Poverty eradication in ItalyMany programs are working toward innovations in poverty eradication in Italy. These programs include an income program instated by the government, a fuel poverty program partnership between two companies and charities that provide assistance to the needy. Here are four facts about innovations in poverty eradication in Italy:

4 Facts About Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Italy

  1. Italy’s welfare program: In 2019, Italy introduced a €7 billion income welfare program to help reduce poverty. As of 2018, 5.1 million people in Italy lived in poverty. This program targets those people, as well as Italian citizens, EU citizens and legal residents living in Italy for 10 years or more. Households whose annual income is equal to or below €9,360 are eligible. Those eligible receive €780 a month, which can help pay for essentials such as grocery, rent and utilities. In the program, individuals who are able-bodied are also required to sign up for job placement and training programs. Employers who hire individuals taking part in the program receive financial incentives.
  2. Reducing fuel poverty: Fuel poverty is present in Italy, but so are programs to help tackle it. Fuel poverty is defined by the European Energy Poverty Observatory as “the inability to keep the home adequately warm at an affordable cost.” This affects more than 3.9 million Italians per year. A U.K.-based company called PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partnered with an international organization, Ashoka, to reduce low-income families living in fuel poverty in Italy. The project relies on social innovators and entrepreneurs to find novel methods of tackling fuel poverty and reducing it in Italy.
  3. Food stamps: Italian programs for food assistance are giving out free meals and food stamps. Particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, many Italians are facing unemployment, and about one million are in need of food assistance. Programs such as the Ronda della Solidarieta charity, which offers free dinners twice a week in Rome to those in need, and the Nona Roma association, which drops off boxes filled with food necessities to low-income Roman families, are helping reduce the amount of people who go hungry. In 2020, the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, delegated €400 million for food stamps.
  4. Charities: Charities for the homeless and low-income are attempting to provide resources such as food and health items to those in need. The COVID-19 crisis can be especially difficult for homeless Italians, as closed restaurants and bars provide less access for them to wash their hands. Similarly, it can be difficult to obtain food while social distancing, and homeless people are sometimes stopped by the police for not abiding by quarantine laws. The Community for St. Egidio is a charity that keeps their soup kitchen open, and they distribute 2,500 meals per week. They are also seeking donations for face masks, hand sanitizers and food. 

There is still a long way to go in eradicating poverty in Italy, and COVID-19 may worsen the plight of low-income families in Italy. However, it is still important to note these programs as they help families in need and create innovations in poverty eradication in Italy.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

trevi fountain fights povertyIn 2017, the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reported the highest levels of poverty in Italy in the past 12 years with 8.4% of the population living in “absolute poverty.” Absolute poverty is the state in which individuals are not able to purchase necessary goods and services resulting in detrimental social exclusion. Although slightly lower than the national poverty rate, Italy’s capital Rome reported that 6.4% of its population lived in “absolute poverty” in 2017. Additionally, there were 7,709 people were homeless in Rome in 2014. The Italian government is working on ways to improve the significant issues of poverty and homelessness in the country’s capital. However, one man and one fountain have made a huge impact on improving impoverished conditions in Rome over the past decade. Today, the Trevi Fountain fights poverty through the coins thrown into it.

The Trevi Fountain

The Eternal City is home to countless ancient and renowned monuments including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and, of course, the Trevi Fountain. Apart from being one of the most famous baroque fountains in the world, the Trevi Fountain is also known for its coin tradition. Visitors throw three coins over their shoulders into the fountain’s vast pool of water. The first coin promises that the owner of the coin will one day return to Rome. The second coin promises that love shall soon be discovered. The third coin promises that the owner of the coin will marry the love they found. Due to this tradition, approximately €3,000 a day are thrown into the Trevi Fountain totaling €1.5 million annually.

In 2002, the Trevi Fountain became famous for a reason other than its ancient history and romantic traditions. Its new fame arose because of a man named Roberto Cercelletta. Cercelletta was homeless and used the Trevi Fountain’s coin tradition to alleviate his poverty. Every night, Roberto would wade into the fountain’s pool and collect the coins, all while evading detection from the police. Roberto could collect almost €1,000 in about 15 minutes of scavenging. He got away with his escapade for 34 years before his arrest by the police in 2002.

