Unfortunately for Italian culture and tradition, over the last 20 years, 3 million young Italians have left seeking a better future overseas. To date, there are 10 million 200 thousand young people in Italy between the ages of 18 and 34, a reduction of -23.2% from 2003. One data point stands out above the rest. Italy has the lowest proportion of people aged 18 to 34 in the EU (in 2021,17.5%; the EU average is 19.6%).
What is going on with young Italians?
The Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy) is the main protagonist of the most recent ISTAT analysis, where the situation appears to be much more problematic than in the rest of Italy. The younger generation in the Mezzogiorno has suffered the greatest dip, with a -28% since 2002. Although the South is younger than Northern Italy (18.6% versus 16.9%), the net loss in the South is significantly greater.
The university courses in Southern Italy do not satisfy. Central-Northern universities enroll 28.5% of Southerners who attend university. If the South-North brain drain continues, Southern Italy will surely be deprived of workers with advanced skills and specialized studies.
The causes of the North-South divide in higher education are quickly identified:
- improved job opportunities
- Training that is more comprehensive and accessible
- The availability of excellent services and the quality of instruction
The fact is that recent reductions in public financing for universities, as well as how it is divided, have played a significant influence. Following the 2010 reform, public funds are allocated based on the number of members and a premium component. As more potential young people choose to pursue a degree in the Center-North, monies granted to southern colleges are declining.
A scarcity of decent opportunities and working conditions in Southern Italy
Southern Italy’s young Italians aged 20 to 34 have a dismal employment rate of 41.6%, with an unemployment rate of 23.6% (9.1% in the Central North). Youth unemployment is concerning, and it inevitably leads to a significant delay in family transition.
Young individuals aged 30 to 39 who live with their parents in Southern Italy:
- Sardinia (37.2%)
- Campania (35.1%)
- Calabria (34.6%)
In this climate of uncertainty and regression, one in every five young Southerners is highly uncertain and insecure about the future, owing to an unfavorable economic situation.
The uncertainty of adulthood isn’t limited to the South. The eras of leaving the parental home, marriage, and the first child are expanding throughout Italy. Especially in the Mezzogiorno, 71.5% of 18-34-year-olds will be living with their family in 2022 (64.3% in northern Italy; 49.4% in the EU-27), a significant increase from 62.2 % in 2001.
The first child is born at 32.4 years
Just one expression: demographic winter. It accurately captures the current freeze, with a tendency that is progressively worsening.
But first, let’s look at some numbers. In 2021, the average age of marriage for Italians was around 36 years for the man (compared to 32 in 2004) and 33 for the bride (compared to 29 in 2004).
What about the firstborn? We’re in the same situation. The average age of first procreation for women is 32.4 years, up from 30.5 in 2001.
More than 3 million young Italians departed in 20 years, mainly from the Mezzogiorno, highlighting a deeper issue than statistics. This exodus of young talents to the Center-North and elsewhere is a consequence of a system that fails to give chances for growth, study, and employment in southern Italy.
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