Employment and working conditions of migrant workers - Italy

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 30 May 2007



About
Country:
Italy
Author:
Maurizio Ambrosini
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

This national report intends to investigate the employment and working conditions of migrant workers, that is of persons who migrate from one country to Italy for any reasons and work. Migrant workers include both EU citizens and non-EU citizens moving from their country of origin to Italy.

1. Sources of information on migrant workers

Are there studies or analyses in your country which cover the employment and working conditions of migrant workers?

If so, please specify for each of these sources:

  1. The type: 1) specific chapters in general working conditions’ surveys; 2) ad-hoc surveys on migrants’ working conditions; 3) case studies - ie studies of specific situations, such as on certain nationalities, local areas and the like - on migrants’ working conditions, 4) other relevant reports on migrants’ working conditions which have been regularly or recently published.

  2. The authors of such studies or analyses (national statistical office - only if distinct from regular surveys which are included in Eurostat data sets, like Labour Force Surveys - labour inspectorates, bodies responsible for health and safety at the workplace, social security bodies, other public bodies, employers, trade unions and NGOs, universities or research institutes).

  3. The definition of migrant worker they use. Are migrant workers who acquired citizenship or ‘second generations’ included in such definition?

  4. At which level these studies are carried out (national, sector, regional, other)?

  5. Present briefly the methodology and structure of such studies or analyses, including the scope and focus of the questions on migrant workers.

  6. If available, please provide links to relevant websites.

  1. Caritas/Migrantes, Immigrazione. Dossier statistico 2006, Rome: Idos, 2006.

    Description: an annual report on non-nationals’ living conditions, including several chapters on their working conditions. The report is edited by the Idos Research Centre (Centro studi e ricerche Idos) that belongs to an important Catholic organisation (Caritas). Different definitions of non-national are employed across the report, with reference to either non-EU citizens or non-Italian citizens. The statistics reported are at a national level, with some disaggregated analyses at the regional level. The report includes data from several data sources, mainly administrative ones, and presents information on regular and undeclared migrant workers, on their socio-demographic characteristics, on their opportunities at school, on their religious affiliations, as well as on their employment conditions.Link: http://www.dossierimmigrazione.it/

  2. Blangiardo G.C. (ed.), L’immigrazione straniera in Lombardia. Rapporto 2005, Milano: Fondazione Ismu, 2006.

    Description: an annual report on non-nationals’ living conditions, including several chapters on their working conditions. The report is published by an autonomous and independent organisation (Ismu Foundation), and focuses on Lombardy region: this is the Italian region that attracts the highest number of non-national people. The volume reports the results of a survey that selects people from countries with a high incidence of migration in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The statistics reported refer exclusively to Lombardy. The sampling is based on a two-stage random sampling, where Communes are the first-level units and non-national people (with or without Italian citizenship) are the second-level units. The questionnaire examines mainly their family and working conditions, as well as their legal status.

    Link: http://www.ismu.org/

  3. The reference statistics for Italians (eg the incidence of atypical work among nationals) are based on the yearly reports of the Labour Force Survey carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (Istituto nazionale di statistica, Istat).

2. Information on migrant workers

Please present the results of the above mentioned studies and analyses. The questions below provide indications on the aspects we would like you to cover in your answers, if relevant and significant information are available. If the variables used in your sources do not match precisely the ones indicated below, use those available, providing a brief description if needed.

Questions 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 should be answered only if sources other that those already integrated in the Eurostat data sets are available and significant (see the introductory section for the Eurostat web pages which should be consulted).

In each case, state clearly the source and, if available, provide relevant links.

Moreover, indicate whether data include illegal migration and, whenever possible, distinguish between legal and illegal migrants.

2.1. Migrant population (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

Whenever it is not explicitly indicated otherwise, the information provided in this section refers to legal migration.

  • Total number (by gender, age, nationality, educational level)

Table 1. Total number (by gender, percentage of minors and percentage from EU countries)
Table Layout
Year Total number % females % minors % from European countries(including non-EU countries)
2005 3,035,144 49.9 19.3 48.8
2004 2,786,340 48.2 17.6 51.9
2003 2,598,223 48.4 15.6 47.9

Source: Caritas 2006, based on administrative data collected by the Italian government.

