Immigration trends and statistics



Italy has long been a land of emigration towards other states. In the period 1876- 1976 more than 25 million Italian citizens left Italy to look for work. An enormous phenomenon, sometimes reaching 900,000 annually, (1913); equivalent to 2.4% of the entire Italian population in that year. It is not surprising that there are 58 million children and grandchildren of those Italian emigrants in the world today and of these, 4 million have Italian passports.

Not only, but after the second world war ,above all between 1958 to 1967 ,Italy saw a big internal migratory flow .From the south to the north and the east to the west millions of Italians from the south and the east of Italy transferred to the industrial triangle (Milano, Torino, Genova) for work.

Today, all of this belongs to the past and Italy has become the land of immigration


In January 2007 the foreign population living in Italy was estimated to be about three million in all. With this number present, Italy has become the third country along with Spain, after Germany (7.5 million) and France (3.5 million) for immigration; it has even overtaken England (2.7 million). However, it must be said that while the naturalized citizens in Italy are just over 13,000, in France and England the foreigners that have been naturalized in the past 50 years are as many as the legal number of foreign immigrants ( that is, several million)

The number of foreigners living legally in the EU is over 24 million. Of these 30%, just under 8 million are made up of EU citizens living in another EU country different from their place of birth.


They are adults and young people who had a job and a house in their own country, living at a social and cultural level, in accordance to their country of origin as what can be defined as middle class.

Contrary to hearsay, the people who have a low cultural level and are without financial resources are unable to emigrate and they are usually to be found congregated on the outskirts of the capital cities in their own countries. Or, when they manage to leave they end up in Arab countries, in South East Asia or on the periphery of new development areas.

Therefore, the immigrants who arrive in Italy consist of above all: skilled factory workers, technicians, professional people who have worked in the commercial sector, young people with high school diplomas and university graduates, farmers and small land owners, teachers and office workers.

A result of the census of 2001 shows that the cultural level of the immigrants is fairly high

- 12% university graduates
- 26% high school diploma
- 33% compulsory school leaving certificate
Today, some communities such as Peru, Ecuador, Ukraine, Moldova, the Philippines and especially the new immigrants have 50% of University graduates.

There are many adolescents and young adolescents,(over 20% of all the immigrants) and nearly 48% of those arriving are women.
The immigrant has his own or has procured economic resources of a certain consistency, above all when he arrives illegally. (He must have enough money on him to the equivalent of several year wages in his own country and he must have someone he can go to when he arrives in the new country).
He is easily adaptable and enterprising, knows other languages (sometimes Italian) and intends to face up to the risks of putting down new roots. There are phnoifferent category are the refugees and asylum seekers with permission to stay on humanitarian grounds.
Those who have escaped from countries where they have been persecuted or the so called “evacuees” (ex Yugoslavia, Somalia, Liberia, Congo).


What characterises the immigrants in Italy is the high number of different nationalities. There are about 30 main ones but this number can arrive at 160 different nationalities. The community which has the highest number present is Rumania followed by Morocco, Albania, Ukraine, Peru, China, Ecuador, Nigeria and Poland.

The Rumanian community is a community with a European culture and a Latin based language. It is also the community which in comparison to the other groups has the highest number of people working in the building sector and the highest number of self-employed , with many businesses opened in the last few years. Besides this it is the group which has the greatest number of immigrants who have completed their compulsory school education The majority arrive in Italy with a high school diploma and quite a few are University graduates. With Rumania’s entrance into the European Union .Italy has had to face a difficult situation; that is to say the change over from being citizens outside the E:U with specific imposed laws and regulations to neo-community citizens who are guaranteed all the rights and facilities provided by the European Union for its citizens.


The Provinces with the highest number present are Rome(350,000) Milan (322,000), Torino (126,000), Brescia (110,000).For the Regions, Lombardia is at the top of the list with 653,000,Lazio with 389,000, Emilia with 285,000, Toscana 222,00 and Piemonte 286,000. To these numbers we can also add about 20% of young people under fourteen years old registered on their parents residence permits. This brings the number of legal immigrants in Piemonte to 300,000.


The ISTAT data from the Ministry of Trade ,Ministry of Education, the  Home Office and the research in this field provide a picture of the immigrant population far away from the stereotype of the lone adult male immigrant.

1) It is a presence made up of families: both parents and children, mothers alone with their children, young people with older brothers, sisters, or relatives as guardians; fathers with adolescent children.
2) The age range underlines the huge presence of young adults of both sexes (about 70%) between the ages of 18-45, 10% over 46 years old and 20% under 18 years old.                 

3) The immigrant population is spread over the whole country, also outside the urban areas. In villages and small towns where it is easier to find a place to live. The highest number (over10%) is to be found in the villages and small towns, above all if they are an established family unit.

4) The immigrant has become part of the national work force .In the 2001 census 6% worked in agriculture,45% in industry,32% domestic service and 17% in commerce .There has been a marked increase in the domestic service sector where the foreign domestic maids represent 74% of all the workers involved in this profession.

5) The immigrant population is made up of children and adolescents whose number is growing more than that of the adults due to both families reuniting and birth. The school and educational services (day nurseries and nursery schools) have seen a rise in the presence of these young foreign children and the number in the schools has doubled in the past three years in the big cities .As far as adult education is concerned the CTP (Centri Territoriali Permanenti) play a very important role and many foreigners attend their courses as well as for learning the Italian language.


The presence of the immigrants in Italy has played a significant part in political debates and since 1994 the various governments have repeatedly intervened with a series of legislative measures concerning this problem .The importance and the difficult nature of this controversial problem can clearly be seen by the continuous modifications of the rules and regulations passed by the coalition in power at the moment. The Turco/Napolitano law was passed by the centre left at the end of the 1990’s, but it was substituted by the Bossi/Fini  after the victory of the centre right in 2001 and now the Government of the centre left which took power in 2006 is intending to introduce a new legislative act (Amato/Ferrero) which will modify it. Therefore, Immigration is a highly debated topic not only among the opposing political parties but also from the point of view of the public opinion. Even though the immigrants are generally considered to be necessary and useful there are often strong opposing positions concerning this problem, varying from acceptance and integration to intolerance and general fear.
Public investments concerning immigration in 2005 and 2006 amount to the sum of 144 million Euro of which 29 million was used to subsidize immigration and 115 million to fight against illegal immigration.