Italy needs to improve immigrant integration in society and work, says OECD


07/07/14 - Italy should step up its efforts to help immigrants and their children integrate into society and learn the skills they need to improve their job prospects and earnings, according to a new OECD report.

Jobs for Immigrants: Labour market integration in Italy says that Italy, with Spain, is the OECD country with the highest annual growth of its immigrant population since 2000. The share of the foreign-born population nearly tripled between 2001 and 2011 to reach 9%.

Many came for work, rather than family reunification or humanitarian reasons, and the share of immigrants of working age in employment is higher than that of the native-born. But many are trapped in low paid jobs and are among the working poor.

Immigrant men were hard hit by the crisis, as many worked in construction and manufacturing. Their employment rate fell to 72% in 2012, a fall of 10 percentage points since 2008, twice as much as that of native-born men. Nearly half of legally employed immigrant women work as carers for elderly Italians, a sector largely dependent on shrinking household savings, says the report.

Overall, immigrants made up 31% and 40% of low-skilled jobs for men and women respectively in 2012. Only half have more than a lower secondary diploma and few speak Italian at arrival.

Overall, a clearer and more efficient co-ordination of integration bodies is needed across local and sub-national levels. Cutting red tape, identifying and mainstreaming effective integration projects are needed. Language training provision is an example of a policy area lacking coordination, with a myriad of different stakeholders funding and providing services with partial overlap.



Another important long-term challenge is integrating the children of immigrants in the education system and into the workplace. This is crucial as the share of immigrant children among young adults will soon reach the proportions seen in other, longer-standing immigration countries, such as Austria and the Netherlands.

Most immigrant offspring have low-educated parents and do poorly at school. At the age of 15, the gaps in educational outcomes between foreign- and native-born students in the OECD’s PISA assessment are among the largest in the OECD. 


After-school programmes, including language support, would help, as well as incentives for families to bring their children earlier, in time to learn Italian in school.

Not all children of immigrants are aware of their right to naturalisation. Citizenship should be encouraged, as naturalised children of immigrants appear to do better in the labour market. Municipalities should build on good practice in this area to reach out to minors and their families and increase take-up of this possibility.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Cécile Thoreau and Jonathan Chaloff (+33 1 45 24 18 49) in the OECD’s International Migration Division. Journalists are invited to download the report from the password protected site or they can contact the OECD’s Media Division


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