Why foreigners in Italy are happier than Italians

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A Eurostat report in July found that more working-age foreigners in Italy are in jobs. Working Italy photo: Shutterstock
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Foreigners in Italy are happier than Italians, according to figures published by Italy's national statistics agency, Istat, last week. The Local finds out why.

The bleak economic conditions in Italy touch foreigners as much as Italians, so why are they more satisfied with their lot?

Some 60.8 percent of foreigners polled by Istat gave their level of life satisfaction eight or more points out of ten, compared to just 37.2 percent of Italians.

It could be because, despite the employment and integration challenges, they are more economically stable: a report by Eurostat in July found that employment among working-age foreigners in Italy stands at 61.9 percent, a notch above the local rate of 59.5 percent.

Of those polled by Istat, the majority – 58 percent – said they were satisfied with their jobs, with people from the Philippines and Moldova having the most job satisfaction.

People from Ukraine and China, meanwhile, were the least satisfied with their employment.

Women and young foreigners were also among the most satisfied.

“It’s no surprise that people from the Philippines and Moldova are the happiest,” Indra Perera, the president of the Rome unit of the National Confederation of Artisans and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (CNA), which provides business services to foreigners, told The Local.

“Most are women who work as domestic helpers, so they get their accommodation and food provided by Italian families. They don’t feel the crisis as much. But it’s not so good for people working in factories.”

Meanwhile, the number of small businesses owned by non-European immigrants surged 44 percent between April and June this year as they snapped up failed Italian firms at bargain prices, Perera added.

“They have a ‘can-do’ attitude, and I think this may also explain why they are more satisfied,” he said.

“After losing their jobs many used their savings, or borrowed money from family, to buy businesses that had closed. There was no alternative.”

Perera said that foreigners are also becoming “even more conversant in Italian", which helps them to get on.

Italians, on the other hand, “like to complain a lot”, Marco, a restaurant owner in northern Rome, told The Local.

“Most of our dissatisfaction is aimed at the politicians. The country has no direction,” he said.

Rashedur Rahman Rakesh, a writer from Bangladesh who has lived in the northern Italian city of Parma for eight years, said he “feels sorry for Italians” as more foreigners are in jobs.

“From my own experience of living in Italy and travelling to several other cities of Europe, I see Italy as one of the most gentle nations of the world,” he told The Local.

“Foreigners are working, whereas Italians are unemployed, which is hard for them to accept, although foreigners tend to work more hours than that of the Italians.”

Sara, a 32-year-old street-fundraiser from Ethiopia who lives in Rome, disputed the Istat findings.

“I don’t think it’s true, Italy’s a difficult place for foreigners,” she said.

“But I think the difference is that we get on with it. The Italians do complain a lot; they don’t realize how good they have it.”

Lina Novak, a business development manager from Russia, said that "on balance, I am happy in Italy."

"It has its challenges, the money isn't great and the Italian organizational prowess is conspicuous by its absence," she said.

"But the overall quality of life, considering the climate, the food, the people, and the amount of cultural and natural treasures per square mile, is practically unrivalled in the world."

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