Written by: Robin Who, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Italy has always been a country that fascinates people around the world due to its rich history, captivating culture, and breathtaking landscapes.
A beautiful country I can proudly call home. A country where, behind the romantic facade, a complex set of challenges has led to a growing trend of young Italians leaving their homeland. As an Italian myself, who has also made the choice to leave, I grapple with the decision of whether to return to a country of undeniable beauty but with economic and political landscapes that often feel daunting. "Why would you live in X when you could be in Italy?" is a question I often encounter abroad. Part of the answer lies in my craving for new experiences and a desire to explore the world. I've always been drawn to living abroad because of this international lifestyle, the opportunity to speak different languages, and the chance to learn about diverse cultures – all of which are integral to my identity. That unending thirst for learning and curiosity seems to be insatiable. But the other part of the answer lies in deeper sociological reflections.
Disclaimer: This article is here to shed light on this, not discourage anyone from following their dream to go to Italy.
Economic challenges: The unemployment quandary
One of the most pressing issues that young Italians face is the specter of unemployment. Recent statistics paint a vivid picture of this concern. In May 2023, Italy's jobless rate dropped to 7.6%, a seemingly positive sign that belies the underlying reality. This decrease from the previous month's 7.8% might appear encouraging, but the backdrop of an economy still recovering from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic tells a different story.
This is perhaps one of the largest factors driving the 'diaspora' currently being experienced in Italy. More recently, I have engaged in discussions with other young Italians living abroad, which is what sparked the idea for this article. Most conversations like these revolve around the same roller coaster of emotions. The absence of a clear path to a prosperous and secure future, the decision to leave and learn a new language, the yearning for the wonderful aspects of Italy (lifestyle, food, climate, nature), and yet, these aren't strong enough reasons for us to return. This is due to salaries, jobs, and affording a normal quality of life.
Education and foreign lands
While the jobless rate is a sobering statistic, an equally significant aspect to consider is the percentage of Italians who hold a university degree. According to 2019 statistics, 55.4% of Italians with a degree fall within the age group of 25-34. This age group constitutes the majority of those leaving Italy: the youth. Forecasts estimate that by 2050, the population will dwindle to 54 million. Italy is among the 'oldest' countries in Europe. "Some 2 million young Italians – many of them educated and skilled – have left Italy since 2008[...]," says in an interview with NPR Nicola Nobile, an economist at the research and analytics consultancy Oxford Economics. The lack of job security at home, coupled with limited career growth opportunities, compels many to seek better prospects elsewhere. The allure of countries with robust economies and dynamic job markets becomes irresistible, offering the promise of professional advancement that may be elusive within Italy's borders.
Economic and political landscape
Italy'sintricate economic and political landscape casts a long shadow over the decisions of its youth. The paradox of a nation renowned for its artistic treasures, culinary delights, and unparalleled landscapes coexisting with economic stagnation and political uncertainty presents a puzzle that young Italians often find difficult to navigate.
Italian politics have frequently made satirical headlines in international media. Unfortunately, racism has also crept in due to recent political changes. This is a phenomenon that extends beyond Italy's borders, and the rise of extreme right-wing parties is not unique to Italy within Europe. It's a cycle of history that demonstrates how neglecting lessons from the past can lead to perilous outcomes. Knowing what a not-so-distant generation from mine went through (our grandparents), reading such news—whether abroad or not— definitely leaves the heart…with a “bitter taste” [un sapore amaro]. For those of us who have left, the decision is not simply about abandoning our roots; it's about finding more opportunities and ‘care’. Places that enable youth, instead of creating roadblocks around it.
Personal dilemmas and emotional ties
As an Italian who has chosen to leave, I am intimately familiar with the emotional turmoil that accompanies such a decision. The persistent question of whether to return to a homeland that tugs at our heartstrings clashes with the stark reality of economic instability. The internal conflict between the desire to be part of Italy'sbeauty and culture and the practical need for financial security creates an emotional dilemma that many of us grapple with daily.
The exodus of Italy's youth is a multifaceted issue rooted in economic challenges, education disparities, and the pursuit of better opportunities. Italy's beauty remains undeniable, yet the economic and political landscape can present an uphill battle for those wishing to remain. It's essential to recognize that the diaspora of young Italians isn't abandonment; rather, it's a quest for growth and stability. In a globalized world with increasingly fluid boundaries, the stories of those who depart can serve as testaments to resilience, ambition, and the pursuit of a better life.
It's my hope that the homeland we hold dear will evolve into a place where opportunities flourish, drawing back not only its own but also those who have left in search of brighter horizons.
I often dream of having a house in my own country someday. A second base or a retirement spot. However, I sometimes wonder if happiness would persist if nothing changes if I would truly 'fit'.
After living in many places, one becomes a global citizen—finding a sense of home in various locations and cherishing nostalgic memories of past homes, all while loving there turn to one's home country.
Time and life will reveal whether I'll continue navigating dreams or embark on another chapter in Italy that can become a reality.
Robin Who, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Robin is a Travel Lifestyle Coach and the CEO of Our Connected World. With a background in Psychology and over 5 years of Marketing and Mentoring experience, she empowers women in life transitions to embrace a travel lifestyle of time, location, and financial freedom. As an educator and speaker, Robin draws upon her extensive knowledge to guide clients towards boundless possibilities. With a decade of experience as a student abroad, expat, nomad, backpacker, and immigrant, they understand the challenges and joys of a nomadic life. Through coaching, workshops, and speeches, Robin inspires others to break free from conventional living and create a life of adventure and fulfillment.