Foreign population living regularly in Italy are a consolidated reality, although to a lesser extent than in many other European countries. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the size and characteristics of this part of population and understand their level of integration, especially in terms of access to the labour market.
As of the 1st of January 2020, 5 million foreign citizens resided in Italy (8.4% of the total number of residents). Compared to the previous year they increased by 43 thousand units (+0.9%).
The number of births of foreign children (63 thousand) and registrations from abroad (265 thousand) decreased, while the number of cancellations abroad (57 thousand) increased. In 2019, 127 thousand foreign citizens acquired Italian citizenship (+12.9% compared to 2018).
At the beginning of 2020, 3,615,826 non-EU citizens lived regularly in Italy, 63.1% had a long-term residence permit. The new residence permits issued in 2019 to non-EU citizens were 177 thousand, more than 64 thousand less than in 2018 (-26.8%). The new permits were issued mainly for family reunification (56.9%) and asylum and humanitarian protection (15.6%). Humanitarian protection showed the highest reduction in 2019 (-37 thousands issued residence permits; -57%).
Differences in the participation in the labour market between Italians and foreigners persisted. In 2020, the employment rate of foreigners 20-64 years old fell more intensely than that of Italian peers (respectively -3.8 percentage points and -0.6 points), so much to be lower than that of the natives (respectively 60.6% and 62.8%), although starting from a higher level in the previous year. The unemployment rate decreased equally both for Italian and foreign population (-0.8 percentage points). However, it continued to show a higher value (13.1%) than for Italian people (8.7%). The inactivity rate (15-64 years old), despite the strong increase, remained lower for foreign population (34.0%) than for Italians (36.1%), with greater differences in the South and Islands.
In 2020, the foreigners’ level of education was still lower than that of Italians. Over 55% of foreign population aged between 15 and 64 have obtained at most the middle school diploma against 37.5% of Italian counterparts; those with upper secondary education were 34.5% and 10.3% completed tertiary education, compared, respectively, to 43.7% and 18.7% of Italians of the same age group.
Historically, foreigners on the Italian territory are concentrated in the regions of the Centre-North, where, as of the 1st of January 2020, 83.1% of foreign residents in Italy live. The Centre-North area, in 2019, registered the highest growth of foreign resident population (+1,0%), compared to +0,4% for South and Islands. In 2019, data showed a reduction of registrations of foreigners citizens from abroad, more marked for the South and the Islands (-23.2% compared to 2018) than for the Centre-North. The number of children born from foreigners is higher in the Centre-North, because they live mainly there.
The data on residence permits confirmed the attractiveness of the Centre-North regions: more than 85% of the residence permits has been issued or renewed in the Centre-North, especially in Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio and Veneto. On the other hand, the new inflows decreased mainly in the South (-40.3%) and in the North-West (-24.4%).
In 2020, the sharp decline in the employment rate among foreigners aged 20-64, compared to the previous year, was registered in particular in the Regions of the South and North-West (respectively -5.2 and -5.1 percentage points), as well as the greatest reduction in the rate of women compared to men (-5.0 percentage points against -2,4 points). The slight slowdown in the unemployment rate in the Northern and Central regions offset its growth in the South and Islands (18.9%). The unemployment rate remained higher for women (15.2% compared to 11.4% for men); in particular, the highest gender gap for women was registered in the Northeast area (6 percentage points). In 2020, the high growth of the inactivity rate of non-national population affected all the geographical areas and concerned in particular the female population (+6.5 percentage points for women against +2.9 points for men). The gap in the inactivity rate between the South (40.6%) and the North-East (29.8%) raised to 10.8 percentage points.
As of the 1st of January 2019, the incidence of foreigners in Italy was equal to 8.4%, slightly higher than the EU average. However, Italy took up the fourteenth place in the decreasing ranking of the EU countries, and was preceded by Germany (12.2%), Spain (10.3%) and the United Kingdom (9.3%). France’s value (7.3%) was lower than the Italian one. However, in these countries, the history of immigration has roots that are more ancient and consequently a larger share of residents, originally foreign citizens, have acquired citizenship.
In 2019, in EU, the employment rate for the 20-64 age group increased for both the foreign and the native population. The gap in favor of the indigenous population continued to decrease (from +6.8 to +6.6 percentage points) whose employment rate is in fact equal to 74.5%, while that of the foreign population is equal to 67.9%. In Italy, as in a few other EU Countries, the employment rate was higher for the foreign population (+1.0 percentage points); the highest differences (5 percentage points) were recorded in Luxembourg and Poland. On average, in Europe, the unemployment rate of foreigners, although it was decreasing, remained much higher than that of natives (equal to 10.7% and 5.9% respectively). At the European level, the gap between the foreign and domestic population was slightly higher than in Italy (4.8 percentage points against 4.3); the largest gap was registered in Sweden (15 percentage points), while Cyprus recorded a higher unemployment rate for the indigenous population. In 2019, in EU countries, the inactivity rate for group aged between 15 and 64 decreased, compared to the previous year, for the national populations from 26.2% to 25.9%, for the foreign population from 27.7% to 27.2%. Therefore, the gap decreased from 1.5 to 1.3 percentage points.