Roberto Cercelletta’s Impact on Poverty in Rome

The story of Roberto inspired the Italian government to donate the Trevi Fountain’s coin collection to helping Rome’s homeless and disenfranchised population. Today, the coins from the Trevi Fountain are removed three times a week by a company known as Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente (ACEA). ACEA typically collects €8,000 from the fountain per visit. The ACEA then gives the coins to the police to weigh and deposit. After depositing the coins, the Italian government donates the money (which is usually $1.7 million per year) to a local charity called Caritas Roma that is dedicated to providing support to the poor and homeless in Rome.

5 Facts About Caritas Roma

  1. Caritas Internationalis – Caritas Roma is a local branch of the much larger Caritas Internationalis organization. Caritas Internationalis was founded in 1897 and it consists of 165 Catholic service groups that work to promote justice and end poverty. Caritas Internationalis emphasizes the Catholic Church’s social mission of acting on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The organization operates in over 200 countries and serves millions of impoverished individuals.
  2. Caritas Roma – Caritas Roma emphasizes the power of service and volunteering. The main purpose of the nonprofit is to encourage Christians around the world to view charity as the focus of their life. Therefore, Caritas Roma coordinates volunteers and services in the social-welfare sector to provide resources and support for the impoverished populations in Rome.
  3. Other organizations – Caritas Roma works with 45 other organizations to improve living conditions in Rome. Caritas Roma has partnered with services such as health facilities, family centers, housing communities and reception centers to provide holistic support for poor and homeless individuals. These facilities also provide opportunities for Christians to volunteer and stand in solidarity with the city’s poor.
  4. Methodology – Caritas Roma carefully researches the needs of the poor and homeless in Rome. Caritas Roma observes the demographics and locations of the poor and homeless populations in Rome and generates an annual report. These reports are used to describe the social exclusion affecting these populations in order to determine the best methods for providing help.
  5. Counseling services – Caritas Roma coordinates with Carita Counseling Centers throughout Italy. Carita Counseling Centers cover over 80% of Italy’s territory, providing widespread help in all of Italy’s many regions. These counseling centers have provided support for 205,090 people, including over 26,000 homeless people.

Although Roberto Cercelletta was a thief of some notoriety, he inspired monumental change in policies that never truly recognized the plight of homelessness. Now, the Trevi Fountain fights poverty through every coin thrown into it. This story reflects how a simple diversion of funds from a long-standing tradition can make a lasting and positive impact on poverty.

– Ashley Bond
Photo: PublicDomainPictures

 

Reducing Energy Poverty in Italy Through Solar PV Market
Powertis, a Spanish company that focuses on the development and investment of large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, has announced an expansion plan to enter Italy’s solar PV market. This shift will bring Powertis closer to its goal of reaching one gigawatt (GW) of ready-to-invest assets by 2023. In addition, it will support the National Plan for Energy and Climate (NECP), which has set a target of +30 GW of PV capacity by 2030. Powertis’ growth into the solar PV market will also serve as an opportunity to decrease energy poverty in Italy by reducing the price of electricity.

What is Energy Poverty?

Energy poverty refers to people who are least likely to have access to energy services. This increases their likelihood of remaining poor. Energy poverty affects health by increasing the risk of cardiovascular or respiratory disease and the number of excess deaths in the winter, especially in colder areas. In 2017, estimates determined that 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity and nearly 3 billion people cook meals with polluting fuels, such as charcoal, wood, kerosene and dung.

The Aim for Efficient and Affordable Energy

In 2011, the former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative to drive faster action towards achieving SDG7. SDG7 is the seventh goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is battling energy poverty by advocating for improved access to reliable, affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all. SE4ALL aims to double the global rate of improved energy efficiency and the global share of renewable energy by 2030. By working with government leaders, the private sector and civil society, SE4ALL hopes to ensure universal access to modern energy.

Energy Poverty and “Vulnerability”

The primary concern that Italy’s population faces when it comes to energy poverty is the uneven distribution of energy expenditure. The lowest 10% of Italian income-earners spend 4% of their budget on energy compared with the 1% that affluent households spend. This leads to a concept known as “vulnerability,” where the lowest 10% of Italian households have compressed purchasing power and reduced ability to purchase domestic or international goods and services.

