As the crisis worsens the brain drain, Italians leave Italy and choose Spain

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When 33-year-old Paolo Dossena graduated in History eight years ago, he realized he wasn’t going to find a job in Italy, so he decided to move to the Spanish city of Barcelona. “When I got here I immediately found a job and since then I have not yet gone”.

Today Mr. Dossena, with a year of study in Granada and a bachelor’s degree, works for a company that deals with the distribution of flowers in about a hundred countries, managing the content on the web, online marketing and eCommerce. From 2010 he’s also the founder of the web page, with which he monitors the employment situation and where publics announcements, job offers, articles and practical advice to offer a free and useful service to Italians in Spain. “The bursting of the housing bubble and the crisis of Spanish banks have left the country in a situation quite different from its recent past; however, remains a number of realities at the local level where it is still possible not only find work relatively easy, but even enjoy a high quality of life.”, he says.

Particularly, Barcelona and Madrid are at the forefront of the field of start-up and internet. Nowadays in Spain is more and more widespread the phenomenon of start-ups, new formed companies often made up of young people. Pablo Martínez, the founder of, a web site that puts investors in touch with young entrepreneurs looking for start-up funding, believe in the vital importance of start-ups to avoid situation of unemployement or emigration to other countries. “In Spain still dominate traditional business models, but the degree of technology penetration is very high, which makes the country a perfect setting to launch a startup”, Mr. Martinez says.

But Mr. Dossena is only one of the many Italians that have chosen to leave Italy and come to Spain. In its latest report the General Secretary of Immigration and Emigration shoes that by the end of last September Italians in Spain were 189.641, representing 7.23% of total immigrants in the country. Statistics studies show that Spain represent the fifth favourite european destination for italians, after Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and France. If in the case of the first four countries the choice depends on the fact that they have great perspective due to lower unemployment rates and good economic situation, the choice for Spain seems more enigmatic. In fact, in late months of 2012 the spanish unemployment rate has reached record highs and in 2011 more people left Spain than those who came. The internal situation also continues to be turbulent as a result of austerity measures taken by the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to cope with an economic situation among the worst in Europe. But the thousands of italians who still come here to begin a new life don’t seem to take care about it.

Although it is not easy to outline the reasons of this choice, it is possible to identify a few. First of all, Spain has a huge italian community which represents the second largest european immigrants in the country, after United Kingdom. This fact, together with that Spanish culture is very similar to the Italian one, helps and facilitates the settlement.

Crisis or not, in Spain the quality of life is high, you can live well and there is no shortage of job opportunities, , especially in large urban centers. Spain also attracts many young people who decide to end their university career or to specialize here. Daniela Del Boca, professor of the University of Turin, considers that the Spanish university system is “in some fields of study better than the Italian one: there are more universities which provide competitive opportunities internationally and there is also a greater flexibility of operation of service”.

But among the reasons why many Italians move to Spain, some are to be found in the Italian scene. In fact, the Italians who emigrate in the nearby Spain are part of a much more extensive migratory flow that in recent years is continually increasing. The Italian National Institute of Statistics shows in its latest report on International and Internal Migration of the resident population that there are about four millions Italians who live permanently abroad. After having been for years a highly attractive country for immigration, in 2011 Italy has recorded the arrival of 27.000 foreigners *, down compared to previous years, against the 50.000 Italians who have decided to pack their bags and leave the country. This is a reversal of the traditional phenomenon that is likely to become a serious social and demographic problems, as warns Gian Carlo Blangiardo, professor of Demography at the University Milano-Bicocca. “Today people who leave the country are more qualified. We swap skilled brains that go abroad and exchange them with immigrants who, although they have a good level of qualification, in general I do not think it is comparable with that of our young people. ” In fact, it is decreased the number of Italian classic emigrants, in general workers with just the middle school, while it has tripled in the last 10 years the number of graduates who leave the country and are unlikely to return to. The increase in emigrants in last years can be attributed to the economic crisis and his consequences. From 2007 to 2011, the youth unemployment rate has increased from 24% to 32%, with a further leap to 39.3% in the first quarter of 2012. But the crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. “There is an underlying trend already under way for several years,” says Mr. Blangiardo. The main reasons why people leave the country in fact seem to have deeper roots. As Ms. Del Boca explaines, “it appears from numerous researches that young people leave Italy in search of less familiar and unfair context”. Italy offers fewer possibilities to young people more and more prepared and ambitious, who, given the choice, prefer to leave everything to not adapt to a system based on old knowledge, recommendations and minimum possibility of a career in a short time, and try their luck elsewhere.

Paola Grieco was 37 year-old with a degree in Communication Sciences and an internship at CNN in New York when chose to go out in search of a system based on growth, merit and equality. “I got fed up this system and I decided to go out. Once I left Italy, I began to see that outside there is a completely different world, especially from the point of view of the culture of work and attention to young people. Abroad, I finally found the meritocracy, which in Italy is instead replaced by a gerontocracy that leaves no space for professional growth”. After 10 years spent in attempts to get noticed in Italy, Ms. Grieco achieved what she wanted but had to change life and country. “In Italy, despite the thousands of attempts, I never could. Paradoxically, however, I managed to get myself noticed by Italian newspapers once abroad. Seems to become more attractive in their eyes. “. Now she has a steady job, collaborates with a blog dedicated to the Italians who live in Barcelona and worked for years as a freelance journalist abroad for Il Sole 24 Ore, a well-known italian newspaper.

Ms. Grieco has no doubts about her choice of life and she’s not worried for the future. “I think that when Spain will be able to get out of the economic crisis there will be a quickly restart , while in Italy there is much to be done. So, why wait? “.

* errata corrige: In 2011 foreigners in Italy increased by 27,000 units, a growth very modest compared with that recorded in previous years.

Story written fot the Journalistic Genres’s class taught by Raphael Minder