Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fertility and Migrants in Italy

by Edward Hugh


This is just a snippet. In this post we had some interesting discussion on the impact of migrants on population dynamics in Sweden and Minnesota (see especially comments). One of the conclusions which I think we reached was that the impact of migration on fertility depended on the level of fertility in the origin country and on the proportion of migrants in the childbearing-age-population. So I thought this recent news from Italy might be of interest. 10% of babies now being born in Rome are children of non-Italian nationals, and 13 if you include those with at least one non-Italian parent. Of course making extrapolations forward is much more difficult, since we don't know how rapidly migrants will keep arriving in Rome in the future, or what the future levels of migrant fertility will be once they have settled in the country. But it does re-inforce the point that migrants not only contribute to taxes, they also contribute to children, a point Marty Feldstein did not see to consider vis-a-vis the arguments in the last post.


Out of about 26,000 babies born in Rome in 2004, over 2,600 had foreign parents. That's what the latest issue of the journal "I numeri di Roma. Statistiche per la citta'" reveals, following a survey carried out with the Rome university 'La Sapienza' and the municipal statistics bureau. The figure actually soars to 3,800 including babies with one foreign parent, making the percentage 13 pct, and bound to increase over the next 15 years, to reach 24-32 pct. In 2020, one Roman baby in three could be foreign. "The figures confirm the opportunity to preserve and enhance the city's social services - said Marco Causi, municipal councillor for Economic policies and budget - particularly the maternal ones. Even cultural mediation services must be enhanced in schools, as well as shelter and counselling for families. We should also improve our integration projects, focusing on languages and multi-culturalism. These children are Roman citizens, not of Italian origin, and have the same rights of other children in social and school life, and must be given the same job and mobility opportunities"

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"We should also improve our integration projects, focusing on languages and multi-culturalism."

Focusing on languages (plural) and multiculturalism is not going to improve integration. If they want integration, they should focus on teaching the migrants the Italian language and culture. Since when is it the host government's obligation to help immigrants retain their cultural identity? That should be left up to the immigrants themselves.

Colin Reid said...

"Since when is it the host government's obligation to help immigrants retain their cultural identity? That should be left up to the immigrants themselves."

Perhaps, but you don't want a situation where immigrants feel the state is actually opposed to the preservation of their culture. If that happens, you get people deliberately cutting themselves and their children off from the state and dominant-culture society because they feel it is necessary to protect their own culture. A free country can only go so far in trying to accelerate integration before it backfires.

Also, assimilation is a two-sided process. Long-term immigrants and their descendents have to come to think of themselves as part of Italian society, and existing Italians have to accept them as such. In the UK, most people accept that a British person can be black, Asian etc and it doesn't make them any less British. But can you be an Italian who happens to be black, or a German who happens to have Turkish parents? This may require teaching native Europeans a thing or two about integration.

Edward said...

"Since when is it the host government's obligation to help immigrants retain their cultural identity?"

I think this is a complex problem, and it has no easy answers. I tend to agree with Colin.

Basically as far as I understand the economics of the situation with India and China themselves soon to be in need of economic migrants, immigrants are about to become a scarce resource, and a precious commodity. It therefore behoves people to treat them as well as possible, and to remember that many of them are poor and uncultured, which means that tolerance and an attempt to ensure that they are fully aware of the importance which they have for our societies (ie that we value them).

Clearly buiding a whopping wall on the Mexican frontier (and not on the Canadian one) is a good example of how not to do this, and seems a bit to me like shooting yourself in the foot.

As Spain is likely to be the main commercial beneficiary of this folly, I can only say thanks.

Equally here in Europe people might like to note (as I explain in my review of Marty Feldman's paper) that the countries that swim are likely to be those who attract immigrants, and those who sink (watch out Germany, Denmark, Austria) are likely to be those who fail to really make them feel welcome.

S.M. Stirling said...

"Perhaps, but you don't want a situation where immigrants feel the state is actually opposed to the preservation of their culture."

-- why not? If you want to preserve "your" culture(*), stay where it predominates.

If you move to a different environment, it's up to you to change and fit in. After all, emigration is a right but immigration is a privilege.

I might point out that the US government has always been frankly hostile to maintenance of immigrant languages -- and very successfully so. Immigrants, recent ones included, become English-speaking monoglots very rapidly and then intermarry with the previous populations.

And despite occasional outbreaks of nativist frenzy, in general immigrants who assimilate are welcomed as full members of the American nation.

(*) keep in mind that "your" culture is not genetic. It's not like your skin color. It's more like your clothing. A baby has no cultural identity and an adult can mix, match and switch too, if with somewhat more difficulty.

Eg., I know a woman all four of whose grandparents were Japanese. She speaks about six words of Japanese... among them "sushi" and "tempura". Has she "lost her language and culture"?

Of course not. She's got a perfectly good language and culture -- English and Overseas European (Anglo-American subgroup), respectively. And they're just as much hers as they are her husband's.

All four of _his_ grandparents came from England. They have three children. Genetically they're half Japanese. Culturally, less than 0.1%, and that's acquired from the general environment, not their parents.

S.M. Stirling said...

Also, one should be wary of statistics about births "in Rome" or "in Amsterdam". The juridicial limits of the city are one thing, the metropolitan area is quite another and more significant demographically.

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