Some facts and figures
Cathy Crupi graduated with a Commerce (Honours) degree in Economics and Management and a Diploma in Languages (Italian) from Monash University. She was an exchange student at the University of Florence where she completed studies in public sector economics and contemporary Italian history. She returned to Italy to undertake research for her honours thesis, which explored inward migration to ltaly and the unique case of Prato. Until recently she worked at the Monash University Prato Centre, before returning to Australia to take up a position in the education policy and research division of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Australia has long enjoyed a close relationship with Italy; the fact that Italian is Australia’s second most widely spoken language partly reflects this strong linkage (ABS 2006a). The Italian presence in Australia has been continuously explored and examined, unlike the Australian presence in Italy. This contribution will attempt briefly to summarise and analyse the demographic characteristics of Australians resident in Italy. The findings derive from primary and secondary data sources, including an interview conducted with a representative from the consular section of the Australian Embassy in Rome, and various publicly available sources from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC); the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA); the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS); the National Statistics Institute of Italy (ISTAT), and data obtained from the Southern Cross Group of Australian expatriates. Research undertaken for this paper has revealed that there is a shortage of data available on the demographic characteristics of Australians living in Italy, suggesting the need for more systematic and comprehensive data collection processes by government agencies in Italy and in Australia.
Over half of the approximately one million Australians currently residing overseas are living in Europe (DFAT 2007; Southern Cross Group 2004). Italy has the third highest presence of Australian citizens resident in the European Union – see Table 3.1. The United Kingdom (UK) has the highest presence of Australians, with approximately 200,000 citizens living there, while Greece has the second highest, with some 135,000 Australian citizens present. The Australian Embassy in Rome estimates that in 2007 there were approximately 30,000 Australian citizens resident in Italy. Of these some 18,000 are dual-nationals. Most Australians (almost two-thirds) are based in Rome, while many are also resident in Milan (almost 10,000). These figures are based in part on the number of persons in receipt of an Australian pension in Italy; the number of passports issued and/or applied for; the number of Australians registered with the various questure (police headquarters); and the number of Australians who register voluntarily with the Embassy. After the UK, Italy continues to be a preferred destination for Australians travelling to Europe (more than 100,000 Australians would have travelled to Italy by the end of 2007 – see Table 3.2 and Figure 3.1). The Australian Embassy in Rome has observed that overall the number of Australians present in Italy on either a short-term or permanent basis is slowly increasing.
In the last decade, an average of 357 Australians have departed permanently each year for Italy (see Table 3.3). While most permanent departures to Italy that took place in the 1960s and 1970s were Australian citizens of Italian origin, or return migrants, an increasing number of permanent departures today are Australian-born citizens (see Tables 3.4 and 3.5). Among the many Australians living in Italy, there exist different types, including: return migrants; young Italo-Australians who are either second, third, or fourth generation Australian-born of Italian parents or grandparents; entire Australian families who have moved to Italy and who have then acquired Italian citizenship.
Young Australians in Italy are said to be increasing as a group. The category ‘young Australians’ includes both singles and couples between 20 and 30 years of age, and those in this age range who are working professionally in Italy, as well as those who are studying. However, the size of this group is still relatively small when one considers that nearly 20,000 Australians living in Italy are in receipt of a pension (see Table 3.6). Table 3.7 highlights that the demographic make-up of Australians living in Italy is quite different to that of their compatriots in the UK, and that there still exists a significant amount of return migration to Italy, with those in receipt of income transfers having doubled from 1992 to 2001.
When one looks at the educational qualifications of Australians in Italy, according to statistics compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 13 per cent have a high level of educational attainment (defined as having completed a diploma or above) – the lowest level amongst the OECD countries selected. The next highest is Greece with 24 per cent (see Table 3.8). It is plausible to infer that this figure represents the return migrant category of Australians living in Italy; that is, the majority of Italians who moved to Australia between 30 and 40 years ago in search of better economic prospects having been low-skilled workers. On the other hand, the report only includes Australian-born people and not Australian citizens living abroad, thereby excluding the latter group from the findings.
