Southern Italians stick with student life as jobs hard to find

(Reuters) – Southern Italians are studying more and for longer as a shortage of jobs forces many to either stay in school or relocate, a report by national statistics bureau ISTAT showed on Thursday.

The “Mezzogiorno” — covering Italy’s six southern regions plus the islands of Sicily and Sardinia — recorded 56% of high-school graduates enrolling in a university in the 2022-23 academic year, higher than the equivalent figure for the more affluent centre-north, a report by ISTAT showed.

However, not all those who enrol are likely to make it to the end of a course. Only 28% of people aged 25-34 from the Mezzogiorno had obtained a degree according to figures for 2021, compared with 41% in European Union averages.

“The lack of stable and good quality job opportunities in the Mezzogiorno is nothing new, but the situation among “millennials” is getting worse”, ISTAT said.

“The current youth of the Mezzogiorno face a longer and more complicated journey towards adulthood,” it added.

Its report added that the Mezzogiorno risked a brain drain, with more than 28% of students from the area choosing to study elsewhere in 2022, while half of its working graduates had relocated within five years.

“It is a paradox, but in the medium-long term, this could fuel a further deprivation of human capital with advanced skills, which is indispensable for the Mezzogiorno”, ISTAT said.

Italy is the European country with the lowest proportion of residents aged between 18 and 34, with the situation most acute in regions of high unemployment.

Southern youths are dissatisfied with their economic situation and almost three quarters of them still live with their parents. They are getting married and having children less often, and at an older age than before.

(Reporting by Alessandro Parodi; Editing by Keith Weir)