Emigration from crisis-hit Italy rises by a third

ROME (AFP) - Emigration from Italy rose by nearly a third last year to 79,000, with a growing number of young people choosing to leave the crisis-hit country, Italian media reported on Sunday, citing official data.

The number of Italian citizens registering as foreign residents rose from 61,000 in 2011. Most of the emigrants came from wealthier regions of northern Italy and their favoured destinations were Germany, Switzerland and Britain.

"Young people want to be valued and the Italian context does not allow this. That is why they try going abroad," Dr Alessandro Rosina, demographics lecturer at Milan's Cattolica university, was quoted by La Repubblica daily as saying.

"It would be wrong to stop the brain drain but there should be measures to allow circulation. Young people leave from every country but, unlike in the rest of Europe, Italy does not guarantee conditions for their return," he said.

The data showed a sharp rise in emigrants from northern Italy compared to southern Italy - the source of waves of emigration during the 20th century - which accounted for just 27 per cent of the total from 61 per cent in 2011.

The highest number of emigrants last year - 13,156 people - came from the Lombardy region, which includes Italy's business hub, Milan.

The figures showed that emigrants were becoming younger too, with those aged 20 to 40 making up 44.8 per cent of the total, from 28.3 per cent in 2011.

The data on Italian residents abroad are collated by the interior ministry.

Youth unemployment is at around 37 per cent as Italy endures its longest post-war recession, while the overall jobless rate was at 11.6 per cent in February - just lower than the record high of 11.7 per cent reached in January.

"The paradox is that people used to leave a poor country of farmers but today they are leaving ... a technological and advanced country," commentator Paolo Di Stefano wrote in the Italy's best-selling Corriere della Sera daily.