Table 2. Age distribution (2005)
Table Layout
Age group 0-13 14-18 19-40 41-60 61
Distribution (%) 0.6 4.7 64.4 26.9 3.5

Source: Caritas 2006, based on administrative data collected by the Italian government.

Table 3. Distribution by area of origin (2005)
Table Layout
Area Distribution (%)
EU 15 5.8
EU New Member States 4.3
(Non EU-) Eastern Europe countries 38.2
Other European countries 0.4
Total Europe 48.8
Northern Africa 15.9
Western Africa 5.5
Eastern Africa 1.3
Centre and Southern Africa 0.5
Total Africa 23.1
Western Asia 0.8
Centre Asia 7.4
Eastern Asia 9.2
Total Asia 17.4
North America 1.4
South America 9.3
Oceania 0.1
Total 100

Source: Caritas 2006, based on administrative data collected by the Italian government.

The most represented African countries in Italy are: Morocco (10.3% of the total migrant population), Tunisia (2.7%) and Egypt (2.1%). Among Asian countries: China (4.9%), Philippines (3.4%) and India (2.3%). Among American countries: Peru (2.2%) and Ecuador (2.1%).

The Ismu report on Lombardy estimated that 16.6% of the migrant population has a university degree, 41.6% has an upper secondary degree, 33.9% has a primary or lower secondary degree and only 7.9% has no degree at all. It should be noted that data on educational credentials of migrant population are not completely reliable, because of the problem of ‘converting’ the credentials that they have acquired in their country of origin into Italian educational credentials (see also section 3). The estimate provided by Caritas is similar to the Ismu estimate (eg Caritas estimates that around half of non-nationals have at least an upper secondary degree).

  • As a percentage of total population (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

According to Caritas report, legal migrant population represents 5.2% of the total resident population. Females represent 5% of the total female resident population. Below we report the incidence of migrant population on the total resident population by age group.

Table 4. Incidence of migrant population on the total resident population by age group
Table Layout
Age group 0-13 14-18 19-40 41-60 61
% on total population 0.2 3.7 8 3.9 0.6

Source: Caritas 2006, based on administrative data collected by the Italian government.

2.2 Illegal immigration (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • provide all data/estimates available concerning:

  • Total number.

  • Nationality.

  • Distribution by sectors.

  • Distribution by occupations.

Please briefly illustrate the methodology used to collect/generate such data/estimates.

Data on illegal non-nationals obviously have a high degree of uncertainty. However, according to the Caritas report, for year 2005, is around 500,000 subjects, ie 14.1% of the total migrant population. The Ismu estimated that refers only to Lombardy, is very similar (between 12.6% and 16.5%). The Ismu report indicates that the most represented countries among illegal non-nationals are: Albania (11.1% of the total illegal migrant population) and Romania (10.9%). Other Eastern European countries comprise 11.6% of illegal non-nationals. Among Asian countries, Philippines (4.2%), China (4%) and India (2.1%) are the most represented ones; other Asian countries comprise 7.6% of illegal migrant population. Among African countries, Egypt (6.9%), Morocco (8.8%) and Senegal (4.4%) are the most represented ones; other Northern African countries (2.4%), Western and Centre African countries (6%) have a smaller incidence. Among American countries, Peru (5.8%) is the most represented country of illegal migrant population.

2.3 Migrant active population (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • Total number (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  • As a percentage of active population (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

In 2005, Ismu estimated for Lombardy that 87.9% of non-nationals belongs to the active population, 2.6% is student, 9.3% is housewife and 0.2% is in another non working condition. The incidence of students is roughly stable between 2001 (2.9%) and 2005 (2.6%); the incidence of housewives decreases between 2001 (10.6%) and 2004 (7.6%) and it increases sharply in 2005 (9.3%).

