Highly educated ‘Italians on the run’ are joining their European Union counterparts from Greece and Ireland as the latest wave of immigrants seeking economic shelter in Australia, government figures show.
The number of Italians coming to Australia as temporary residents between 2006 and 2013 increased by more than 86 per cent, Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship figures show.
For the youth-targeted Working Holiday program, the growth was even more significant, rising by 119 per cent over the same five-year period.
Many of the young Italians moving to Australia are trying to escape the saturated job market and low wages stemming from the nation’s financial woes.
Concetta Perna, president of the Association of Italo-Australian Women, recently held a conference on the new “wave” of Italians coming to Australia.
She said many young Italian graduates were migrating to Australia to obtain better wages than Italy’s average 1000 euros per month, with many taking labouring and hospitality jobs.
“Most of them hold bachelor and master degrees, some of them even PhDs, but they all start working as waiters or labourers when they arrive in Australia,” Ms Perna said.
“They feel free from Italy’s social judgement – they don’t feel embarrassed when they work as waiters or builders, they feel they have to do everything they can to survive in a foreign country.”
Sinking wages and uncertainty in Italy made the trouble of emigrating and taking lower-skilled jobs worthwhile, Ms Perna said.
“[Italy] is a country that deprives young people of their own future,” she said.
“There are about 1500 new Italians in Sydney at this stage, we estimate the same in Melbourne.”
‘More opportunities, more respect’
Filippo Grando, a 24-year-old filmmaker from Rome said he had found more opportunities and “much more respect” as a worker in Sydney than in his home country.
While resettling in Australia could be very expensive, Mr Grando said he would take that risk.
“I’m definitely willing to pay thousands of dollars to stay here, more than going to another country and start back all over again, or to go back to Italy and just get buried…because that’s what happens.” Project manager Davide Giuliani, 30, who moved to Sydney from Buccinasco near Milan, said he did not want to return to Italy, despite the high cost and difficulty of the move.
“[It’s] pretty difficult to remember, how much money I spent…I would say about $15,000 dollars, roughly. Between visas, university and courses, and all this crap you have to go through,” he said.
But employment opportunities aren’t everything – like many immigrants, sales executive Martina Cesano found the most difficult part of the move was farewelling family and friends.
“It’s been the hardest thing to do in my life,” Ms Cesano said. “I couldn’t sleep for two weeks probably because I was thinking am I doing the right thing?”
‘Everyone wishes to migrate to Australia’
Melbourne-based author Aldo Mencaraglia publishes a blog called “Italians In Fuga” – literally “Italians on the run” – which provides helpful information for Italians trying to resettle abroad.
Mr Mencaraglia, who started his blog in 2008, said the number of enquiries about how to migrate to Australia had soared in past months as Italy deployed a series of strict financial measures to avoid defaulting on its debt obligations.
“There’s a wide variety of Italians, basically everyone is dreaming to [sic] come to Australia, everyone wishes to migrate to Australia,” he said. “Only a portion of them is able to do so”.
The Italian financial crisis had jeopardised job opportunities for young professionals and Australia was still seen as “the lucky country”, especially by those eligible to apply for a working holiday visa, Mr Mencaraglia said.
“I’ve also analysed a few statistics from the department of immigration on the number of Italians using the working holiday visa as a way to visit Australia,” he said.
“Italy is one of the few countries from Western Europe which has seen an increase in the number of people coming to Australia with a working holiday visa”.
Mr Mencaraglia said despite facing stricter rules than previous generations of Italians looking to work in Australia, he expected an increasing number of professionals to leave Italy and seek their fortune Down Under.
The Italian government is yet to release official data on how many young graduates have left the country to work abroad, but a study released by financial newspaper Il Sole 24Ore claims about 60,000 Italians are leaving the country every year, with about 70 per cent holding a bachelor degree.
The study suggests the emigration figure could be even greater, given that only half of Italians living abroad declare their new address to the official registry.
Il Sole 24Ore estimates this brain-drain is costing Italy billion of euros, given it invests an average of US$130,000 to educate its citizens from primary school to graduation.