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'I would never go back to Italy'

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Work culture is a key reason Italians are staying out of the country. Photo: Stefano Costantini/Flickr
09:40 CET+01:00
Thousands of young Italians have fled the country in search of work abroad, with some saying they will never return. The Local speaks to Italians abroad to find out why, even if the economy improves, they have no plans to go home any time soon.

Many Italians have migrated to northern Europe - to London, Brussels, Berlin and elsewhere - in search of work. While money may have been a key reason to leave, the experience of working in better economies has left many unwilling to go back to a country they see as not only steeped in recession, but also in nepotism and ageism.

We speak to Italians working in PR, academia and human rights, who said they see no reason to return to a place where low pay is the norm and where there are few chances for career development.

Lorenza Frigerio, account manager at The 10 Group, London

I would never go back. I look at Italy and I feel a little bit depressed. I would rather not wake up and read about the economy and the politics, and live in a place where I know that nothing is going well.

I still feel Italian but now London is my home. I've always wanted to live here, as a teenager I was attracted to London because of it's music scene.

Other Italians are only here for the money and the experience, to build up their CV. Many Italians are afraid they won't be able to get to higher positions because they are not British and because of problems with the language, but I don't see that.

I was recently approached by a huge company in Milan but I turned the offer down because I didn't see an opportunity to grow and build up my experience, people don't invest in other people in Italy.

I could be doing a similar job in Milan but my job here is much more integrated and creative. I wouldn't be doing something as fun and I wouldn't have the same salary.

Andrea Teti, university professor, Aberdeen

If the government decided to have a well-designed higher education policy then I, like many academics abroad, would love to consider coming back. But I know it's entirely unrealistic.

It’s extremely difficult to get into an Italian university on merit alone. The barons (i baroni) are the powerful professors who play the local politics game and have an extremely strong influence on who gets hired; certain professors control certain appointments and there's an understanding between them of who will take turns in hiring.

The Italian government has also adopted a strategy of systematic disinvestment in education. There are real pockets of excellence in Italy, which is a minor miracle because universities are an area of public life in which the government is not prepared to invest.

If the conditions were right I would love to come back - the Brits can’t make coffee for anything!

Valentina Moressa, PR, London

I got an internship at the Italian embassy in London in 2007; once I arrived I realized how much easier it would be to get a job here.

The opportunities I found in London wouldn't be possible in Italy; I felt for the first time I had a chance to demonstrate my skills and talents, while in Italy it's all about who you know and who owes your Dad a favour. It was liberating coming here.

Eighty percent of my university friends are here, in Germany or somewhere else outside of Italy. The ones that stayed in Italy managed to find a job but it's either not as well paid or it has low-level responsibilities.

Culturally Italy’s a place where people respect old people and the experience they have - just look at the government - everyone who's in power in Italy is old and there's no value put in a young person. It's one of the main problems in the job market.

Starting my own business in Italy would also be insane. It takes 24 hours to set up a business in the UK; in Italy I don't even want to start to think about how long it would take. It's impossible for a start-up to survive.

It's really disheartening. I really do love Italy and I'd love to move back, I just don't see how to make it work.

Valentina Cecco, human rights professional, Brussels

I don’t see a future in Italy. The economy is just part of the reason, it's more a matter of mentality.

Politicians don't care about the lives of their citizens and they don't want to change the system. Even if the economy improves, things will be much the same.

The problem is that the Italian system doesn't allow you to become an adult, have a job and a life.

Friends of mine are all working on six-month contracts with no opportunity to be taken on afterwards. Employers regard you as an idiot if you are 25 years old; they think they're better just because they're 50.

I feel that in Brussels I have more of a chance. It's sad for me, but I can't waste my whole life fighting against the system.

We can't all leave because the country would be much worse, but I can't wait forever. 

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