  • Employed (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  • As a percentage of total employment (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

According to the Caritas report: 2,078,396 non-national employees, equal to 11.9% of the total employed. 10.1% comes from non-EU countries and 1.8% from EU countries.

  • Specific rates of: participation, employment, unemployment (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  • Do the above mentioned indicators vary significantly according with the nationality of migrant workers (for instance, a certain nationality is significantly more or less represented in active population or unemployment? If such variations exist, which are the reasons put forward to explain them?

In 2005, the Ismu estimated that the total unemployment rate (7.4%) varies significantly according to the country of origin. It is lower among migrant workers from Asia (4.1%) and higher among those from Western Africa (9.4%) and Latin America (11.5%). The incidence of students is higher among Asians (3.9%) than in the overall migrant population (2.6%). The incidence of housewives is higher among Asians (11.7%) and Northern Africans (13.5%) and lower among women from Western Africa (6.1%) and Latin America (4.7%).

The higher unemployment risk of Latin Americans is related to the fact that they are quite a recent migrant population that has increased rapidly in the last years. On the other side, Asians are a relatively well integrated group, where a low unemployment rate goes hand in hand with a high incidence of women and children. The high incidence of housewives among Northern Africans is likely to reflect a traditional view of the gender division of labour.

2.4 The distribution of migrant workers across sectors and occupations (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • Are migrant workers over - or under - represented in specific sectors or occupations? If so, specify which sectors and occupations. Please distinguish whenever relevant or possible between men and women. In the industrial sectors, they provide workforce at a low cost and high flexibility.

  • What are the possible reasons of such over - or under - representation? Are specific skill shortages filled by migrants? Are there specific policies devised to attract migrant workers in certain sectors or occupations? Please distinguish whenever relevant or possible between men and women.

  • Does the presence in the different sectors or occupations vary significantly according with the nationality of the migrant workers (for instance, a certain nationality is significantly more or less represented in cleaning, health, or in managerial position or in elementary occupations?) If such variations exist, which are the reasons put forward to explain them?

According to the Caritas report, the sectors where workers of countries outside the EU-25 are over-represented are: services to the families (domestic help 59.5% of the total workers); constructions (17.4%); hotels and restaurants (16%); some industry sectors such as textile and tanning (13%); agriculture (13;9%). There are indications that also some unskilled service jobs (eg cleanings) are often reserved to migrant workers of countries outside the EU-25.

This clearly reflects the relevant shortages of labour supply among Italian workers for unskilled occupations involving hard tasks and difficult working conditions (eg agriculture, constructions, services to families, cleanings and the above-mentioned industrial sectors), as well as high occupational instability (eg the primary sector, the tourist sector, restaurants). The Italian policies in recent years have tended to discourage, or at least to restrict, the access of migrant workers in the country, while approving ex-post amnesty decrees that ensure them a legal status after they have found a job because of the above-described labour supply shortages and because they provide workforce at a low cost and high flexibility.

Women are highly prevalent in the services to the families and cleanings, while men are predominant in the construction sector and, to a lesser extent, in the industrial sectors. There is a basic gender balance in the occupations in restaurants and hotels (with some over-representation of women), in agriculture and in other unskilled service jobs.

Non-nationals but citizens of the EU-25 countries, mainly Eastern European countries, are concentrated in agriculture, hotels and restaurants, services to the families. Romania and Albania have a high incidence of workers in the constructions. African workers are over-represented in the industrial sector. Women from Philippines, Peru and Ecuador are mainly employed in services to families.

2.5 The contractual relations of migrants (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • Extent of undeclared employment (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

According to the Ismu report, in 2005, in the active population, among male migrant workers, 55.3% works as employees in regular employment and 14.4% in undeclared work. Among females, the corresponding values are: 59.7% and 19.7%. In the next point, we present estimates for undeclared self-employment. Hence, around one male employee out of four, and one female employee out of three are in undeclared employment among migrant workers.

As reference value for nationals, based on the estimates of the Istat, we may consider that around 20% of the Italian employees are in undeclared employment. Hence, migrant workers are considerably over-represented among undeclared employees.

