Italian Study Claims Asylum Seekers Could be Used to Reverse Rural Population Decline

Migrants from Lybia wait to disembark from Italy's Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard) boat in

A University of Milano-Bicocca study has claimed that mass migration of asylum seekers could reverse population decline in some of the country’s rural areas and small towns.

The authors of the study claim that in the short term, the arrival of asylum seekers would have no economic cost to small municipalities if the reception of migrants is widespread and refugee centres hold no more than 25 asylum seekers per facility.

The study argues that such a comprehensive solution would also help repopulate small towns and villages which may be seeing a demographic decline. There are as many as 2,430 different municipalities that currently face potential population shrinkage, newspaper Il Giornale reports.

Professor Mariapia Mendola, one of the authors, said: “It is a well-known story, at the basis of anti-immigration reactions there are cultural factors, well before economic.”

“The impact analysis of the reception system suggests that greater attention needs to be paid to inclusion and awareness-raising policies in the territory, where the involvement of local authorities is vital if immigrants are to be able to contribute with their skills and knowledge to long-term economic growth and development,” Mendola added.

The study is not the first to recommend using asylum seekers and mass migration to reverse declining populations in rural areas.

In 2017, German magazine Der Spiegel promoted a similar idea in a series of articles, including one that advocated mass migration to boost small Spanish towns with low birthrates.

While the Italian study claimed that a policy of migrants coming to rural areas does not have any short term economic costs, that has not been the case in some small municipalities in Sweden which have taken in large shares of migrants.

The municipality of Bengtsfors, for example, claimed in 2019 that it might be forced to go bankrupt due to the cost of the migrants, many of which lacked the skills or education to get jobs in the area.

Several studies have also claimed that mass migration does not benefit the economy at all and may even have a negative impact in the long-term.

Swedish Professor of Economics Mats Hammarstedt rejected claims that mass migration helps economic growth in December, stating: “The lack of integration of foreign-born people into the labour market is well documented, and the situation has remained largely unchanged in recent decades.”

“Every year, the public sector redistributes resources from domestic-born to foreign-born, and the long time it takes for refugee immigrants and their relatives to establish themselves in the labour market means that refugee immigration entails a cost to public finances even long after the refugees have immigrated to Sweden,” he said.


Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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