Furthermore, as of 2017, Eurostat reported that 15.2% of Italy’s population cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. The inability of households to purchase an adequate amount of energy goods can have negative direct costs including increased stress on the healthcare system. It also has indirect costs such as a decrease in economic productivity and output in the community.

How Italy is Addressing the Issue

Italy’s government has created the National Energy Climate Plan (NECP) to address its energy poverty. The NECP aims to cover 30% of final consumption by renewable sources, reduce final energy consumption by 39.7% and aim for a 33% reduction in greenhouse gases. Italy introduced the NECP in December 2018 as a commitment and strategy to increase environmental protection and energy security while reducing polluting emissions, as the European Union put forward. So far, Italy has obtained “Medium” ratings in all of the categories after the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) evaluated it for 2020. This suggests that there has been a lack of implementing effective measures by the public sector.

Powertis’ Role in Reducing Energy Poverty

The CCPI evaluation also includes a “Low” rating for the “Renewable Energy – current trend” component, demonstrating the need to involve the private sector in producing more renewable energy for Italian markets. The inclusion of PV solar panels would improve Italy’s rating. According to Roberto Capuozzo, the Country Manager of Powertis in Italy, Powertis is one of many private firms working to address this need. It is operating as a leading company in the transition to a zero-emission economy. Powertis’ plans to develop PV projects in Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Lazio and increase its pipeline beyond over two gigawatts between Italy and Brazil.

Powertis is reducing the price of electricity by working with local community partners to structure the project’s financing and offer a lower price, in comparison to the cost of electricity for coal. Italy’s main issue is the inconsistent distribution of energy expenditure budgets for the bottom 10% of Italian income-earners in comparison with the top 1%. If prices for energy decrease, energy poverty should decrease. Powertis’ expansion to local communities in Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Lazio will offer these individuals more purchasing power and decrease their level of vulnerability. This will also benefit the economy by allowing them the ability to consume other goods and services. By increasing Italian households’ purchasing power, Powertis is increasing access to energy services and reducing energy poverty in Italy.

Powertis has expanded its reach into Italy’s solar PV market, thereby decreasing the price of electricity for Italian households. This has increased households’ access to energy services and subsequently increased their ability to dedicate more of their personal budget towards the consumption of other goods and services. The households’ lower level of vulnerability should also help to decrease energy poverty in Italy.

Natasha Nath
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sardinia
Sardinia, Italian Sardegna, is an Italian island in the mediterranean sea that is no stranger to poverty. The economic hardship increased after the 2008 recession. Beginning in 2010, a variety of workers and artisans found themselves at risk of losing their jobs. For example, shepherds and independent farmers were losing business to larger farming companies and small entrepreneurs and independent contractors had to compete with privatization. So, they took to the streets of the regional capital city in Cagliari in protest. Now, Italy is looking to sustainable development and ecotourism to alleviate poverty in Sardinia.

Poverty Overall

Italy really began showing signs of economic recovery in 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, its GDP went up 0.5 percent, business morale was at its highest in a decade and export volumes had risen 2.8 percent over the first eight months of the year. The economic recovery, however, has not played out evenly. Life is getting worse for many Italians. The number of Italians living in extreme poverty had increased from 4.7 million in 2016 to 5 million by the end of 2017 despite that fact that the economic recovery has slowly been gaining traction on a macro level.

Poverty in Sardinia did not skip a beat. The percent of poor individuals living in Sardinia increased from 16 percent in 2016 to 21.4 percent in 2017, according to ISTAT. To compound the issue, the unemployment rate in Sardinia was 17 percent in 2017, which was considerably higher than Italy’s overall 11 percent rate in 2017. The island suffers from high emigration, a negative rate of population growth and a low population density of 40 inhabitants per square mile, which is almost one-third of the average in Italy.

Despite the issue of poverty in Sardinia, the inhabitants of the island live a very long time, especially in the village of Tiana where the proportion of centenarians is found to be 3 times higher than in other parts of Italy. Researchers believe this is true because of the social fabric of the region. The elderly in Tiana tend to lead longer and happier lives because of the degree of social interaction they enjoy. Italy is working to improve condition on the island by capitalizing on the history and culture of the region.

