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Italy's pension chief: We need migrants. Minister: Do you live in Mars?

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Staff Writer | July 5, 2018
Italy needed more migrants to counterbalance a population ageing fast, and to ensure the endurance of the country's pension system, the chief of the National Institute of Pension and Social Security (INPS) said.
Tito Boeri
Europe   Italians need work, says Interior Minister
Tito Boeri launched his warning while presenting INPS' annual report to the lower house of parliament.

"Today, we count on two retired people every three workers, and this ratio is expected to rise in the next years," Boeri said.

"According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund - with no change in the current legislation - we might have one worker for each pensioner starting from 2045 on."

In this perspective, regular immigrants were seen as crucial in order to keep the ratio between pensioners and productive-age population at an acceptable level.

In fact, people aged 65 years and above were 22.6 percent of Italy's 60-million total population registered in 2017, the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) showed earlier this year.

Such figure confirmed Italy as the country with the second oldest population in the world, after Japan.

"There is a general agreement on the fact that irregular immigration must be tackle," Boeri also told lawmakers.

"Yet, we forget a crucial point: to decrease illegal immigrants, our country needs to boost the number of regular ones."

Beside to partially reverse the population ageing, the pension system chief suggested immigrants were needed for several jobs Italians did not want anymore: unskilled manual jobs, he mentioned as an example, today involved 36 percent of foreign workers against 8 percent of Italians.

At the same time, they would help fill a gap in fields such as private assistance, since many Italian families with elders and other non self-sufficient members to care for could not afford to pay more than the average low earning migrant workers got.

"Our pension system is able to meet the challenge of longevity, at least as long as an automatic adjustment of retirement age to life expectancy and a revision of conversion coefficients are maintained," Boeri explained.

"Yet, it lacks of corrective mechanisms to compensate for a decrease in the (number of) people entering our labour market."

If demographic trends remained unchanged, Italy's population might drop by up to 300,000 people in the next five years, according to "pessimistic, but not implausible projections."

"By halving migrant flows in the same period, we would lose in addition a population equal to that of Turin (Piedmont's regional capital)," he said.

Furthermore - if migration inflows were totally stopped - some 700,000 people under-34 might be "lost" in one legislature (5 years), he further added citing estimates by European Union statistical office Eurostat.

Finally, the official warned against the freshly appointed right-wing government's plans to rollback from a pension reform made by the previous cabinet in 2011 to increase the retirement age.

Making the reform more flexible was possible, he suggested, but a complete rollback would imply "very high costs" and would be practically unsustainable with the existing system.

Boeri's report to the lower house - and especially his remarks on the need of more migrants - sparked a backlash from Italy's right-wing Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

"INPS president keeps playing politics, ignoring the will to work (and to have children) of many Italians. Does he live on Mars?" the minister wrote on his official Facebook account.

Salvini, who is also leader of anti-immigration League party, has planned a crackdown on regular and irregular immigration.