  • Employment status: self-employed with employees, self-employed without employees, employee (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

According to the Ismu report, in 2005, in the active population, among male migrant workers, 8.9% works as self-employed (without employees) in regular employment and 1.3% in undeclared self-employment. Among females, the corresponding values are lower: 3% and 1.1%, respectively. The estimate provided by the Italian Chambers of Commerce (Camere di commercio d’Italia, Unioncamere) is higher: 12.5% of the total active population (males and females) works as self-employed (without employees. Unioncamere, Rapporto Unioncamere 2006. Sintesi dei principali risultati). Differences between data sources probably reflect different definitions of what counts as a firm.

A reference value for the nationals, based on the Istat estimates, is that 26.6% of the employed Italian workers are self-employed (with or without employees). Hence, self-employment is less widespread among non-nationals.

  • Type of contract: open-ended, fixed-term, temporary agency work (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

In 2005, Ismu estimated that, in the active male migrant population, 19.3% has a fixed-term contract. The corresponding value for women is 21.3%. Temporary-employment agency work contracts are particularly widespread in agriculture and in restaurants and hotels.

A reference value for nationals, based on the Istat estimates, is that 9% of the employed Italians is in atypical work (fixed-term, temporary agency work, economically dependent workers, casual workers) so around one out of ten. The corresponding value for migrant workers is significantly higher: around one out of four. So, migrant workers are more exposed to the risk of occupational insecurity related to atypical works.

  • Duration of contracts in case of temporary employment (average) (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

  • Retention: employment with the same employer after 12 months (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

According the Ismu report, among migrant workers who were in regular employment in 2004, one year later, 90% is still in regular employment, while 5% is unemployed and 2.2% is in undeclared work. Among migrant population, who were in undeclared work in 2004, one year later 16.4% is in regular employment, while 6.7% is unemployed and 72.8% is still in undeclared work. This data do not refer to persistence with the same employer, however. At any rate, they suggest that one migrant worker out of ten in regular employment loses his/her regular job and becomes unemployed or illegally employed. Hence, migrant workers benefit from relevant occupational stability, although to a lower extent than natives. On the other side, less than one migrant workers out of six (16.4%) makes the transition from undeclared work to legal employment.

  • Working hours: full-time, part-time, (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

According to the Ismu report, among foreign people in the active population, 3.4% males and 17.4% females are in part-time work. In the total population (nationals and non-nationals), part-time comprises around 10% of the employed. The values for Italians are rather similar: access to part-time work is roughly equally distributed among nationals and non-nationals.

  • Diffusion of ‘second jobs’ (men, women) and the professional status in the further job(s) (men, women).

No data or information available.

  • Do the above mentioned dimensions vary significantly according with the nationality of the migrant workers (for instance, a certain nationality is significantly more or less represented in undeclared, work, self-employment, temporary employment and so on?) If such variations exist, which are the reasons put forward to explain them?

According to the Caritas report, as the agricultural sector, the tourist sector, the constructions sector and unskilled service jobs (eg cleanings), where migrant workers are highly concentrated, are characterised by particularly high occupational instability. Migrant workers of specific countries that are over-represented in these sectors (see above) tend to experience correspondingly more work insecurity and are more often involved in undeclared work. It should be noted, however, that in some cases access to atypical work may not be a ‘forced choice’ for migrant workers, but rather a feasible option that is more compatible with their needs. For instance, seasonal contracts in agriculture during the summer allow students from Eastern European countries to earn some money for a limited period, when they are free from school attendance.

2.6 Working conditions of migrants (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • Wage levels, compared with national workers;

According to the Caritas report, in Italy, in work under an employment contract, the average wage in 2003 was EUR 17,675 in the total population (nationals and non-nationals), ie EUR 1,472 per month. The average wage for citizens of countries outside the EU-25, in the same year, was EUR 9,423, ie EUR 785 per month: little more than an half of the wage of the total population. The Ismu estimate for the same year is quite similar: the average net income of workers of countries outside the EU-25 is EUR 661 per month. Obviously, this wage gap is strictly related to the above discussed over-representation of migrant workers in unskilled occupations and in low-productivity sectors (eg agriculture).

