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Foreign population regularly present in the territory are a consolidated reality also in Italy, 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 its level of integration, especially in terms of access to the labour market.
As of the 1st of January 2019, 5.3 million foreign citizens resided in Italy, representing 8.7% of the total number of residents. Compared to the previous year they increased by 111 thousand units (+2.2%).
The number of births of foreign children (65 thousand) and registrations from abroad (286 thousand) decreased; the number of cancellations abroad (40 thousand) remained almost stable. In 2018, 113 thousand foreign citizens acquired Italian citizenship (-23.1% compared to 2017).
At the beginning of 2019, 3,717,406 non-EU citizens were regularly present in Italy, of which 62.3% had a long-term residence permit. The new residence permits issued to non-EU citizens were 242 thousand, more than 20 thousand less than in 2017 (-7.9%). The main reasons for the new permits issued were family reunification (50.7%) and asylum and humanitarian protection application (26.8%); for the latter reason, however, was registered a sharp decrease compared to 2017 (-35.9%).
Differences in the participation in the labour market between Italians and foreigners remain: in 2019, the employment rate of foreigners between 20 and 64 years old remained stable (64.4%) while that of Italian peers (63.4%) grew by 0.6 percentage points. The unemployment rate decreased both for Italians (-0.7 percentage points) and for foreign population (-0.2) who, however, continued to have a higher indicator value (13.8%) than their Italian counterparts (9.5%). The inactivity rate, instead, remained lower for foreign population (29.1%) than for Italians (34.9%), with greater differences in the South and Islands.
In 2019, the foreigners' level of education was still lower than that of Italians. More than half of foreign population aged between 15 and 64 have obtained at most the middle school diploma against 38.4% of Italian counterparts; those with upper secondary education were 34.4% and 10.7% completed tertiary education, compared, respectively, with 43.4% and 18.2% of Italians of the same age group.
Historically, foreigners on the Italian territory are concentrated in parts of the Centre-North, where, as of the 1st of January 2019, 82.9% of foreign residents in Italy live. However, in recent years, foreigners have increased more in the South and Islands (+3.1% in 2018) than in the North (+2.3%) or in the Centre (+1.2%). Internal migrations between Italian municipalities, to which foreigners contribute for 18,1%, confirm that the South and Islands of Italy often represents the land of first landing for migrants who, afterwards, tend to move to the Centre or to the North in search of more job opportunities. The number of children born from foreigners is higher in the Centre-North, because of their greater presence in the population.
The data of residence permits confirm 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 and Islands (-14.8%) and in the North-East (-10.4%).
In 2019, the stability of the employment rate among foreigners aged between 15 and 64, compared to the previous year, represents a summary of the rate increase in the North and decrease in the southern Regions, as well as the increase of the rate of men, and a reduction of the one of women.
The slight fall in the unemployment rate was due to the fall in the Northern regions, that compensated the growth of the indicator in the South and Islands, that stood at 17.6%. The unemployment rate remained higher for women (16.3% compared to 11.8% for men); in particular, the highest gender gap for women was in the North-West (more than 6 percentage points).
In 2019, the slight growth of the inactivity rate of non-national population was particularly due to the South and Islands of Italy (+1,4 percentage points) and to the female component. The gap in the inactivity rate between the South and Islands of Italy and the North-East rose to 8.6 percentage points.
As of the 1st of January 2018, the incidence of foreigners in Italy was 8.5%, a slightly higher datum than the EU average. However, Italy took up the fourteenth place in the decreasing ranking of the EU countries, and was preceded by Germany (11.7%), Spain (9.8%) and the United Kingdom (9.5%). France's value (7.0%) was lower than the Italian one. In any case, it must be considered that in these countries the history of immigration has more ancient roots and consequently a larger share of residents, originally foreign citizens, have acquired citizenship.
Also in 2018, in the EU, the employment rate for the 20-64 age group increased, compared to the previous year, for both the foreign and the native component, and the gap between the rates of the two populations decreased. However, the employment rate of the native population (73.8%) was higher than that of the foreign population (66.9%). On the contrary In Italy, as in a few other EU Countries (Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic), the employment rate was higher among the foreign population (+1.6 percentage points); the highest differences, over five percentage points, were recorded in Luxembourg, Malta and Poland.
In 2018, the unemployment rate of foreign population in the EU (11.5%) was significantly higher than that of natives (6.4%), despite a slight decrease in the gap between the two components compared to the previous year. The gap between the foreign and domestic components was smaller in Italy (3.8 percentage points) compared to the EU (5.1 points), while the largest gap was in Sweden, with more than 17 percentage points.
In 2018, in EU countries, the inactivity rate for group aged between 15 and 64 tended to decrease, compared to the previous year, with regard to the national populations (from 26.5% to 26.2%) and to a greater extent for foreign populations (from 28.6% to 27.6%, decreasing the gap from 2.1 to 1.5 percentage points.