World Economy

Italy Unemployment Sparking Increased Brain Drain

Italy Unemployment Sparking Increased Brain DrainItaly Unemployment Sparking Increased Brain Drain

The official figure tracking unemployment levels among young people set another record when they were released in September, which experts say reflect negatively not only on the government’s reform plans but also on the country’s long-term economic prospects.

ISTAT, Italy’s National Statistics Institute, reported last month that a record 44.2 percent of workers under the age of 25 were without a job in Italy in August, breaking the previous record of 43.7 percent from the previous month. The rise in youth unemployment came despite a slight improvement in the overall unemployment rate in Italy, and improvement in Europe as a whole among young workers, Xinhua reported Monday.

In recent months, Italy’s job figures -- especially for young workers -- have remained stubbornly high.

The problem is serious enough that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised a new “jobs act” that will focus on creating new jobs for workers just entering the work force.

But according to experts, it may be too late to avoid the most serious impact of the unwelcoming economy: the flight of many of the best and brightest Italians to foreign markets.

“It’s not surprising that many of the most capable young workers look at the unemployment situation in Italy and decide to go elsewhere,” Andrea Giuricin, an economist with the Bruno Leoni Institute think tank, told Xinhua.

Giuricin said the trend is a double blow, because Italy spends money on education programs. But the so-called “brain drain” results in that expertise being plied elsewhere. The weak job market also makes it difficult for Italy to offset the trend by attracting bright young workers from other countries, Giuricin said.

“The absence of this trend over time is devastating for the economy,” said Giuricin, who himself splits his time between Italy and Spain.

The problem is especially acute in Italy’s poorer southern regions, where in some areas as many as two in three youths are jobless. According to Massimo Marrelli, rector of Federico II University in Naples, one of the key problems is a lack of innovation in Italy’s economy.

Marrelli said Italy spends about 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product on research and development. That is less than half of the 3.0 percent of GDP in other big European economies like Germany and France, and less than a third of the 4.5 percent in Japan.

“Research and development programs help foster innovation, which is an area that would help keep talented young people at home,” Marrelli said in an interview. “Instead, the young people go elsewhere, where more research is being done.”

Marrelli added: “Even the little research being done in Italy is less attractive than it should be because it is not autonomous,” he said. “In Italy, it often takes place with some older researcher telling the young person what to do and how to do it. In other countries, it’s easier for smart young people to take their own paths.”