Ciao Italia! Nationals Abroad Exceed Foreigners in Renzi Land

  • Italians residing abroad rose by 199,000 last year to new high
  • Data ‘hurts’, but it’s due to a long-term trend, premier says

Italians are leaving their country in hordes, much to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s dismay.

With the economy struggling to recover from a record-long recession, Italians residing abroad hit a new high for the century at the end of last year, even exceeding the number of foreigners living in Italy, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the Rome-based Foreign Ministry and national statistics institute, Istat.

“The data on people leaving hurts, but it’s the consequence of the past 20 years,” Renzi said in a post on social media on Friday. “We have to start attracting people again, be a hub for talent.”

As of Jan. 1, there were more than 5.2 million Italians residing in other countries, after a jump of almost 199,000 people in just 12 months. In the previous two years, the number of foreigners residing in the country exceeded Italians abroad. Renzi’s new-found concern over Italians leaving their homeland marks a change from the past when he dismissed reports of the risk of a so-called brain drain, the emigration of highly trained or qualified nationals.

“Those who want to leave, let them do that,” he said in a speech in Venice on Oct. 16, 2015. “My duty is to provide them with a chance to return, if they want.”

Italy’s rebound from its longest slump since World War II came to an end in the three months through June, when growth was flat after expanding for eight quarters. On Dec. 4, the premier faces a constitutional referendum that might prove fatal for his government and political career.