Immigrants drive Italy's economy

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325,000 small businesses in Italy are now owned by non-European immigrants. Photo: Lee Coursey
08:47 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: The number of small businesses owned by immigrants surged 44 percent between April and June as they snapped up failed Italian firms at bargain prices, the head of a Rome business group told The Local.

A total of 325,000 small businesses in Italy are owned by non-Europeans, according to figures from the Unioncamere and Infocamere chambers of commerce.

Moroccan entrepreneurs lead the way with 63,000 businesses, while 46,000 are owned by Chinese people, the figures released on Monday show.

Albanians also feature prominently in Italy’s small business sector, particularly in construction, owning 30,564 firms, followed by Bangladeshis with 23,000 firms, which are mainly in the travel and communication services sector.

Indra Perera, the chief of the Rome unit of the National Confederation of Artisans and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (CNA), told The Local that the entrepreneurs were able to take advantage of Italy's recession and buy shuttered businesses at a low price.

"Many of them had lost their jobs, so naturally they looked to invest in their own business, and with their savings they took over firms that were owned by Italians," he said.

Perera added that the savings had come from money earned over the years in Italy as well as from family members and the sale of properties in their home countries.

"They lead a different kind of lifestyle so can save, and another important thing is that none of them have bank loans." 

Their business success is also driven by their hard-work ethic, Perera added.

"They take many more risks, they work hard - on Saturdays and Sundays too - and are open long hours."

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Most of the businesses are based in Florence, Milan and Tuscan textile hub Prato.

The growth in the number of immigrant-owned businesses is also driving job creation, with 35,000 Italians employed by the 30,000 firms headed by foreigners in Rome alone.

"They employ many young people and others; they're helping to drive the economy," Perera said.

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