Efforts to Combat Poverty in Sardinia

To combat poverty in Sardinia and promote economic development, the country has embraced a model of sustainable development. In 2013, the island became the first sustainable destination in the Mediterranean. Part of Sardinia’s commitment to sustainability comes from the fact that the island is a huge promoter of green energy, hosting more than 2000 companies in the green supply chain and using renewable energies through its numerous wind and solar farms.

Ecotourism is gaining momentum on the island. Almost 200,000 more tourists visited the Sardinia in April and May 2017 than in the previous year during the same time. Sardinia’s beautiful coasts boast nearly unspoiled beaches and reefs. Tourists can go diving to see the protected marine life or one of the many underwater archeological sites in the region. There are a variety of things to do and see on the different islands in Sardinia depending on the interests of the tourists.

Tourism in the summer months is very popular and helps to combat low employment rates. The ecotourists and elites that visit the island during the summer months bring employment and capital to the coastal regions of the island, but the interior does not benefit from summer tourism. Sardinians living in the interior have recently taken strides to develop a cultural tourism industry. Sardinians who live in the interior believe there is an opportunity for increased tourism since the heritage of the island–cultural, linguistic, artistic and musical–has been fiercely preserved. They have begun attracting tourists to the interior by hosting successful festivals that draw out the unique characteristics of each region.

Although there is still a significant number of people living in poverty in Sardinia, efforts are underway to greatly alleviate the situation by capitalizing on the island’s beauty and rich cultural history. Ecotourism and sustainable energy are going a long way to improve the living conditions in Sardinia and bring in new business opportunities to continue building a prosperous economy.

Photo: Flickr


Life expectancy among Italians is close to being the best in Europe and the country arguably has one of the best life expectancy ratings in the world. This is somewhat surprising, having in mind recent economic troubles in Italy that have seen cuts in government funding of health care as well as less disposable income that individuals can use for their health care needs. Hopefully, 10 facts about life expectancy in Italy described below will shed much-needed light on the life of the people in this Mediterranean nation.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Italy

  1. In 2013, the BBC reported that the average life expectancy for Italians was 81.5 years. This rate was among the highest in Europe. More specially, this life expectancy estimate placed Italy in second place in terms of average life expectancy.
  2. This report placed Italy’s life expectancy rate above those of France, Germany and Sweden, all of which are considered very “healthy nations” when comparing life expectancy rates.
  3. However, life expectancy has decreased in Italy recently. Women’s life expectancy has decreased by 0.4 in recent years and men’s decreased by 0.2 in 2017.
  4. Researchers are unclear as to what has brought on the recent decline in life expectancy in the country. Some of the leading hypotheses include lifestyle choices, lack of screening for preventable diseases and lack of access to adequate health care.
  5. In June 2018, the report was released by the Italian Department of Labor and Industry estimated that 5.1 million Italians are living in absolute poverty. That is 8.4 percent of Italy’s total population. The number of Italians living in relative poverty is estimated at 9.4 million, or roughly 15.6 percent of the total population.
  6. The sheer number of Italians living at or below the poverty line could contribute to the recent decrease in life expectancy rates. Unsurprisingly, if individuals are struggling to make ends meet, they may not have enough disposable income for routine medical check-ups, physicals, or preventative tests and screenings.
  7. As a general rule, poverty tends to force people to make less-healthy lifestyle choices, especially regarding food. For example, if people are struggling to pay for groceries or are trying to make their money go as far as possible, they tend to focus on buying the cheaper, unhealthier processed foods. This food is more likely to cause obesity and obesity-related health problems in the country, but in general as well.
  8. Most facts about life expectancy in Italy are positive. In the more industrious northern part of the country, life expectancy has been on the rise. This is probably due to the fact this part of Italy is more economically developed, with a richer general population that can take-on potential medical costs. The average life expectancy in northern Italy is 83 years, compared to only 80 years in southern Italy.
  9. There is little evidence to show that Italians will be deviating from their Mediterranean diet any time soon. This is particularly good news for Italy, considering that the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. Eating plenty of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and cooking with olive oil could explain the high life expectancy rate in Italy.
  10. The number of centenarians, or people that are over the age of 100, has tripled in Italy over the last 15 years. Out of the total number of centenarians, 83 percent are women.

