ROME - The 5 million foreigners living in Italy pay pensions for 620,000 people, a study published on Thursday said, highlighting a potential benefit of Europe's biggest biggest wave of immigration since World War II.
The number of permanent foreign residents, which doubled in the past decade, is climbing because Italy is on Europe's front line of the migrant exodus from war-torn, impoverished countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the Leone Moressa Foundation’s annual report says. Moressa is a Venice-based research institute.
Italy has taken in more than 136,000 sea-borne migrants already this year, with almost 100,000 now living in immigration centers. Running the centers is expected to cost the government 1.16 billion euros, or almost $1.3 billion, this year, according to the Interior Ministry.
The cost of providing migrants with food and shelter has been a point of controversy for the Northern League and other opposition political parties that contend the government treats migrants better than Italians.
But the foundation’s annual report on the "economy of immigration" says that immigrants contributed 125 billion euros, or $141.46 billion, to the economy last year, and that foreign workers gave more in taxes and welfare payments than the state spent on migrants.
"If the country wants to keep growing in the future, it cannot do without this new generation" of immigrants, lawmaker Khalid Chaouki said at the study's presentation.
Chaouki, a member of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party, was born in Morocco.
Foreign workers’ impact
In 2013, almost 2.2 million foreign workers paid 10.3 billion euros, or almost $11.5 billion, in welfare contributions, enough to cover 620,000 pensions.
Working mostly in the services industry, immigrants earn far less than Italy’s native-born workers, the study said, earning an annual average of 13,180 euros, or $14,663, more than a third less than the average Italian salary. Immigrants owned more than 632,000 businesses.
The immigrant population is projected to grow from its current 8 percent of the country’s population to almost 20 percent by 2050, the study said. Almost 12 percent of Italians are over 75 years of age, while only 1 percent of foreign residents are over 75.
Last year, fewer babies were born than in any other year since the formation of Italy's modern state in 1861.