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Home PECOB's Papers Series #17 | Bulgarian highly skilled labour migration to Italy - by Gianfranco Brusaporci
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Bulgarian highly skilled labour migration to Italy

The features of an untapped brain gain

November 2011 | #17

by: Mr. Gianfranco Brusaporci
PhD Fellow
New Bulgarian University and Université Catholique de Louvain
pp: 21
ISSN: 2038-632X


Nowadays, a strategic highly-skilled migration policy is crucial for every country. A knowledge based economy represents a real business and a long term investment for the future; a highly skilled labour force is the true added value to each market, Italy is still working on implementing a new strategy for a more flexible and more internationalised society to adapt its labour force to the real global competitiveness. Although in the last decades the number of migrants in Italy has widely grown - there are around 5 million immigrants who contribute for 11,1% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – Italy does not exploit its potential. Even though 54,1% of immigrants have a diploma or a degree, the number of unskilled – workers is quite high (73,4%). This is mostly because many workers are under classified.

This analysis considers the increasing number of highly skilled Bulgarians living in Italy in the last years which does not correspond to a real advantage to the Italian economy. All Bulgarians are employed as workers, mainly in agricultural, personal care, construction and seasonal jobs.

The majority of them are employed in less demanding work fields if we consider their qualification, their technical knowledge and their skill set. Most of these workers are located in the central and southern regions of Italy as a consequence of the high demand of agricultural workers in those areas.
In fact, in the South and in the Centre of the country, where the agricultural sector is really expanding, the foreign presence has grown on a yearly basis.

As a result, the following theory is confirmed: the brain waste that is happening in Bulgaria does not correspond to a brain gain in Italy. This situation is due to two main factors: On one hand, the Italian structural problems concerning legal and organisational aspects related to the work permit issuing procedures, and on the other hand the common mentality through which immigration is perceived as a threat for the security of the country and not as a potential resource for its development. All this leads to an untapped brain gain.

From the date it results that in the long run Bulgarian immigrants tend to plan to return to their country of origin, as shown by the interviews proposed. The link between Bulgaria and its citizens stays strong, no matter how many years are spent abroad. Thus, there seems to be foreseeable brains re-gain for Bulgaria in the future.


migration, integration, brain gain, brain drain, highly skilled migration

Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Highly skilled expatriates in Italy
3. Bulgarian immigrants in Italy
4. Case study
5. Conclusion

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Mr. Gianfranco Brusaporci

About the author

Gianfranco Brusaporci is researcher of Political Sciences and International Relations, PhD fellow at New Bulgarian University and Université Catholique de Louvain. His research includes ethnic and religious movements, collective mobilizations at the national and subnational levels in Europe, migration and political parties. He is currently working on a project concerning the link between Euroregions and etnicity.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 24 November 2023 12:10  

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PECOB's call for papers

The Scientific Board of PECOB announces an open call for papers to be published with ISSN 2038-632X

Interested contributors may deal with any topic focusing on the political, economic, historical, social or cultural aspects of a specific country or region covered by PECOB.

Potential contributors must submit a short abstract (200-300 words) and the full text, which can be in English as well as any language from the countries covered by PECOB.

Upcoming deadlines for submitting proposals are:

January 31st, 2011
June 30th, 2011
November 30th, 2011

All texts must comply with PECOB Submission Guidelines (

All proposals, texts and questions should be submitted to Ms Aurora Domeniconi, PECOB Coordinator, at: