Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Alessandro D'Alatri's recent film La Febbre. As the reviewer says, this is a 'normal' (everyday) film, not a great one, even if there are one or two memorable moments, like the scenes by the river, which were (and I imagine this is not entirely unintentional) rather reminiscent of some to be found in the unforgettable L'Albero Degli Zoccoli from that giant of Italian cinema Ermanno Olmi.
La febbre è il classico film italiano, che vuol raccontare una storia normale, di tutti i giorni, e che per farlo non trascende dai canoni della buona creanza del plot, e da quel pizzico di amara critica sociale che lo rende molto politically correct. D'Alatri infatti sceglie una storia senza picchi emozionali o visivi, con risvolti e situazioni tipiche per un certo tipo di cinema, affrontando il tutto con una messa in scena scanzonata e senza pretese.
On the aesthetic level the film is perhaps far from satisfactory, since D'Alatri seems at times unable to make up his mind whether he is Rosselini or Almodóvar but this is not my principle concern here. The film narrates the 'little story' of Mario Bettini:
La storia dell'impiegato Mario Bettini, geometra comunale come si definisce nel film, passa così tra luci e ombre attraverso gli amici, il sogno di aprire un locale, il posto fisso, la mamma e il fantasma del padre e il grande amore di una vita.
Well, almost an everyday story in an Italian context I would say, but what interests me here is the situation of Mario as a young person who wants to succeed, and all the trials and problems which are thrown in his path by a system which doesn't understand him, and which seems happier to see him fail than to see him succeed. THIS is one of the big problems facing Italy today. And it is reflected in the large numbers of young qualified people who leave Italy every year.
There is one very memorable moment in the film, the one where Mario gets to meet the Italian president. The scene takes place in Mario's bar, which he finally manages to get the permit to open thanks to the fact that the local mayor needs his help in the context of the president's visit. Mario offers the president a drink, una birra is the reply, una birra Italiana, è bella la birra Italiana. So Mario serves the drink, and then tells the president there is something else he would like to give him, and out of his pocket he whips his Italian passport: "here, this is for you, I don't need it or want it" (or words to that effect).
Now here, although to the point in terms of sentiments, D'Alatri hasn't quite got it right. There are currently an estimated 3.5 million Italians living and working outside Italy (to go by the AIRE database), but one thing they do seem to keep is their Italian pasport, since it is this document which enables them to move.
The point I would like to draw attention to here is the substantial loss of future human capital which Italy is undergoing at the present time. Back in 2002 the website Lavoce published an article on this topic. As they say throughout the 1990s there were a growing number of Italian graduates leaving Italy:
La fuga dei laureati italiani all'estero è un fenomeno di cui spesso si discute senza l'appoggio di dati significativi. Analizzando i flussi di laureati italiani che vanno all'estero il fenomeno appare drammatico e in crescita. Mentre all'inizio degli anni '90 meno dell'1% dei nuovi laureati emigrava all'estero, alla fine degli anni '90 circa il 4% dei nuovi laureati lascia l'italia.
During recent years this situation has surely only accelerated. They also publish comparative data for migration of graduates into and out of a number of other EU countries. Unfortunately this data is now somewhat old and it would be really interesting to see something from, say, 2005. My feeling is that the position has only deteriorated. Paola in an e-mail suggests the following:
It is difficult to differentiate between people who are first, second and third generation Italian. However, in terms of first generation Italians leaving the country: I found that since 1990 every year 4% of people who hold a bachelor's degree move out of the country to find job elsewhere; to this number you need to add some people who went to work elsewhere after high school, and MANY young people who did not register to AIRE (Association of Italians residing elsewhere) -therefore the government has no idea they are working somewhere else ... Could we estimate an average of 6% of the average yearly birth for people between the ave of 20 and 45 years old are leaving the country?
Now this situation is important, and especially in the context that Italy's population has not been replacing itself since the early 1990s (ISTAT, latest data, PDF link). There is only continuing population increase in Italy these days due to inward migration. But, as the Lavoce article stresses the balance in human capital terms is hugely negative here. That is to say, this inward migration is extremely important in labour force terms but can only serve to make the path of the Italian economy sustainable if the young educated Italians stay and enter the labour force in more productive, higher value activities. It is here that the big problem exists (and this is not only a problem for Italy, since as I explain in this post here, the phenomenon is similar for Germany. And of course, Italy and Germany are the two European societies with the highest median ages, something whose economic importance I try to explain here).
So the position is a very worrying one. Anyone with anything to add on this, either anecdotally or in terms of more data and links, please feel free to go ahead in comments.
Italy Economy Real Time Data Charts
Edward Hugh is only able to update this blog from time to time, but he does run a lively Twitter account with plenty of Italy related comment. He also maintains a collection of constantly updated Italy economy charts together with short text updates on a Storify dedicated page Italy - Lost in Stagnation?