Italy’s finest young minds see brighter career prospects abroad

In the minds of the young generation, Italy is a place for the traditional old people rather than an inclusive and progressive environment for them to thrive in. Italian students cultivate a plan to move abroad in search of professional fulfillment after graduation.

Chiara Silini, 19, is currently doing her Bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication and Public Relations at IULM, Italy. When Chiara was 17, she went to the UK to work as a waitress and bartender at an oyster restaurant in Brighton for a few weeks. “I wanted to do something different to improve my English, so why not go abroad to work instead of studying,” she said.

When Chiara started her university life, she wished to earn some extra money to learn how to be financially independent from her parents. Chiara gave it a try by working as a waitress at a restaurant near her house in Milan.   

“The restaurant I worked at in the UK is more international. People are from all over the world, and they’re younger than the people I worked with in Italy,” said Chiara. “I liked it better, because everybody was very open minded, they included me, and they made me feel like part of the team, whereas I didn’t feel that way when I was working in Italy, where I was simply going to work and serving tables.”

Chiara decided to do a Bachelor in English for the sake of her career opportunities outside Italy. Having worked abroad before, she considers buying a one-way ticket to New York in hopes of landing her future job in the fashion industry. “I have a very entrepreneurial and creative mindset. I want to get new experiences and meet new people, so I will have more job opportunities abroad than in Italy,” she said. “I see foreign places are more open minded than Italian cities.”

The young and talented generation is fleeing the Mediterranean country, looking for a more promising career path. In a survey conducted by four institutions from Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, in 2017, one-third of Italian citizens working abroad had university degrees, up 41.8% compared to 2013. Nearly half of the Italian emigrants cited better business opportunities or education as their growing conviction.

Jacopo, 19, a freshman studying Corporate Communication and Public Relations at IULM, intends to steer his career in the advertising direction. Like Chiari, Jacopo is leaving Italy to try new experiences, and advance professionally elsewhere towards the East. “Italy doesn’t offer the right framework for me to develop my skills as a professional,” he said.

“Italy is a very traditional country, so modernity or novelty is not appreciated,” said Jacopo. “Sometimes it’s hard to have a shared conversation on those topics because the majority of the population has very fixed opinions about traditional values that you may disagree with.” Because of the dynamic nature of the advertising industry, he believes that other countries would be a better fit for what he aspires to do in the future.

The 2019 report by The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reveals that Italy is likely to lose its finest young minds, since thousands of university graduates are leaving the country. In fact, the percentage of Italians with a university degree and working abroad is even greater than that of the general population.

“Italy is an old country. People will work until they’re very old. They don’t give young people enough spaces to actually find a job,” said Chiara. “Young people have different mindsets and completely different ideas. It’s very hard to find a place where young unexperienced people will be taken into consideration.”

Italy may be doing a lot for the elderly, but not enough for its youth. According to Nicola Nobile, an economist at the research and analytics consultancy Oxford Economics, Italy is a country for old people and cannot keep its young generation. A large number of old voters, as well as old politicians, tend to focus their politics and economic incentives on themselves, Nobile said.

From an optimistic viewpoint, this could be a normal phenomenon in times of globalization, when young people are eager to go beyond their country’s borders to broaden their eyes and discover new opportunities. And there remain some hopes for ‘brain return’.

“But still, I like Italy, I love living here. It’s not that I hate it. I wouldn’t mind coming back one day, maybe after 10 years,” said Jacopo. “In Italy, there are a lot of values in a family. You can always find a way to interact with your cousins, aunts, and uncles. It’s very beautiful to see family members come together and have fun. Also, you have beautiful sceneries, mountains, the sea, and food. Once you travel far enough, you will feel the need to come back home.”