When it comes to discussing life expectancy in Italy, we should consult the oldest living person in the world that lives in this country. While Italy may have issues to address if it wants to see it’s life expectancy rates increase, special attention must be given to the life choices of Emma Morano, oldest living person in the world at 117 years. Leaving genetics out of the equation, Emma watches her diet while remaining active, watches her stress levels and enjoys time with friends and family. With this advice, we could all be a little happier, and potentially live longer and more rewarding lives.

– Raymond Terry
Photo: Pixabay

Lampedusa, migrants
In 2016, more than 65 million people were displaced around the world. While a majority of these people were displaced within their own countries, millions still fleed to search for a new home. Many of them tried and successfully reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In popular media, the island Lampedusa began to appear in tandem with the migrant crisis. This article will answer the questions of what is Lampedusa and how it is involved in the refugee crisis.

What is Lampedusa?

Lampedusa is an eight square mile island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located roughly 70 miles from Tunisia, which actually makes it closer to Africa than Europe. It is a part of Italy and is populated by approximately 6,000 people.

In recent years, thousands of migrant arrived in Lampedusa. In 2013, over 13,000 migrants came to this small island by boat. This is a sharp decrease from 60,000 people that passed through the island in 2011. However, this large influx of migrants continues and puts a large pressure on the island. What is Lampedusa doing to house migrants?

Lampedusa, being a tiny island with a very small population, does not have the resources or the housing to hold the sharp influx of migrants. The remnants of an old naval base are used to help house migrants while they wait to get sent to another part of Italy to have their case heard.

However, this base only has a capacity of 800 people. In some cases, it used to house thousands of migrants. Migrants are supposed to stay for only a few days on the island but reports have shown that most of them stay for two to three weeks before leaving. During the day, migrants wander the streets since the shelters are only meant to be used during the night.

Migrant’s Health Problems

Many migrants contract diseases in their journeys to Europe due to the fact that they are in overcrowded boats, vans, buses and rafts for long periods of time. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health recently released a study examining migrants headed to Italy and Greece and nearly 40 percent of the participants reported that they contracted an illness in their route to Europe.

Migrants also suffer stress and trauma in their journeys since many are mistreated and abused by smugglers. Some also witness deaths of people traveling with them due to dehydration or suffocation in rafts. If migrants are arriving in bad conditions, what is Lampedusa doing to help them?

Although Lampedusa lacks resources, that does not stop locals from providing food, blankets and other forms of hospitality towards the groups of migrants arriving. The people of the island are helping those who arrive in every way possible, directly affecting poverty reduction of migrants. In 2011, 2014, and 2016, the island was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize for the locals’ generosity.

The Order of Malta

From the more administrative side, the Order of Malta helps Lampedusa with the rescuing and health treatment of migrants that arrive by sea. Since the Orders’ involvement with Lampedusa, it has rescued over 55,000 people. The ships also provide medical services to migrants. Between 2008 and 2013, the Order of Malta provided medical services to over 4,000 people.

As the migrant crisis continues the situation in Lampedusa remains critical. While the people of Lampedusa and the Order of Malta continue to help migrants that arrive, they lack adequate resources to meet all of the migrant’s needs.

However, it is important to acknowledge the work that is being done. It shows that even though Lampedusa is overstretched, its people and communities are still willing to help and harbor migrants in their search for a better life in Europe.

– Drew Garbe

Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in Italy
Italy, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, has been ranked relatively low in US News’ 2018 Best Countries report. Italy placed 15th in a list of 80 countries following the Nordic countries, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This came as a shock to many non-Italians, as Italy is often idealized and tourism often highlights the best of the country, not its realities. To understand this ranking, here are 10 facts about living conditions in Italy:

