Second-Level Degree Programme Graduates: Pay Differentials in Italy and Abroad

The 16th AlmaLaurea Report on Graduates' Employment Conditions includes an analysis of pay differentials according to the geographical location of employed graduates.
28 April 2015

The 16th AlmaLaurea Report on the Employment Conditions of Italian Graduates includes an analysis of pay differentials according to the geographical location of employed graduates as well as a comparison of Italian graduates who work in Italy and those who, after obtaining their degree, decided to undertake a career abroad.

“We need our country to start growing again – says Professor Andrea Cammelli, Founder and Director of the AlmaLaurea Inter-University Consortium since its birth in 1994 – and in order to do so we need economic as well as institutional reforms aimed at enhancing our country’s human potential. In order to pursue such goals we need not only to support innovation, but also to invest in graduates’ entrepreneurship capabilities as well as measures aimed at the return and the circulation of our most brilliant brains. The “brain drain”, in fact, is a phenomenon that affects both the national and the international context: on the one hand, inside Italy itself we are still witnessing a migration of students from the South to the North where the labour market remains more dynamic and offers more employment opportunities; on the other hand, it is abroad that Italian graduates can count on more favourable working conditions and higher wages. But we need to remember that the brain drain is a reversible phenomenon and can be transformed into a “brain circulation” by implementing appropriate policies in favour of support for research and new entrepreneurship”, Cammelli concludes.

Pay Differentials within Italy
The 2013 Survey on Second-Level Graduates’ Employment Conditions highlights the persistence of a strong North-South territorial divide in income: one year after graduation (2012 cohort), in particular, the pay differential between North and South is 24% (in favour of the North); five years after graduation (2008 cohort) pay gap remains high: 20%.

Going more into detail, the analysis shows that twelve months after earning a their degree, graduates working in the North earn on average 1,070 net euros per month as compared to 860 and 983 euros earned by those employed, respectively, in the South and the Central regions. The income differential – although it decreases – is still confirmed five years after graduation: 1,385 euros for graduates employed in the North, as compared to 1,150 euros of those employed in the South.

… Working Abroad Means Higher Incomes
One year after graduation Italian graduates who work abroad earn, on average, much higher salaries than those working in Italy. Graduates working abroad, who represent 5% of all employed second-level degree-earners, receive an average net monthly income of 1,550 euros versus 1,033 of their colleagues who preferred to remain live in their homeland. Moreover, a gender-based pay differential seems regrettably relevant even abroad: men earn on average 1,823 euros per month, as compared to 1,533 among their female colleagues. (One should also consider the potentially higher costs of living abroad).

Five years after graduation the abroad-domestic income gap increases: Italian graduates working abroad – 7% of the entire graduate cohort – earn a significantly higher average net monthly income, with 2,215 euros as compared to a mean of 1,324 euros among graduates employed in Italy. Nominal wages increase with the passage of time: between 1 and 5 years after their graduation, graduates working in Italy experience income growth of 21% versus 38% among those who work abroad.

A portrait of graduates who decide to move: where do they go and how do they live in their new host countries?
Further data analysis based on the 16th AlmaLaurea Report confirms that graduates who have decided to leave Italy for a foreign country, as compared to other students, come from wealthier families and show better academic performances (both in terms of evaluation and the duration of their studies): for these reasons they can count on more advantageous working conditions.

The decision to work abroad is particularly widespread among graduates in engineering programmes (31% of employed engineers work abroad). Graduates in socio-political science (15%), economics and statistics (13%) and geology-biology, science and foreign language programmes (7% in each case) also show high rates of work abroad compared to the whole graduate cohort.

But where do graduates move in order to work? The majority of Italian graduates working abroad have jobs in Europe (82%), 9% of them work in the Americas, 3% in Africa, 2% in Asia and 2% in Oceania. More in detail, 17% of Italian graduates work in the United Kingdom, 15% in France, 12% in Germany, 11% in Switzerland, 7% in Belgium and another 7% the United States. The AlmaLaurea survey also shows that permanent contract types are more common abroad (58%) than in Italy (52%); non-standard (mostly temporary) contract types concern 26.5% of Italian graduates working abroad compared to 12% of their colleagues who work in Italy. Holding a degree seems thus more effective abroad if one considers that 62% of Italian graduates working abroad state that their degree is “very effective” or “effective”, against 54.4% of their non-expatriate colleagues.  


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