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#International: What is the role of immigrants in Italy?

by Alessio Spelda #immigration twitter@aleonesp #gaiaitaliacomnotizie



In our last article, we spoke about ‘how many immigrants live in Italy’. But the most relevant part of the phenomenon was (and still is): How does this phenomenon affect economy and society? And above all, is this considerable as a problem?

First of all, let’s refresh our memory a little bit. In Italy there are 66.6 million people, 6 million of them are immigrants. To be exact Italians from 0 to 19 are the 18%; if we talk about immigrant population, we find that people from 0 to 19 y.o. are the 23% of the total, but the most important fact is about over 65 populations: in Italy they represent the 28%, whereas in immigrant citizens they are just the 6.1%. This is a staggering fact, whereas 1 in 4 Italians are next to be retired. And just 1 in 5, is a kid. In other words, immigrants are younger than Italians, and this means mobility, in every sense, social as well as economical.

But, as we said in the introduction, work is an extremely important piece of the puzzle. According to ANPAL (2017) immigrants represent almost the 11% of Italian workforce. With a small difference: as we know, there are UE and extra-UE immigrants, and UE immigrants are workaholic. Indeed they have the 63.3% of employment rate, unlike non-UE immigrants that just 57,8% are workers. But in all of these data, Italian workers have not been mentioned yet: just the 57% of Italians is working, exactly 2.5% less than immigrants (according to the weighted average between UE and extra-UE workers). But another data gives us the main focus of the article: extra-UE immigrants are paid 25% less than Italians and UE immigrants “just” the 19%. And we are talking about contracts. Undeclared work is obviously even worse. And there are many consequences because of this discrepancy.

Immigrants are employed more, but they are paid less. And this is inacceptable. Ethically, because is pure racism, because overworking someone just for its condition, it’s almost inhumane. But the economically impact, is even worse. They are used as a picklock to make salaries, of the entire population, lower. This has been accentuated by global economic crisis. But immigrants are living the worst scenario: they are obliged to accept a low salary, in the hardest work market we have ever met. Because they are under a strong “psychological pressure”, made by employers thanks to the condition of fragility, due to the difficulties caused by immigration, like Federica Dolente said in his report “Il lavoro gravemente sfruttato degli immigrati”. But this is not a news. We have already seen something like this, a case already been studied. In 19th century, Irish immigrants were used to stop the strikes that were on going in England by English workers. Marx described this phenomenon with “reserve army of labour”. For the philosopher immigrants were literally used by capitalists to make their profit bigger and, most important, sustainable: <<The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the when the overpopulation is the greatest>>. And obviously, immigration is the first form of overpopulation. So this phenomenon causes a decrease of salaries, but there is another result, even more horrible: quoting Marx in his letter to Sigfrid Meyer <<And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor>>. This letter is 150 years old, but the description match perfectly with our reality. And the hate that comes from this, is used  today for political electioneering, like in last Italy Elections, basing it on immigrants. A modern “divide et impera”.

So immigration plays an important role in economy, not necessarily in a negative way. But not when there is an high unemployment rate. We don’t need more workforce, we need more work opportunities and fair salaries. But the problem it’s not in the immigration process, but in the exploitation made by Italian so called business-men on immigrants. If there had been an equity between wages, there would not have been problems caused by overpopulation. In this way, the only people to be advantaged are rich people that use the low salary of immigrants to make the medium salary lower. And obviously make more profit. But, is this acceptable?

The problems are not caused by immigrants, the problems come from far above us. In the political debate, we are stupidly judging the book by its cover. And apparently, it seemed to work.



(12th march, 2018)

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