A group of migrants in front of Milan's Palazzo Marino, demanding worker rights | Photo: ANSA/Matteo Corner
A group of migrants in front of Milan's Palazzo Marino, demanding worker rights | Photo: ANSA/Matteo Corner

Research has found that foreign nationals in Italy are poorer than those born in the country. Migrants have also suffered greater effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to worsening poverty.

Poorer and more likely to be unemployed: this is what the latest report by the Initiatives and Studies on Multi-Ethnicity Foundation (ISMU) has found foreigners in Italy to be, compared with Italians. The ISMU 2021 report on migration was presented on Monday (February 14) in Milan. Among other findings was that the employment rate had dropped from 61% in 2019 to 57.3% in 2020.

Poorer and getting poorer

Poverty affects 29.3% of foreign nationals in Italy, compared with 7.5% of Italians, and 26.7% of families composed of only foreign nationals: a rise from 24.4% in 2019 and equivalent to 415,000 households.

The ISMU foundation estimated that as of January 2021 there were 5,756,000 foreigners in Italy: 167,000 fewer than in 2020, or a 2.8% decrease.

The number of undocumented immigrants remained basically stable, however, at 519,000 compared with 517,000 the previous year.

Foreigners account for about 10% of the total population.

The report noted that the number of deaths of immigrants in the year of the pandemic rose by 23.3% compared with 2018-2019. In Italy, the immigrant population suffered more than Italian nationals from the consequences of COVID-19. Recent studies have shown that immigrants can be more at risk of falling ill and dying from COVID-19 infections due to living and working conditions and barriers to healthcare.

Much lower pay but rise in foreign business owners

When it came to employment, in 2020 the average annual wage for non-EU workers - at 12,902 euros - was 38% less than that of all workers combined. On the eve of the pandemic, in 2019, there were over 4 million foreign nationals of an active age and almost 2.9 million either employed or actively seeking employment, accounting for 11.3% of the work force. One year later, in 2020, foreign nationals accounted for 10.8% of the active population but only 10.4% of the work force due to a significant increase in the inactive component: over five times more than that of Italian (5.1%).

Positive signs were instead seen in immigrant entrepreneurship, with a 2.3% increase in the number of business owners and partners who had been born abroad.

Foreigners opting for high schools instead of professional institutes

For the first time, the number of foreign students enrolled in high schools was higher than those enrolled in professional institutes. However, lagging behind in school years was seen in about 30% of students with a non-Italian nationality, compared with 9% of Italians.

The largest community of foreign nationals living in Italy continues to be Romanians with 1.138 million, accounting for 23% of all foreigners in the country. They were followed by Albanians with 410,000 and Moroccans with 408,000.


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