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Published:November 3rd, 2007 05:50 EST
Anyone in the mood for Italian? Italy's Immigration Boom

Anyone in the mood for Italian? Italy's Immigration Boom

By SOP newswire

ROME " There are now 3.7 million legal immigrants in Italy, an increase of 21.6% in one year. The figure represents 6.2% of the overall population " the EU average is 5.6% " and puts the Bel Paese at the top of the European table of growth rates. The estimate is in the 17th report on immigration, drafted by Caritas Italiana and the Fondazione Migrantes.

In 2006, the growth trend " 700,000 in one year " was so strong that if it continues, it will take the total resident foreign population above 10 million in the next two or three decades. One new development this year is equality in the numbers of men (49.9%) and women, who are actually now just in the majority.

The only regions where there are more men than women are Lombardy and Puglia. There are nearly 700,000 juveniles, or 18.4% of the total. Five out of every ten immigrants are Europeans, half of whom are EU citizens, four are Africans or Asians and one is American. The increase in one year of 700,000, one sixth of the previous year`s total, is the same as the total number of non-Italians five years ago, in 2002. Romanians, accounting for 15.1% of the total, are the largest community, followed by Moroccans (10.5%), Albanians (10.3%) and Ukrainians (5.3%). Six immigrants in ten are in the north, 26.7% live in central Italy, 10.2% are in the south and 3.6% live on the islands. In the six years from 2000 to 2006, immigrants from the east have risen by 14 points, Africa has dropped five points and America two.

The report notes that in the last two years, growth has been very strong ", even with no amnesties, as entry quotas have been exploited. This rate of inflow has been dictated by demand from factories and families for extra labour, accounting for 540,000 applications. Just under 100,000 applications were for family reunifications and there were almost 60,000 births to immigrants. If the growth rate continues in the two years 2007-2008, immigrants in Lombardy will rise from 850,000 to over a million, in Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Rome there will be more than half a million, Piedmont will have nearly 400,000 and Tuscany 350,000. Only Trentino Alto Adige, Abruzzo, Sardinia, Basilicata, Molise and Valle d`Aosta will have fewer than 100,000 immigrants.

According to data that are as yet not comparable, the first five countries in Europe for immigration are Germany (7,287,900), Spain (4,002,500), France (3,263,200 but the data refer to 1999), the United Kingdom (3,066,100) and in fifth place Italy, with 2,300,000, although the figure is underestimated. If the latest Caritas estimates are confirmed, Italy will jump straight into third place, just behind Germany and Spain.

There are 1,348,000 foreigners in work " more than half in services and more than a third in industry " of whom two thirds are in the north, while 127,000 are unemployed. The annual increase in employment is just under 200,000 and the rate of economic activity is 73.7%, about 12 points higher than the figure for Italians.

The employment rate is 8.6%. Non-Italians account for 6.1% of GDP and pay almost 1.87 billion euros in taxes through 2.3 million tax returns. More than half " about 700,000 " of the women are employed as domestic or care workers. Many are employed illegally. More than a quarter of non-Italians work unsocial hours: 19% during the evening (8-11 pm), 12% at night (after 11 pm) and 15% on Sunday. Some 85% work as employees. The number of entrepreneurs has risen by 8% to 141,393 and 70% are active in trade or the construction industry. On average, immigrants earn 10,042 euros a year and in 2006, they remitted more than 4.3 million euros out of Italy, an annual growth of 11.6%. Romania, with 777 million euros, is the leading destination of the outflow. The attitude of immigrants towards Italians is defined by the report as well-disposed ".

Most claim to get on well in Italy, the biggest difficulty being finding accommodation to rent (57%). Last year, the national anti-discrimination office identified 218 cases of racial discrimination from 10,000 reports. One wedding in eight now involves a non-Italian citizen, although only 20% of mixed marriages involve Italian brides, and there are more than 200,000 mixed couples. More than half a million non-Italian students make up 5.6% of the school population. Half of Italians continue to disapprove of immigration although it is not their number one worry, which is job security.

English translation by Giles Watson