Are Italians happy to be in the EU?

migration : Italians in Berlin: precarious, but happy

Italy in Berlin has always been something special. While Italian migrants in West Germany - most of them were men - covered the labor needs of the industry, they immigrated to West Berlin mainly in restaurants and retail. And often for the same reasons that young West Germans moved to the divided city: greater freedom, the fascination of the island. The more tangible motive of young German citizens to avoid military service corresponded with the need for some of the Italian migrants to escape the "leaden time" of the years after 1968.

26,000 Berliners have Italian roots

Some patterns have remained, the Italian social scientist Edith Pichler and her colleague Oliver Schmidt discovered when they surveyed Italy's Berliners to find out at least trends - the 148 questionnaires that the scientists commissioned by the University of Potsdam were not sufficient for a representative survey evaluated by committees representing Italian expatriates. The "myth of Berlin" (Pichler) is alive and, unlike in previous decades, it attracts more Italians than ever: While around 8,000 of them lived in Berlin in the mid-1980s, it is now well over twice and even a good three times so many, if you include the Berliners with an Italian migration background who did not immigrate themselves - all in all, more than 26,000 people. Berlin is their preferred destination in Germany. In contrast, even in economically strong regions such as Hesse and Bavaria, the Italian population is growing only slightly.

"Mobile Europeans, not wandering foreigners"

Most of them gave “quality of life” as the reason for moving to Berlin, far removed from the motives - in this order - family, work and studies. By the way, they prefer to live in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, while the others are well distributed throughout the city, preferably in the inner city districts. Their employment patterns are similar to the previous ones. Like those who came before them, Berlin's new Italians also earn their living primarily in the service sector, not least in gastronomy and retail, but also as journalists, graphic designers or in the cultural sector.

Construction and industry, write Pichler and Schmidt, are practically "irrelevant", which has to do with the structure of Berlin's economy, but also an overall change in European migration that encourages other newcomers. The economic research institute DIW has just provided figures for this “new European mobility”: According to this, 7.4 million EU citizens lived outside their home country in 2012, around 30 percent more than five years earlier. Pichler and Schmidt write that these migrants should be viewed “no longer as migrant foreigners” but “more as mobile EU citizens”.

Creative precarious

And this mobility could also lead them away from their dream city again. Although the majority of those questioned said they were Berliners in the long run: 80 percent said they would move if there were better job opportunities elsewhere. This should be just as true for well-off scientists, architects and engineers as it is for those whom the authors describe as “creative precarious”: The majority of those questioned work and even have university degrees, but: “Despite better training and higher cultural capital,” Pichler wrote and Schmidt, "it is not uncommon for the employment relationships of young Italian Berliners to point to precarious living conditions." This is supported by the fact that more and more of them are working in industries with a high proportion of low wages. Even the large proportion of self-employed may conceal a life in the precariat for some.

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