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Italy

  1. Housing
    Housing in Italy, particularly in the northern and center cities, is very expensive. Cities like Milan and Rome are some of the most expensive cities, not just in Italy, but in the world: Milan ranks 50th and Rome 58th on the list of most expensive cities in the world. Despite the region—north, center, or south—the cost of housing greatly increased from 21 percent in 2005 to 24 percent in 2014 and has stayed above this level since. This increase was actually noted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as one of the strongest rises in the OECD.
  2. Income
    General income in Italy is relatively low and has been turbulent since 2005. Moreover, between 2010 and 2014, the average household net wealth fell by 18 percent. Though there were signs of real recovery in 2015, household net-adjusted disposable income fell again in 2016 and was reportedly 10 percent lower than in 2005. This massive decline has also been noted to be one of the largest falls in the OECD.
  3. Poverty
    There is a massive gap between the wealthy and the poor in Italy, both geographically and financially. Geographically, much of the wealthy live in the north of Italy, while many of the poorer Italians live in the south. Moreover, as the OECD has noted, Italian income is distributed the most unevenly across Italian households than any other country. The OECD states that this is due to the fact that the average income of those in the top quintile is almost six times higher than those in the bottom quintile. However, the poverty level in Italy is growing. 14 percent of households across the country were labeled as income poor in 2016.
  4. Gender Equality
    The gender inequality in Italy is one of the biggest reasons behind poor life quality ratings. It was found that in Italy, women are 15 percent more likely to be unemployed and, even when employed, they are 75 percent more likely to be employed in low-paying jobs. As the OECD has noted, the gender gap in Italy is one of the largest compared to other countries under inspection by the OECD.
  5. Health
    Italy’s healthcare system, the Italian National Health Service (SSN), is one of the country’s redeeming facets. The SSN is a universal, egalitarian public system guaranteeing assistance to all citizens. However, its one downfall is that the wait time for examination is often lengthy; it can reach a couple months, even with an urgent case. Nevertheless, the overall health of Italy has increased by 7.5 points since 2005, which places the country just below the OECD average in health.
  6. Environmental Quality
    Although Italy is known for its beautiful scenery and landscapes, overall air pollution increased by 3 percent between 2005 and 2013 and has been rising since. Much of this pollution is due to poor sanitization; a vicious cycle has been created where poor sanitation creates pollution and pollution generates poor sanitation. Moreover, the OECD has received many complaints in the last few years about decreasing water quality in Italy.
  7. Civic Engagement
    There is an overall unrest with Italian civics. This is more substantial in the younger generations, but Italian civics has nevertheless seen a general decrease in participation. Voter turnout, like many other countries in the OECD, has decreased in Italy. The last known statistic is that 75 percent of Italy’s population voted in the 2013 general elections, which was significantly less than the 84 percent recorded in 2006. Moreover, a staggering 89 percent of Italians believe that there is widespread corruption across their government, which is much higher than the OECD’s average of 59 percent who believe this. Finally, perhaps as a result of the increasing belief in widespread corruption, only 38 percent of Italians say that they have confidence in the government.
  8. Education
    Although OECD’s recent data in Italy’s upper education system is unassessable, there are a few positives to highlight. Between 2014 and 2016, the rate of people in upper education increased by just under one percent and has been slightly increasing since. Additionally, the gender gap in education outcomes in Italy has decreased and now seems to favor women.
  9. Employment
    Italy’s employment rate has not improved substantially since 2005. The unemployment rate, currently at 12 percent, is currently reported to be three times higher for younger generations as opposed to the current middle-aged generation. The unemployment rate is the third highest in the entirety of the OECD.
  10. Life Satisfaction
    In the past decade, the Italian population’s life satisfaction has fallen from 6.7 to an average of 5.9 on a scale out of 10. This is significantly lower than the OECD’s average and causes concern as it continues to decrease.

These facts about living conditions in Italy highlight that there is much room for improvement. Although much of the country sees a high amount of tourism, it isn’t enough to generate a steady economy or to close the large gap between the poor and wealthy. There is still hope for Italy, but a substantial amount of work remains to be done.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

Immigrants Benefit Italy

Immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, have been stigmatized across Europe, often labeled as benefit thieves and criminals. And in most situations, this population is never given the opportunity to prove otherwise.

These negative stereotypes have heavily impacted the way locals perceive immigrants; this perception occurs so much so that locals have been unable to detach the person from the stereotype, making it difficult to change public opinion. The first step in breaking these negative perceptions is to highlight the ways in which immigrants enrich our lives, communities and economy. Immigrants have been negatively stereotyped for too long, and it is time for this to change — immigrants benefit Italy in numerous ways.

