends on them, according to the 10th annual report on the economy of immigration, which was released on October 13 by the Foundation Leone Moressa.

According to the report, foreign workers paid Italian state authorities 18 billion euros in taxes and social security contributions in 2019. Public spending on migrants was €500 million lower than that, the report found.

Foreigners are on average young and don't weigh on the pension system and healthcare, the two main public expenditure chapters, the report noted. However, unskilled jobs and little social mobility could weigh on public coffers in the long term, the study warned.

Foreign workers in Italy

The report also found that foreigners contributed significantly to Italy's economy.

Foreign employees were reportedly responsible for 9.5% of the Italian gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.

The report also said that the temporary regularization of migrant workers that came into effect in June 2020 could increase the contributions to the Italian welfare state by €360 million per year.

There are currently 2.5 million foreign workers living in Italy, according to the report, 31% more than in 2010. Foreign workers are mainly men (56.3%) and seven in 10 are aged between 35 and 54.

Foreigners are mainly employed in unskilled or low-skilled jobs. Over half of them have a middle school degree while only 12% have a university degree.

Migrants who run companies

The report also took a closer look at foreign entrepreneurs. Their number has increased significantly over the past decade. The number of entrepreneurs who were born in Italy decreased by 9.4% between 2010 and 2019. Meanwhile, the number of businessmen born abroad went up 32.7%.

Foreign entrepreneurs mainly hailed from China, Romania, Morocco and Albania, although the most significant growth was registered among business owners from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The sector with the largest number of foreign business owners is construction.

Companies run by migrants made €125.9 billion euros in 2019, which amounts to 8% of the GDP, according to the report.

More migrants overall

From 2010 until today the number of foreigners living in Italy increased from 3.65 to 5.26 million (up 44%), according to the report. That means that right now, 8.7% of the population in Italy are migrants.

The report found that while the number of foreigners has increased, arrivals for professional reasons have decreased in recent years. The authors said that this is because there have been too few opportunities for non-EU migrants to come to Italy legally to work since 2011. This, they said, meant that now, most people who arrive are seeking asylum or moving to Italy to join family members.

The study also warned that undeclared labor and irregular migration limited the economic potential of migrants in Italy, according to the study.

The report was drafted with the contribution of the CGIA association of artisans and small enterprises in Mestre and the patronage of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the foreign and economy ministries and the Università Cà Foscari in Venice.


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