03 September 2023

Harnessing the power of the global Italian diaspora. How to strategically manage a valuable asset for the country-system

The Italian diaspora is a phenomenon of large-scale emigration that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, when almost 30 million Italians left the country and, of these, more than 18 million never returned to their homeland. Thanks to the past emigration flows, today, Italy can count on a network of more than 80 million people of Italian origin deeply rooted in a number of key areas of the world, starting from the Americas, but also in Europe or Australia, plus an additional 5.8 million fellow citizens living abroad, who can make their contribution to the communities of Italian emigrants already present, or create new ones. 

The global distribution of Italian diaspora helped to spread the Italian “footprint” abroad. In fact, Italian emigrants and their descendants worldwide contribute to promoting Italian identity in different countries and act as a bridge between Italy and rest of the world. In economic terms, it can be estimated that their economic value exceeds 2.5 trillion Euros, of which 93.4 percent of the total refers to Italian descendants in the Americas, the geographical area that hosts the largest number. Italian descendants represent an all-round development opportunity for Italy: promoting the reputation of the country of origin in that of destination is a very important contribution that Italian descendants make to the positioning of “Made in Italy” products; the potential of “roots tourism” can be worth more than 90 billion Euros for Italy (almost 200 billion Euros considering direct and induced effects); training programs in Italy dedicated to diasporic communities can help the country improve its attractiveness and build long-term strategic ties; and the influential role of Italian descendants’ communities in countries of settlement can play a key role in stimulating positive advocacy for Italy. 

In recent times, Italy has been studying the role and value of its diaspora in the world, and the issue has received increased recognition on the country's formal agenda. Countries, such as China and France, have long interpreted their diasporas as levers for growth and development through specific engagement and mobilization strategies. A Position Paper on such topic was was prepared by The European House – Ambrosetti, in collaboration with the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), and presented at the 49th Cernobbio Forum, during a panel with Arancha González Laya (Dean, Paris School of International Affairs), Chris Miller (Professor of International History, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; author of Chip Wars), Joseph Stiglitz (Professor, Columbia University; Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences), chaired by Federico Rampini (writer and columnist).
The Paper, “Harnessing the power of the global Italian diaspora. How to strategically manage a valuable asset for the country-system”, identifies specific policy proposals to mobilize the Italian diasporic communities, among which:

  • increasing the engagement of the Italian diaspora is the promotion of Italy’s image abroad
  • promoting the Italian language abroad
  • treating Italian descendants as part of an "extended nation"
  • empowering the relations between Italy and the associations of Italian diasporic communities in the world
  • supporting and developing programs and initiatives in the field of research and education, with the involvement of Italian universities, research facilities and associations of Italian researchers abroad

Download the paper "Harnessing the Power of the Global Italian Diaspora. How to strategically manage a valuable asset for the country-system"