Projects to integrate immigrants have been set up across Italy, many of which involve immigrants being given various jobs in their new communities. This has not only proven to benefit the communities, but it has also helped tremendously with the integration of the new arrivals and changing overall local perception. Below are some examples of how immigrants benefit Italy.

How Do Immigrants Benefit Italy?

Firstly, the jobs that migrants accept are often those in the marginalized and lower-paid job sector — a sector that many Italians refuse to work in because of the lower wages and associated stigmas. Immigrants, though, are accused of “stealing jobs” from hardworking Italians.

But in reality, this is not the case. Migrants are merely filling the gaps, leading to Italian social advancement. If it were not for migrants, this job sector may have never been filled, thereby leaving gaps in society.

Secondly, immigrants play a crucial role in Italian development. Italy has an old population — one in ten Italians are over the age of 75. On the other hand, migrants and refugees coming to Italy tend to be young, only one in a hundred are over the age of 75.

Immigrants Boost the Economy

This means that rather than immigrants taking from Italian pensions, they work to enhance them through economic contributions. Immigrants are thought to take from society rather than give, yet more than 600,000 Italian pensions have been received thanks to immigrants.

Thirdly, because of the large population of pensioners in Italy and its large number of citizens emigrating elsewhere, holes are being left in the economy. This is where migrants come to the rescue and have filled such need to help improve the Italian economy.

This is true for many European countries with aging populations. For example, in recent years non-EU-citizens contributed around €16.5 billion ($19 billion) to the Italian economy, compared to the €12.6 billion ($14.5 billion) they received. These figures further clarify how migrants benefit Italy.

Creating an Environment for Immigrants to Thrive

Integration is key to the success of migrants in Italy. As of now, it is mostly small towns taking on the task of integrating and housing immigrants; these communities accomplish such a feat in the face of adversity and negative perceptions. As a result, they truly are paving the way for immigrant integration.

With the rate at which Italians emigrate elsewhere, small Italian towns in the south of Italy have heavily relied on immigrants to breathe life back into increasingly stagnant areas. In turn, immigrants have begun to rebuild the sense of community and home in places they were once unwelcome.

In times where immigrant lives are being threatened, it is imperative to create safe spaces and communities where immigrants can integrate without the threat of persecution. It is time for the rest of Italy to do just these measures, and reap the benefits brought about by immigration.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Google

Facts About Poverty in Italy

In 2017 the number of individuals in Italy living in “absolute poverty” rose to 5.1 million people, or 8.4 percent of Italy’s population. That number is up from the 7.9 percent reported back in 2016. Absolute poverty refers to a condition where a person does not have the minimum amount of income needed to meet the minimum requirements for one or more basic living needs over an extended period of time. With such a great amount of people unable to support themselves on a day to day basis and the overall region experiencing a rise in poverty levels each year, it is time to take another look at the facts about poverty in Italy.

10 Facts About Poverty in Italy

  1. Poverty is a threat in southern Italy. Southern Italy’s economy has grown slowly compared to northern Italy and its economy contracted by 13 percent from 2008 to 2013, almost twice as fast as the North’s at seven percent. Between 2007 and 2014, 70 percent of people in Italy who were in poverty were from southern Italy. The threat of poverty has caused some individuals to join the mafia in order to escaped the harshness of absolute poverty. Today, 47 percent of people still live at risk of poverty in southern Italy.
  2. The average household income in Italy rose in 2015, around €2,500 per month, but this was heavily concentrated in the richest fifth of Italy’s population. Think tank Censis reported that more than 87 percent of working-class Italians say it is difficult to climb the social scale, along with 83 percent of the middle class and 71 percent of the affluent.
  3. Italy’s debt is one of the worst in the E.U., with a national debt of $2.6 trillion, roughly 120 percent of its GDP. The debt was not as bad in the 1990s due to smart budgeting tactics, but after the global recession hit, the debt crisis began. Italy may not be able to sell its new debt to cover its old debt, indicating why these facts about poverty in Italy are so important to understand.
  4. Corruption within Italy has halted economic growth. More than 15 percent of Italy’s economy occurs on the black market and other underground avenues. With a past filled with tax evasion charges among others, Italy has seen its good government standing decrease over the years. Bad government leads to bad decision making which ultimately leads to the downfall of a good economic plan.
  5. Minors also face the brunt of poverty. In 2017, 1.208 million minors were living in absolute poverty. Children growing up in poverty leads to many problems down the road. Many may drop out of school to support their families or find other methods to garner a decent living. Italy’s poverty problem is so deep that not even children can escape it.
  6. With the establishment of new leadership in government, Italy is looking at a hopeful start to fixing its economy. Italy’s GDP rose 1.5 percent last year, the highest since 2010. While growth has been slow, the government is now actively trying to combat poverty.
  7. Recently the Italian government passed a bill that allocates €1.6 billion to help families in need as well as minors in need. The bill focuses on tackling poverty through welfare packages and anything else that can help people get by.
  8. The proposed bill gives families in need up to €400 each month. The estimate is that around 400,000 families will benefit from this new bill. The country’s Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti stated that the bill “fills a long-standing gap in the Italian system of protecting individuals on a low income, and is the sign of a new approach to social policy.”
  9. The grand plan to end poverty in Italy centers around the idea of social development, or establishing the means in which the foundation of Italy is secure and no one is at risk of being in poverty. Social development has been what the U.N. has cited as the most efficient way of reducing poverty.
  10. Italy looks to improve its economy each year at around one percent and continues to be optimistic about its chances of reducing poverty. Job growth is the priority of the current government and many steps are being made to accomplish that goal.

