Foreign migrations and population aging in Italy

Giuseppe Gesano, Salvatore Strozza


In the last few decades, various contributions have dealt with the problem of the possible demographic impact of international migration on population aging in the receiving countries. By analysing both the recent past trends and possible projections in the short- and medium-run future in Italy, we try to answer the question of whether immigration can be a solution to population aging and to what extent. We first evaluate the impact of immigration on the aging of the resident population in the last decade using a cohort-component retrospective ‘what-if…’ approach. Then, we try to assess the demographic impact of hypothetical migration flows in the next 40 years: different constant net migrations per year vs. ‘target’ approaches aimed at maintaining constant some demographic or demo-economic parameters. We also evaluate the effects of different combinations of fertility and net migration on the aging of the population residing in Italy over the next 20-40 years. In both the approaches, in-migration plays a pivotal role in reducing population aging in the short run, but cannot reverse it unless huge inflows are admitted. In the medium run (20-40 years), the indirect ‘rejuvenating’ effects of immigration may fade away as rapidly as the difference in reproduction levels decreases along with the migrants’ length of stay.  Meanwhile, the first generation of immigrants shifts progressively into  older age, so that they too contribute to the population aging in the receiving country. From a policy point of view, it is clear that no instant immigration can solve the population aging in the host area since the fading effects can be contrasted only by continuous inflows of new migrants. Present and future population policies in Italy, as well as in other countries with lowest-low fertility and fast population aging, should combine incentives to increase fertility along with immigrations by annually fixing quotas, and developing programmes for proper housing and integration of the migrants. This seems the only way to reduce, but not reverse, the pace of population aging and to control its demographic consequences.

Giuseppe GESANO, formerly Research Director and now Associate Researcher, National Research Council, Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies, Via Palestro No. 32, Rome, Italy. E-mail: g.gesano@irpps.cnr.it .

Salvatore STROZZA, Full Professor of Demography, University of Naples Federico II, Via Leopoldo Rodinò No. 22, Naples, Italy, and Associate Researcher, National Research Council, Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies, Via Palestro No. 32, Rome, Italy. E-mail:  strozza@unina.it



aging; international migration; cohorts-components projection methods

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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54