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Number of young Italian expats on a steady rise, up 95% in 5 years

by Francesca Barbieri

The number of young “expats” who each year leave the country has doubled in the past five years. It has gone from 11,550 in 2011 to nearly 22,500 in 2015, an increase of 95%, a rate higher than the 77% registered by Italian expats of all ages.

Looking at the destinations of expats under 30, an analysis by Centro studi Datagiovani for Il Sole 24 Ore-ItalyEurope24 shows that in 77% (over 17,000) of cases expats don't go too far away as their final stop in one of countries in the European Union. A small percentage, 10% of the total or about 2,300 under 30, choose South America while North America attracts 5%, or about 1,100 people. To top the picture, about 600 expats choose Oceania, while Asian and Middle Eastern destinations are residual (less than 2%) while Africa is almost negligible as a destination.

Going into details, 4,700 young expats (21% of the total) chose the UK, a trend that is likely to change in the wake of Brexit, while 4,500 headed towards Germany (20%), 2,500 moved to Switzerland and less than 2,000 to France. These four countries account for 60% of all young expats in 2015. Brazil, the United States and Argentina represent the fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-most attractive destinations for young Italian expats. With 585 expatriates, Australia is the first destination in the Oceania region; the United Arab Emirates are the first Middle East destination (262), while China’s attractiveness has dwindled, drawing just 169 expats (an 11% decline).

This particular statistic related to the youths who, in 2015, left with the intention of staying abroad for at least one year. Taking into account the total number of expats, as of December 31, 2015, there were almost 240,000 Italians between 20 and 29 years living abroad. They represent slightly less than 10% of all expatriates but their number has increased by 3% compared to 2014. Over a quarter (more than 62,000) reside in Germany, 37,000 in Switzerland , 21,000 in Argentina and 20,700 in the UK -the only top destination to have recorded a double-digit increase in a year (up 12%).

Where do the young Italians in search of success come from? The majority comes from Northern Italy (11,000), in particular from Lombardy (4,000) and Veneto (2,000), although the second region in terms of absolute flows is Sicily (2,550) while Campania (1,700) places fourth overall.

Germany is the preferred destination for people from the Mezzogiorno (33% of all expats from those regions move to Germany, reaching highs of 45% for Sicily) almost double those that chose the UK. Expats from Northern Italy are more evenly spread out, with the UK (22%) overtaking Germany and Switzerland (both 12%); the only differences, not surprisingly, are found in Trentino-Alto Adige. Here the first three destinations are all German speaking countries (Austria 31%, Germany 25% and Switzerland 17%). Youths from Valle d’Aosta instead choose mainly France and French speaking nations.

It is curious to note that Argentina (15%) is the second-most preferred destination for young expats from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. This is due to “historical reasons tied to emigration to that country and links that continue to exist,” said Michael Pasqualotto, a Datagiovani researcher.