  • The incidence of low-paid jobs (that is, according to the OECD definition, jobs which pay less than two-third of the median wage), compared with national workers.

In 2002, the total income per month was less than EUR 440 for 2.1% migrant workers; between EUR 440 and EUR 639 for 19.1% of them; and between EUR 640 and EUR 839 for 26.4% of them (Bichi R., Zanfrini L., Zucchetti E., Il Mezzogiorno dopo la grande regolarizzazione, Milano: Franco Angeli, 2006). This suggests that around one migrant worker out of two is in low-paid jobs.

  • Working hours, compared with national workers:

    • average hours usually worked per week, including overtime;

    • average hours of overtime work per week;

    • diffusion of long working hours (more than 10 hours a day);

    • diffusion of work at unsocial hours (night, weekend);

    • diffusion of work on shifts;

    • for migrant workers having more than one job, average hours worked per week in such further jobs.

No data available.

  • Exposure to risks and accidents at work:

    • work accident rates for migrant workers and, as a reference, for nationals.

According to the Caritas report, in the total population, there is one accident at work every 23 people, but this value is one out of 16 for non-nationals workers.

  • Sectors and occupations where risks of accidents for migrant workers are higher.

According to the Caritas report, the accidents are particularly frequent in the industry sector and, more specifically, in metal industry and transports, as well as in the construction sector.

  • Working conditions (vibration, noise, high/low temperatures etc.) in the three sectors where migrant workers are mostly present in your country.

As already mentioned, Caritas estimated that the main sectors for migrant workers are agriculture, constructions, services to families, hotels and restaurants, and other unskilled service jobs (eg cleanings), together with some industry sectors. The constructions sector is characterised by a high exposure to the risk of accidents; agricultural workers are less exposed to accidents, but more to the climatic pressures (such as high temperatures in the summer period when the recourse to migrant workers is particularly high).

  • Health outcomes, work-related health problems and occupational illnesses:

    • occupational illness rates for migrant workers and, as a reference, for nationals;

    • sectors and occupations where risks of work-related health problems for migrant workers are higher.

No data or information available.

  • Existence of information on risks, health and safety at the workplace in the national language of the migrants.

If such information is present:

  • what is the basis of this presence (law, collective bargaining, firm policy, other);

  • is it present in every sector or workplace? If no, please specify in which sectors and/or workplaces it is present;

  • are there any specific initiatives, including training, on health and safety at the workplace devised specifically for migrant workers? If yes, please specify the initiators and content of such initiatives and whether they are implemented using the language of the migrant workers.

No data or information available.

  • Individual disputes at the workplace which involve migrant workers and, as a reference, nationals.

No data or information available.

2.7 Level of education and occupational position: over-qualification and under-qualification (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • The present job position of migrant workers appears to be adequate to their level of education? With reference to this aspect, what is the condition of nationals?

According to the Caritas report, migrant workers are highly concentrated in unskilled jobs, although around a half of them has a university or an upper secondary degree. Around 40% of migrant workers with a tertiary degree is in a manual position, and this value rises to 60% among holders of an upper secondary degree. This means that many migrant workers are over-educated relative to the jobs they hold. A similar problem occurs to nationals workers as well, but to a much lower extent.

2.8 Participation in training and possibilities for competence development (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • What is the rate of participation to training during working time of migrant workers (average over the last 12 months) and, as a reference, of nationals?

  • Is the access to other possibilities of competence development (such as apprenticeship) of migrant workers equivalent to that of nationals?

No data or information available.

2.9 Career development (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • Entry occupations and the pace of career development (compared with those of nationals).

  • Do migrant workers have access to career advancements on an equal basis with nationals?

  • Are there data/information on discrimination in careers between migrants and nationals? If yes, please provide a brief summary of the evidence.

