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Will More Italians Vote With Their Feet?

Roughly 5.5 million Italians – 8% of the country's population – currently reside abroad, with 1.5 million having left since 2007. The results of the recent election are likely to convince even more of Italy's best and brightest that they would be better off leaving.

MILAN – Italy’s inconclusive general election, with its clear populist drift, will likely lead to a prolonged period of political stalemate, freezing the adoption of much-needed structural reforms. But the deadlock, and the related perception that the country is unwilling to change, might have another chilling effect. It will push more of Italy’s top talent abroad, exacerbating a trend that has plagued the country for more than a decade.

Since 2007, almost 1.5 million Italians have left the country, joining four million other expats. To put the number in perspective, roughly 8% of the Italian population currently resides abroad. But the actual figure could be higher. Italian expats refrain from declaring to national authorities their true residential status to preserve their access to benefits like free health care.

Around one-third of these émigrés hold university degrees. Many are highly qualified professionals working in finance, consulting, academia, architecture, or law. And stories about Italian entrepreneurs who found successful companies in the world’s Silicon Valleys are legion.