Foreign farm workers during a protest in Rome | Photo: Massimo Percossi / Archive / ANSA
Foreign farm workers during a protest in Rome | Photo: Massimo Percossi / Archive / ANSA

At the end of 2020, 357,768 workers in Italian fields had been born abroad out of 900,000 total in the sector. The figure shows how important foreign manpower has become in Italy, accounting for a third of the total number of people working in agriculture.

Foreign manpower now accounts for a third of overall manpower working in Italy's agriculture sector.

As of the end of 2020, there were 357,768 workers in Italian fields that had been born abroad out of 900,000 total, accounting for 29.3% of the overall employment in terms of days worked, according to the Italian farmers association CIA-Agricoltori Italiani.

The figures were given as part of the 2021 Immigration Report issued by the IDOS research center and presented on Oct. 28.

Foreign workers important strategically

"These figures confirm that the foreign component [in agriculture] has become important strategically," CIA noted. They said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector suffered because it lacked seasonal manpower.

The report authors found that, "in the regions of northern Italy especially, where over 85% of workers with seasonal stay permits are concentrated, the difficulties experienced by farms are clear,"

The CIA also pointed out that the Italian state had delayed "enormously" in its publication of decrees regulating these migration flows. In 2020, Italy issued an amnesty for migrant agricultural workers but CIA said that the "way in which it was structured in terms of timelines and modalities, did not lead to significant results, with only 14% of the requests for regularization concerning the primary sector."

Rural Social ACT project

The CIA said that "the time has come" for new strategic thinking in terms of foreign manpower and agriculture. They called on the state "to work on improving migration policies, with an approach that assumes the leaving behind once and for all of emergency measures and marks the beginning of serious and effective interventions on migration based on two priorities: work and integration."

Meanwhile, with a view towards integration and solidarity, CIA-Agricoltori Italiani is implementing the Rural Social ACT national project, which concentrates on socially-focused agriculture as a model to promote virtuous processes of inclusion and allows for the reinsertion of migrants into the sector via various forms of social employment.

The project, funded by the FAMI fund and the Italian labor ministry and supported by the Forum Nazionale Agricoltura Sociale, is led by CIA and includes 30 partners such as national networks, cooperatives, consortia, NGOs, and associations (


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