Best places to live in your country. Internal migration in Italian and German regions

21st march 2016

Italy and Germany are both affected by internal migration, but persistent one-way flows exacerbate regional divides and hence hamper inclusive growth.

The decision to move from one region to another within the same country may have significant consequences both from an economic perspective and as regards the distribution of well-being within the country. Indeed, persistently negative net flows in some regions generate a prolonged population decline and a depletion of human capital. Conversely, regions that experience constantly positive net flows may be troubled by overcrowding problems. From the policymaker’s point of view, monitoring and managing these movements is essential in order to smooth regional disparities and hence promote inclusive growth.

Inter-regional migrations in Italy and in Germany from 2003 to 2012 show differences as well as similarities. [1] A common trait lies in the relative size of the flows. For instance, Sachsen-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Thüringen have a net outflow of 50-60 persons per 1,000 inhabitants, not greatly in excess of the 40 per 1,000 registered in Calabria and Campania. At the opposite end of the scale, Hamburg, Emilia Romagna and Schleswig-Holstein are characterised by an inflow of 30-40 persons per 1,000 inhabitants. Moreover, a few changes in the direction of the flows do emerge over the decade: Regions tend to maintain the same sign (positive or negative) for the flows year after year, but there are some exceptions. The most notable is Berlin, whose attractiveness has grown, allowing the region to reach positive net flows from 2006 onward, in contrast to the outflows of the previous years. Finally, splitting the decade into two sub-periods, it emerges that in the majority of either Italian or German regions there was a smaller amount of net migrants during 2008-2012 than in the previous five years. Nonetheless, there are exceptions: in the period 2008-2012, Lombardia, Lazio, Trento and Bolzano recorded greater inflows, while Brandenburg, Saarland and Basilicata showed larger outflows than in 2003-2007.

The choice to move to another region is influenced by many factors, though economic motives certainly play an important role. In Italy, the South-North direction of internal flows still holds, reflecting the persistent socio-economic divide between the two halves of the country. For the same reason, despite substantial improvements in economic growth and life standards, the five Länder of the former DDR still exhibit net outflows in favour of western regions. However, not all of the latter boast the same degree of attractiveness: for instance, the structural decline of heavy industry along with the growth of high-tech sectors make Nordrhein-Westfalen and Saarland less attractive than Bayern and Baden-Württemberg, where newly established electronic and other high-tech industries are mainly concentrated. In addition, metropolitan areas generally attract great amounts of people: centres such as Frankfurt, Hamburg, Milan and Rome significantly contribute to the positive net flows recorded in their respective regions. Other factors associated with quality of life may influence internal migration. The perception of better education or healthcare in Emilia Romagna may attract flows from other regions, while high placements in quality-of-life indicators boost the attractiveness of Bolzano and Trento.

Summing up, strong internal migrations affect both Italian and German regions and need to be closely monitored because they may exacerbate existing disparities within the country. However, further analysis is required in order to explore in greater depth the link – if any exists – between the latest economic crises and internal migration, and to better understand which factors, beyond economic circumstances, drive individuals to move to another region.

Inter-regional net migration flows per 1000 inhabitants in  the decade 2003-2012

[1] Data are from the OECD regional statistics database The latest available year for German regions is 2012.
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