According to the Caritas report, the opportunities for career development are very low for migrant workers in Italy. Although there are no data on discrimination in occupational careers, a relevant factor to consider is that migrant workers in Italy gain access mainly to unskilled jobs with high occupational instability that offer very limited opportunities for intra-generational mobility. However, the recent increase of self-employment among migrant workers has opened to them new opportunities for job improvement.

Union representation and collective bargaining (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  • Do migrant workers concentrate in non-union workplaces or in less-than-average unionised sectors? If yes, please provide some details.

  • Do migrant workers concentrate in workplaces or sectors where collective bargaining coverage is lower than average? If yes, please provide some details.

  • Union membership and presence among trade union representatives of migrant workers.

As already mentioned, Caritas estimated that, in Italy, migrant workers tend to concentrate in some sectors (agriculture, services to families, constructions, hotels and restaurants, low and unskilled service jobs), where the control exerted by trade unions on work activities is traditionally weaker than in the industrial sector. Union density is very weak in the case of services to families because personal contacts of these workers with trade union representatives are more difficult. Moreover, in some cases, language difficulties represent further obstacles. The high incidence of undeclared work is another factor to consider, particularly in the services to families and cleanings, in the construction sector and in the industry. There are some migrant workers among union representatives, but their number is quite small, particularly so in high-level positions in the trade unions.

2.11 Any other information on employment and working conditions of migrant workers which is relevant for your country. Please distinguish per nationality if relevant.

A relevant point that has not been mentioned so far is the high territorial segmentation of the presence of migrant population in the Italian territory. As already mentioned, nationals workers represent 88.1% of the total workers, but this value rises to 94% in the Southern regions, and declines to 84.6% in North-Eastern Italy. More generally, migrant population and, more specifically migrant workers, are concentrated in the Northern and Central regions, where a more dynamic economy requires migrant workers to a greater extent, and in Lazio (more particularly, in Rome, the single city that attracts the highest number of non-nationals in Italy). The Northern regions attract migrant workers particularly in the constructions sector and in the services to families, but also in the primary sector.

Another phenomenon that is worth mentioning refers to the importance of social networks as providers of information, social contacts and opportunities for job search. These social networks are highly segregated according to the nationality of migrant workers: they work predominantly among people from the same country of origin. A by-product of this situation is that migrant workers of a given country who are employed in a given sector tend to attract in this sector other workers from the same country, hence producing an ethnic specialisation for specific occupations (eg women from Philippines in the services to families, men from Albania and Romania in the construction sector, and so on).

3. Commentary

While other economically advanced countries are increasingly emphasising the need to attract skilled non-national workers, in Italy the demand for migrant workers has so far concentrated heavily on unskilled jobs. Not surprisingly, although the incidence of highly educated people among migrant population is rather high, as we have seen, their educational credentials hold little value in the Italian labour market, since they have been acquired mainly in their countries of origin and they are not formally recognised in Italy, nor informally valued. It should be noticed that it is only in the last decade that the proportion of non-nationals in Italian schools has increased significantly.

Moreover, migrant workers are concentrated in some sectors (eg constructions, agriculture, services to families, hotels and restaurants, cleanings and other unskilled service jobs) that favour a high occupational instability, low salaries and weak social protection. The particularly high incidence of small firms further increases the risk for non-nationals of being in undeclared employment or, at any rate, of experiencing considerable occupational insecurity.

A relevant phenomenon that has increasingly involved migrant workers in Italy is entrepreneurship. According to Caritas, around 130,000 entrepreneurs are non-national, with a sharp increase ( 38%) in the recent year. As already mentioned, according to another data source (Unioncamere), their number would be even higher: around 312,000 non-national entrepreneurs. At any rate, both sources agree that this phenomenon has been rapidly increasing and that it represents the most influent trend in the area of entrepreneurship in Italy. It has been calculated that, without the increase of non-national entrepreneurship, the overall number of firms in Italy would be declining. Not surprisingly, non-national entrepreneurs are highly concentrated in the North of Italy and among males. The sectors of trades and constructions attract the highest number of non-national entrepreneurs, but they are very active also in phone-centres and internet points.

Carlo Barone, Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung-MZES

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