While there is little data available on the labour force participation rate of Australians in Italy, those who are employed are often highly skilled or specialists in their industry or field. For instance, there are examples in the wine industry of specialists being recruited from Australia, while in the field of education the last three assistant directors of humanities at the British School at Rome have been Australian. DFAT has also confirmed that more Australians appear to be taking advantage of the working holiday agreement that was introduced in 2003, despite the bureaucratic delays and complex procedures that are still making it difficult for Australians to be granted work visas in Italy.
Statistically there is a slightly higher presence of Australian females than males resident in Italy (ISTAT 2007). The majority of females fall into the 20–39 age group, while among males the majority are between 50 and 64 years of age (ISTAT 2007). There is also a tendency for females to undertake studies in Italy, including Italian language courses, student exchange programs and postgraduate studies. Australian women married to Italian men have long been a phenomenon, as exemplified by the ‘Australians in Florence’ social group of expatriates, which consists of mainly women. However, the available sources reveal that more recently there appears to have been a growing ‘variety’ of Australians living and working in Italy. As a group they are increasingly becoming demographically diverse in terms of age, background, the range of professions in which they work, and the reasons for which they find themselves in Italy.
Difficulties with data collection
According to the Australian Embassy in Rome, there are two main problems associated with the collection of accurate statistics. First, Australians are not obliged to register with the Embassy; second, not all Australians register with the questura. Whereas in Australia records of arrivals and departures are filed by DIAC through arrival/departure cards, in Italy there exists no central database that records entries and exits of persons. Instead, statistics in Italy are compiled from varied sources such as the Census and questura. Discrepancies also exist between statistics collected by Italian government agencies and those collected by Australian government agencies. For example, following the 2001 Census the Italian official statistics authority ISTAT recorded 1526 Australians as being resident in Italy. On the other hand, DFAT estimates that nearly 30,000 Australians were resident in Italy in 2007. One possible explanation for this inconsistency could be that ISTAT does not include Australians with dual-citizenship in the official statistics, since such Australians go unrecorded when entering the country with their Italian passports, and do not need to present themselves at the questura.
Gathering demographic information concerning Australians living in Italy is also difficult because there is no comprehensive listing available. According to a report conducted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) on Australia’s diaspora, there is generally limited data on the stock of Australians living in foreign countries (Hugo et al. 2003). DFAT’s Online Registration Service of expatriate Australians, for example, is voluntary; the database currently holds details of only 1500 from the 30,000 or so Australians who are actually present in Italy. This DFAT listing is used by the Embassy to disseminate important consular information, and must always ensure the privacy and rights of Australians who register. Furthermore, unlike some other nationalities, Australians who find themselves in Italy tend not to congregate or form communities or associations, thereby excluding another possible source of important demographic information.
Suggestions for further research
The preceding summary has attempted to shed some light on the population numbers and characteristics of Australians in Italy. Due to the shortage of available statistical data, however, it has been difficult to conduct a thorough demographic analysis. This suggests the need for more rigorous methods of research into – and data collection for – a relatively new demographic phenomenon. Surveying the community of Australians in Italy in a more scientific manner would be a starting point for gathering accurate demographic information on age, occupation, skill, income, length of time in Italy and reasons for remaining permanently. In the lead-up to the 2006 census an attempt was made on a global scale to survey all Australian expatriates. The survey, titled ‘One Million More’, was conducted and disseminated by Advance and the Southern Cross Group: expatriate associations in the United States and the UK respectively. While the results are yet to be published, it is expected that survey participation will be largely dominated by Australians living in these two countries, representing still only half of the Australian diaspora. Research for the present paper also revealed that more detailed data on the characteristics of departures to Italy is available from DIAC. However, because it needs to be manually collated, such data is costly to access; such research would require financial support. A long-term recommendation would be for Australian and Italian government agencies to employ more systematic and comprehensive data collection processes. In particular, the Italian authorities might do so at the points of entry for all arrivals. The Australian Embassy in Rome could utilise the DFAT Online Registration Service to establish a more comprehensive register of Australians in Italy at any one time. The CEDA report suggests that there are now highly developed and inexpensive systems that can facilitate this process while still ensuring the privacy and rights of Australian expatriates in Italy.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006a. ‘20680 – Language spoken at home (full classification list) by sex – Australia, 2006 census tables’. [Internet]. Australian Government. Accessed: 9 December 2007. Available from:
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006b. ‘4102.0 – Australian social trends, 2006: Australian expatriates in OECD countries’. [Internet]. Australian Government. Accessed 9 December 2007. Available from:
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2007. ‘3401.0 – Overseas arrivals and departures, Australia Oct 2007, Table 9: Short-term movement, resident departures – selected destinations: original’. [Internet]. Australian Government. Accessed 16 December 2007. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/3401.0Oct%202007?OpenDocument.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2007. ‘Italy country brief’. [Internet]. Australian Government. Accessed 9 December 2007. Available from:
Department of Immigration and Citizenship. 2007. ‘Emigration 2006–2007: Australia’. Canberra: Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. 2006. ‘Statistical Paper No. 3, Income support customers: a statistical overview 2004’. Canberra: Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
Hugo, G; Rudd, D; Harris, K. 2003. ‘Australia’s diaspora: Its size, nature and policy implications’. CEDA Information paper No. 80. Melbourne: Committee for Economic Development of Australia.
