Postcard from... Rome


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The Independent Online

Italy’s brain drain continues. And the latest evidence of this? Figures from the health ministry showing that the overseas migration of Italian doctors is becoming a mass exodus.

The number of doctors seeking work abroad has risen sixfold in five years. In 2009, just 396 Italian medics sought the documents needed to work abroad. Last year, the figure had soared to 2,263. The number has more than doubled in the past year alone. Carlo Palermo, of the hospital doctors’ union, the Anaao, said most were seeking better pay and conditions in countries such as Britain and Germany. Advertising in magazines and on social networks in France, Germany and England was “attracting our youth to enter into their health systems”, he added.

I can vouch for this theory: a friend of a friend, who is a recently qualified neurosurgeon, got a one-way easyJet ticket to Gatwick last summer. He was fed up with waiting tables.

It is not only doctors. More than 400,000 graduates have left Italy in the past 10 years. Admittedly, Italy’s medical unions have not been as sly and effective as the British Medical Association in keeping doctors’ places limited and salaries high, but there are more fundamental problems, including rampant nepotism, which means being bright isn’t enough to get a good job.

Matteo Renzi, Italy’s young Prime Minister, has promised to tackle its scary 45 per cent youth unemployment rate by making the labour market more flexible. He also needs to take an axe to the castes that make it impenetrable to all but the privileged few.