Italy’s labour shortage is ticking ‘time bomb’ – Generali chairman

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s free-falling birth rates and the emigration of the young and educated is a ticking “time bomb” for the country, the chairman of Italy’s biggest insurer warned on Friday.

“This is the problem for our country in my view: human resources,” Generali Chairman Andrea Sironi told a conference organised by Algebris Investments.

National statistics bureau ISTAT said in April that Italian births hit a historic low below 400,000 in 2022, the 14th consecutive yearly fall.

Sironi said that compared with 1.05 million births in 1964 when he was born. The problem is compounded by a lower percentage of people with a degree in Italy, he added.

“In Italy 28% of people between 25 and 34 years old hold a degree, in Europe the average is 41%, some countries are above 50%,” he said.

To make things worse, of the net 50,000 people leaving the country each year, many are educated, with scientific skills Italy badly needs and under 40.

“When you put together all three elements it’s a time bomb,” he said.

Sironi, who is a professor at Milan’s Bocconi University, said the percentage of their graduates who find an occupation abroad had risen to 37%.

“The reason is simple: in Italy they would earn 1,300-1,500 euros on their first job. In Germany or France, not to mention Switzerland, more than twice that,” he said, calling for tax incentives to improve the situation.

“It’s normal that some of our graduates go abroad, we’re in Europe, the problem is that foreigners don’t come; how could they with such salaries?.”

A shrinking and ageing population is a major threat to the euro zone’s third largest economy, leading to falling economic productivity and higher welfare costs in a country with the highest pension bill in the 38-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The plunging birth rate and a continuing brain drain abroad are expected to result in Italy’s school population shrinking by one million in the coming decade.

(Reporting by Valentina Za; Writing by Alvise Armellini; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)