The epidemic helped reverse the brain drain in Italy. But could it continue?

The epidemic helped reverse the brain drain in Italy. But could it continue?

When Elena Baresi, an engineer, He left Italy at the age of 22 to pursue a Career in Five years ago, London joined the ranks of talented Italians fleeing the sluggish job market And the lack of opportunities at home to find work abroad.

But last year, when the coronavirus pandemic forced employees around the world to work from home, Ms Barrese, like many of her fellow citizens, took the opportunity to truly return to Italy.

Between Zoom’s meetings and her other work for a London recycling company, she took long walks on the beach near her family’s home in Palermo, Sicily, chatting recipes at dawn with vendors in the local market.

“The quality of life here is a thousand times better,” said Ms. Baresi, now in Rome.

As with many things, the heart of the virus is a file A familiar phenomenon – this time the brain drain in Italy long ago. How much things are changing, and how long these changes will continue, is a source of debate in the country. But something is clearly different.

Italy, along with Romania and Poland, is among the European countries that send the most workers abroad, According to European Commission figures. And the Rate Of Italians living abroad who have a university degree higher than The general population of Italy.

Taking into account the money the country spends on their education, the brain drain in Italy is costing the country an estimated 14 billion euros (about 17 billion dollars) every year. According to Confindustria, The largest trade association in Italy.

Italian lawmakers have always tried to attract talented workers through tax breaks, but the dismal labor market, high unemployment, baroque bureaucracy, and narrow avenues for progress continued to attract many Italian graduates abroad.

Then the virus seemed to do what years of incentives could not do.

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In the past year, the number of Italians between the ages of 18 and 34 returning home increased by 20 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Italian Foreign Ministry.

The Italian government has welcomed the return of some of the country’s best and brightest as a silver lining of what was a brutal epidemic of Italy, describing this transformation as a “great opportunity”. There is also a financial benefit, as Italians who spend more than six months in the country will have to pay their taxes there.

Italy has an opportunity to benefit from the skills and innovations that returning Italians have brought with them, Paula Pisano, Italy’s minister of technological innovation, said at a conference in October.

She also said Italy should do its part to keep them there. On the one hand, the country needs “a strong, widespread, strong and secure internet connection,” she said, so that those who have moved abroad “can return to their country and continue working for the company they work for.”

A group of Italians started an association called Southworking to promote remote work from the less developed southern Italy, hoping that returning professionals would dedicate their spare time and money to improving their home.

“Their ideas, volunteerism and creativity remain in the land in which they live,” said Elena Militillo, president of the association, who has returned to Sicily from Luxembourg.

To promote remote work, the association creates a network of cities equipped with fast internet connections, a nearby airport or train station, and at least one co-working space or library with good Wi-Fi.

To appoint them, the association received assistance from Carmelo Ignacolo, a PhD student in urbanism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had returned to Sicily after contracting the coronavirus.

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In recent months, Mr. Ignacolo has supervised the Mediterranean exams in his zoom screen, taught lessons near his grandfather’s olive press and has taken refuge in the heat by studying in a nearby Greek cemetery.

He said, “I embrace the American career 100 percent, but I have a very Mediterranean lifestyle.”

Southern Italy not only benefits from reverse traffic.

Roberto Franzan, 26, a programmer who founded a successful startup in London before taking a job at Google there, returned to his home in Rome in March.

He said, “You go to the bar and you can just start a conversation with almost anyone.” “It worked great for me.” He said that a number of interesting startups and tech companies have sprung up in Italy and that he can imagine investing in the country.

“This moment gave us all the time to realize that getting back to your roots could be a good thing,” he said.

Businessmen in Italy urged the government not to miss the opportunity.

Michel Marton, a former deputy minister of labor, wrote in the Romanian newspaper “The”: “Coronavirus is transforming the brain drain.” messenger. He urged lawmakers to find a way to preserve the “exceptional army of young men who have returned home in the face of the state of emergency.”

But some experts say there aren’t really many advantages to take.

While many Italians may have returned to the Tuscan countryside or the shores of Sicily, their minds can still benefit American, British, Dutch, and other foreign companies.

“The Zoom program will not solve Italy’s problems,” said Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley who focuses on work and the urban economy and is himself part of the Italian brain drain.

Brunello Rosa, a London economist and another member of the diaspora, said that returning Italians “produce activity for a foreign entity – they create value abroad and they enter abroad.” “The fact that they spend their salaries in Italy doesn’t really make a difference,” he added.

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He said the most likely outcome is that the virus will lead to economic debris and massive levels of unemployment which will trigger another wave of immigration once European countries lift their lockdowns.

He and others said that, to truly tackle the problem, Italy needs deep structural and cultural reform that streamlines bureaucracy and improves transparency rather than relying on “people who come home because food outside is worse and the weather is bad.”

Mr. Ignacolo, a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, plans to return to the United States to pursue his academic career, and the new company that Mr. Franzan, the programmer will launch, will be based in Delaware.

The downsides of working in Italy also worry Ms Baresi, who worries that her career will falter in what she sees in an Italian business world with little room for young workers. She allowed that London’s lack of sun was bleak and British food was bad for her skin, but she said other things are important in life as well.

“I am a young woman, I am a woman and I am in a very high position,” she said, explaining that she would return to her job in London when her office was reopened.

It was a unique opportunity. “I can keep the job and live in Italy,” she said of the time she spent working there, “but I always knew it was going to be temporary.”

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