Istituto Nazionale di Statistica. 2007. ‘14° censimento generale della populazione e delle abitazioni 2001’. [Internet]. Italian Government. Accessed 9 December 2007. Available from: http://www.istat.it/.
Southern Cross Group. 2004. ‘Index of archives/statistics’. [Internet]. Accessed 9 December 2007. Available from: http://www.southern-cross-group.org/archives/Statistics/Numbers_of_Australians_Overseas_in_2001_by_Region_Feb_2002.pdf.
Table 3.1: Australian citizens resident in the European Union
Source: Southern Cross Group 2004
Table 3.2: Short-term movement, resident departures
Top 3 European countries: UK, Italy and France, 2000 to Oct 2007
Table 3.3: Permanent departures by region/country of future residence: 1996–1997 to 2006–2007
Source: DIAC (2007, 17)
Table 3.4: Permanent departures by country of birth, Italy: 1996–1997 to 2006–2007
For 2006–07 only, of the permanent departures of overseas born 61.8% indicated their future country of residence was the same as their birthplace. This indicates that at least 61.8% of the 230 Italy-born permanent departures in 2006–07 returned to Italy.
Source: DIAC (2007, 9)
Table 3.5: Australia-born permanent departures by country of future residence 1996–97 to 2006–07
Source: DIAC (2007, 36)
Table 3.6: Number of Centrelink customers residing overseas receiving a foreign payment, June 2004
Includes: Age Pension and Disability Support Pension, Widow B Pension, Wife Pension and Parenting Payment (Single)
Source: FaCSIA (2006, 86)
Table 3.7: Overseas pensions paid in fortnight ending 15 June 1992 and 26 June 2001
Source: Hugo et al. (2003, 23)
Table 3.8: Australian expatriates (a) aged 15 years and over in selected OECD countries: 1999–2003
(a) Australian-born people counted in censuses/surveys within OECD countries.
(b) High level includes ISCED5A: Academic tertiary, ISCED5B: Vocational tertiary, ISCED 6: Advanced research.
(c) Around 5% of the Australian expatriate population in the OECD had no information on educational attainment; these have been excluded from the total in calculating the proportion.
Source: ABS 2006b
Figure 3.1: Short-term movements, resident departures, top 3 European countries: UK, Italy and France 2000 to October 2007
Data source: ABS 2007. The author has created the graph from data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Full source title in reference list
Figure 3.2: Short-term departures to Italy: 2000 to 2007
Data source: ABS 2007. The author has created the graph from data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Full source title in reference list.
Figure 3.3: Permanent departures to Italy: 1996–07 to 2006–07
Data source: DIAC 2007. The author has created the graph from data sourced from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Full source title in reference list.
This chapter is from Australians in Italy: Contemporary Lives and Impressions, edited by Bill Kent, Ros Pesman and Cynthia Troup (Monash University Publishing: Clayton, Melbourne. 2010). For more information about this book, or to purchase print copies, please go to http://www.publishing.monash.edu/books/ai.html.