Italy : skilled, educated, go washing dishes. This is how a country with a stagnant economy squanders migrant talent.

Marilyn Nabor, an experienced high school mathematics teacher in the Philippines, moved to Italy 14 years ago with high hopes of honing her craft in the country of Galileo and Fibonacci.

Now aged 49, she works as a housekeeper in Rome, counting cobwebs and crockery, and has abandoned hope of returning to her former calling. 

''This country does not recognize our diploma or curriculum from the Philippines,'' she said. ''I cannot get professional work.''

Even gaining qualifications in Italy didn't help Abhishek, a 26-year-old migrant from India who got a master's degree in mechanical engineering at Turin's Polytechnic University last year.

Abhishek, who declined to give his surname, said he was rejected for a string of jobs because his rudimentary Italian was deemed inadequate. He has now found work as an engineer in the Netherlands, where he can get by with English.

Such stories bring home an uncomfortable truth : there are scant prospects in Italy for foreign-born workers however qualified they are, due to a combination of factors including a strict cap on work permits and a high citizenship bar.

In contrast to much of the West, it's rare to see migrants working as doctors, engineers, teachers or in any other skilled professions - raising red flags for a country with a chronically stagnant economy and an aging and rapidly shrinking population.

Last month, the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat said just over 67% of non-EU workers in Italy are over-qualified, meaning that they are stuck in medium - or low-skilled jobs despite having university-level education.

That compared with an EU average of about 40%. Only Greece did worse in the 27-member bloc, while France and Germany were between 30-35%.

Italy, which is also contending with an exodus of skilled nationals to stronger economies, needs qualified immigrants to fill growing skilled labor shortages, many economists say.

Unlike in much of northern Europe, English is not widely used in the workplace, despite being a global lingua franca.

The great majority of the country's five million foreign residents are unemployed or have low-skilled jobs. [Reuters]


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