How many foreigners are overqualified for their jobs in Italy?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
How many foreigners are overqualified for their jobs in Italy?
Window cleaners at work in the Eur business district in Rome. Cleaning and maintenence workers are among those who are most frequently overqualified for their jobs in Italy. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)

Italy is among the European countries struggling with 'brain waste', a situation where immigrants struggle to find suitable full-time work or are overqualified for their roles due to their education not being recognised.


The findings were part of an investigation by Lighthouse Reports, the Financial Times, El País and Unbias The News, which revealed that most European countries fail to provide good job opportunities to educated foreigners – potentially at the cost of their labour forces and economies.

“While the results differ slightly between labour market outcomes, a consistent pattern emerges: immigrants lag behind natives everywhere, but brain waste is worst in Southern Europe, Norway, and Sweden,” the report read.

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One of the metrics used to measure brain waste was the proportion of foreign residents who were overqualified for their role.

Of all countries studied, Italy recorded the highest number of university-educated immigrants working in roles they were overqualified for.

Some 41 percent of university-educated Italians were overqualified for their job, according to the report, compared to 78 percent of immigrants educated abroad.

One thing to note is that immigrants who obtained their qualifications in Italy were far less likely to be overqualified than those who got their degrees outside of Italy.

For immigrants with a degree from Italy, 51 percent were overqualified. The report didn’t study native Italians with foreign diplomas.

READ ALSO: What jobs can I do in Italy if I don't speak Italian?

Italy also had the largest number of immigrants working in roles they were overqualified for due to poor Italian language skills, at 86 percent, compared to 61 percent for those proficient in the language.

Although the number was especially high in Italy, the report pointed out that across Europe "immigrants with better language skills have better employment outcomes."

"In 2021, immigrants with poor host country language skills were over-qualified and under-employed at almost twice the native rate and unemployed at more than double the native rate."


Employment sectors with the highest rates of overqualified workers in Italy included construction, cleaning and maintenence, retail and care work.

The Lighthouse Reports study noted that the figures for Italy pointed to a systemic problem across the entire labour market, which doesn't only affect well-educated immigrants.

"Once we look at metrics of brain waste that are not dependent on education, such as under-employment and unemployment, the large gaps in Southern Europe reappear.

"This indicates that these countries struggle to integrate migrants into the labour market in general, not just college-educated migrants," it read.



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