It is important not to get caught up in ideologies and so, when discussing migrants, we need to look closely at the correct numbers and recognising the complexity of calculating them when there are so many stages involved in immigration. This is the only way can we reveal the data and the stories that show us the flip side of the integration coin. The 590,000 foreign companies that Unioncamere – an Italian union representing the Italian system of commerce chambers – registered at the end of 2017 make up 9.6% of active businesses in Italy. Over the course of the last year, their numbers increased by 19,197 (the net result of 57,657 new businesses and 38,460 closures), which corresponds to a 3.4% rate of increase, compared to a 0.75% increase in Italian companies. These figures show an upward trend that is likely to exceed 600,000 companies within the next year. This will kick start (one hopes) the Italian economy, due to the payment of “IRPEF”, or personal income taxes, which reached 7.2 billion euros in 2016.
An Intesa Sanpaolo report showed a 0.9% drop in economic activity in Italy during the period 2011-15. It is only thanks to foreign companies that such a fall in production was contained. In fact, this result can be pinned down to the contrasting “of a 2.9% reduction in Italian companies and a 21.3% increase in companies founded by migrants.” For the most part, these companies are sole traders (up 20% during the period studied), started up with small amounts of capital. Their performance in terms of turnover, staff and value added often exceeds that of Italian companies, except with lower unit margins. These limitations can be tackled by diverse company set ups (limited liability companies and cooperatives are both growing, by 44% and 31.6% respectively) and through exports, which their relationships with their native countries allow them to conquer. And which countries are they? In Milan, they are mostly China and Egypt, while Lazio’s immigrant entrepreneurs are Romanian and Bangladeshi, Sardinia’s from Senegal and Torino’s from Morocco. These are the key areas from which the new entrepreneurs hail.
The sector with the highest concentration of foreign businesses is telecommunications, followed by companies providing packaging for clothing in second place and specialist construction works in third.
Among them are several winners of the Moneygram Awards, organised by the multinational company of the same name, which deals in international payment transfers. The winner of the most prestigious award, Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year, was Marie Terese Mukamitsindo. She is from Rwanda and owns the Karibu cooperative (headquartered in Latina) where she employs 120 people. In 2017 she took a turnover of 12 million euros: a small part of that 100 billion euros of value that, according to a study conducted by research institute Fondazione Leone Moressa, foreign entrepreneurs contribute to Italy’s GDP (around 6.9% of the total).
Other winners at the Moneygram Awards included Albanian Erion Kaso, 38. He is now resident in Padua where he manages the “Gelateria Gianni”, which he took over after having been an employee. Lifang Dong, Chinese, 41 lives and works in Rome where she runs the law firm “Dong&Partners”, which specialises in consulting companies whose carry out operations between Asia and Europe. Lonut Giugi, 29, moved to Italy from Romania 10 years ago and, in 2016, opened Art Legno, which specialises in designing and manufacturing wooden roofs and attic spaces.
Women make up a decent proportion in the upper echelons of these businesses, occupying 32%.
The sector with the highest concentration of foreign businesses is telecommunications, taking up over a third of the total. This is followed by companies that provide packaging for clothing (30%) in second place and specialist construction works in third (21.2%). If we look instead at the total number of companies, the largest number operate in retail trade (over 162,000 companies), followed by specialist construction works (almost 109,000) and restaurants (44,000).
Finally, despite the controversy that has recently pitted some of the political parties against the Italian Social Security Service, due to policies on immigrants’ contributions to the pension system, the National Observatory on the Financial Inclusion of Immigrants believes the increase in foreign entrepreneurs in Italy is a positive for the economy. According to the 2017 data, “Over a period of five years, the number of small businesses owned by immigrants has grown by 65%. In 2010, there were 74,237 current accounts in the name of foreign entrepreneurs; in 2015 that number had grown by an average of 10.5% per year to 122,494. Women make up a decent proportion of the upper echelons of these businesses, occupying 32%. At a time when Italy is trying to get a look in on the general revival of European economies, this contribution can help prevent the country from falling behind. As long as prejudices are left out.