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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Great Weather Can’t Make Up for Italy’s Stagnating Economy

Italy has never performed particularly well in the Expat Insider survey. However, results are worse than ever in 2019: the country places second to last.
  • Italy is the worst country for working abroad: 58% rate the economy negatively.
  • Two-thirds find it hard to live there without Italian language skills.
  • Average costs — Italy ranks 33rd — don’t automatically make for good finances (62nd).
  • About half the respondents are unhappy with the political stability in Italy.
  • 23% are unhappier after moving abroad (vs. 16% globally).

Hitting Rock Bottom for Work

One reason for Italy’s further decline — though certainly not the only one — is the state of its economy: the majority (58%) rates it negatively, a staggering 40 percentage points more than respondents worldwide. “The economy is in dire straits, and there are no perspectives,” according to a Russian respondent.

The economy is in dire straits, and there are no perspectives.

Similarly, expats in Italy are noticeably less satisfied with their jobs in general (49% positive ratings vs. 64% globally), their career prospects (29% vs. 55%), their job security (41% vs. 59%), and their working hours (49% vs. 62%). Italy’s last place in the Working Abroad Index is therefore hardly surprising, though it’s the first time that Italy ranks worse than Greece.

Italian Skills Required

While an above-average number of respondents moved to Italy to join their partner (20% vs. 12% globally), this does not automatically mean that they have an easy time settling in. In fact, one-third (33%) find it difficult to settle down in Italy, and over a quarter (27%) rate the local attitude towards foreign residents negatively. A German respondent complains that “people are not interested in foreigners”.

Local language skills seem to be a must in Italy: two-thirds of respondents (67%) disagree that it is easy to live there without speaking Italian, compared to two in five expats worldwide (40%) who say the same about the local language of their respective host country. Luckily, nearly half (49%) feel that Italian is easy to learn, and just 6% do not speak it at all.

Interestingly, over a third (35%) say their friends in Italy are mostly local residents (vs.19% globally), despite the fact that Italy ranks below average for the ease of making local friends (41st out of 64). However, this may be related to the fact that an above-average share (32% vs. 24% globally) have already been living there for at least 10 years.

Parents Struggling to Find Childcare

Around one in five respondents (21%) are raising children in Italy, and they are not happy, ranking the country 31st out of the 36 destinations that feature in this index. Fewer than two-thirds (66%) view their family life in general positively (vs. 79% globally), and close to a quarter (24%) give the available leisure activities for children a negative rating, ten percentage points more than the average (14%). A US American respondents shares having “difficulties to find and enroll children in sports and activities because of language challenges and limited information on websites.”

Italy performs badly, too, when it comes to the quality of education, placing 33rd, with close to a quarter of expat parents (23%) rating this factor negatively (vs. 16% globally). It does worst in the Family Life Index regarding the availability of childcare and education (35th). Nearly half the expat parents in Italy (47%) disagree that childcare options are numerous and easily available, 14 percentage points more than the global average of 33%.

Average Costs but Low Incomes

Italy also lands in an average 33rd place for the cost of living in general, with 43% of expats rating it favorably (vs. 47% globally). However, a German respondent thinks that there is an “imbalance between income and cost of living”. Italy ranks in the bottom 3 of the Personal Finance Index (62nd out of 64 countries): fewer than half the respondents (48%) are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% worldwide), and over three in ten (31%) say that their disposable household income is not enough to cover all living expenses (vs. 23% globally).

There’s an imbalance between income and cost of living.

Over two in five (41%) have a gross yearly income of less than 25,000 USD. An even higher share of working expats (46%) believe their income from employment or business is lower than what they would get for a similar job in their country of origin, compared to 25% globally.

A Drop in Quality?

In the past, Italy could at least make up for its bad results regarding work and finance with average ratings regarding the quality of life. However, even in this index, the country sees a drop in 2019, ranking 49th, following a 43rd place in 2018. While respondents still love the climate and weather — 44% even give it the best possible rating, compared to 26% worldwide — this cannot make up for expats’ dissatisfaction with their digital life: in this subcategory, Italy ranks in the bottom 10, and respondents are particularly dissatisfied with the availability of government services online (25% positive ratings vs. 55% worldwide), their access to high-speed internet (59% vs. 75%), and cashless payment options (62% vs. 79%).

What’s more, nearly half the expats (48%) rate the political stability in Italy — which saw the first Western European populist coalition government take office in 2018 — negatively, compared to 17% of all respondents. While the Expat Insider 2019 survey was conducted in March, several months before the government crisis in August, respondents were already not happy: “I don’t like the uncertainty of the political situation, as policies change frequently,” a US American respondent shares. Overall, respondents are slightly less happy with their life in general than the global average (69% vs. 74%).

Further Reading