While Italy has one of the worst economies in the E.U., the nation is working to improve its conditions. These 10 facts about poverty in Italy demonstrate both the breadth and depth of the problem as well as the steps the country is taking to resolve its issues.

– Michael Huang
Photo: Flickr

closed its ports

Recently, Italy‘s newly formed government has closed its ports to migrant ships. The new political atmosphere is run by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League party, known for its strong anti-immigration beliefs.

In particular, a rescue ship named Aquarius, which was carrying 629 rescued migrants on board from 26 countries in Africa, was denied entry into an Italian port on June 10. The ship was forced to stay out at sea until another European country, Spain, gave the ship access to its ports the next day.

The new Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also the League’s leader, made the decision to close Italy’s ports. In the past, Salvini has called Sicily “the refugee camp of Europe,” and his actions reflect Italy’s struggle with the high numbers of refugees arriving each week. The Italian government wants Europe as a whole to play a larger role in accepting refugees.

Why Italy Has Closed its Ports

Since 2013, 690,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy. While some may be legal, many are not and 500,000 of them still reside in Italy. Among them are denied asylum seekers and those who have overstayed their visa.

In 2017 alone, 120,000 migrants arrived and the Italian government has estimated that 4.2 billion is the cost of taking them in, roughly $4.9 billion. That figure is divided between caring for asylum seekers, who are generally not allowed to work, as well as paying for sea rescues and providing medical assistance. This is one of many contributing factors as to why Italy has closed its ports.

Italy’s Changing Relationship to Refugees

In 2017, Italy formed a deal with Libya to enforce Libya’s coastguard in order to keep migrant ships from entering Italy. Since the deal, in the first five months of 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italian ports has dropped to 13,808. This is down 84 percent compared to the same period of time in 2017.

Part of Salvini’s campaign was to repatriate at least 500,000 migrants during his five-year term, as Italians have grown increasingly afraid of migrants and associate higher crime rates to the influx of migrants. Italy has closed its ports as a way to combat this sentiment.

International and National Response

As the nation has closed its ports, mayors across the south of Italy have spoken out against this decision and have pledged to open their ports to these rescue boats. However, without the direct support of the Italian coastguard, it is unlikely that much can be done.

This sentiment, however, gives hope to the changing attitudes toward helping these migrants. It demonstrates that opinions are changing and that people are more interested in saving the lives of refugees, rather than keeping them out.

As a response to Italy having closed its ports, European leaders and humanitarian groups have denounced this decision. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to Italy and Malta, stating that issues such as these should be addressed after the rescue and that the lives of the migrants should have been put first. Furthermore, Spain and France have offered to help take in the migrants.

As a solution, the European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed regional disembarkment platforms outside of the European Union. This would allow a more manageable way to differentiate between economic migrants and migrants in need of protection. As a result, the strain would be taken off countries such as Italy and allow for a more efficient system, which would benefit E.U. countries, the migrants and public sentiment toward this issue.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr