Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lies, damned lies and statistics: emigration from Italy to UK

This article is part of the "Lies, damned lies and statistics" series.
In a past article, I wrote about the lies that information media produce each time they claim that a raise of the average wage in a Country is so important.
Now, let's talk about the figures of immigration/emigration. In time of crisis, these are key terms that are on everybody's mouth.

The newspapers and the TV news have hammered us with the story that the Brexit would be the end of Paradise for those Italians (and Spanish, and Rumanians. etc) living in the UK. There are articles claiming that half a million of Italians are resident in the UK!
Now, I have done some research.

To work in London you need a Nino (National Insurance Number). This is mandatory in order to have the possibility of going to the  family doctor or applying for a job or even studying.

So, an Italian that decides to live in the UK needs to be registered there,
If he has not communicated the AIRE (the official National bureo that tracks the Italians that are registered for living abroad) that he left his Country, the UK National Insurance Office does not care a thing. For the Italian Government, you are still in Italy, because you are not registered at the AIRE, even if you have been living for years in UK!

Now you start seeing something odd: UK National Insurance Office and Italian AIRE do not communicate with each other. This reflects dramatically in a huge error for the statistics of Italian emigration rate, that are based on the communication provided by AIRE.

Let's start digging into data.

According to the AIRE database, in 2012 (no info since then!!)  there were 210.000 Italians living in the UK.

According to the Dataset provided by the UK office for National Statistics (Table E of this file), in 2015 there were 192.000 Italians permanently resident in the UK.

Now we already see a problem. Apart for the three-years gap (AIRE data are available for 2012 only, UK data are updated to 2015), from 2012 to 2015 we know that many Italians left the Belpaese for UK. So, the numbers are biased: we would expect many more Italians in the UK dataset than in the AIRE dataset. Are they measuring the same thing?

Ok, things get complicated. Instead of looking at the residents, let's compare the country of birth: the reason is simple, maybe an Italian couple has had babies in the UK, the babies are Italian but they are registered in the UK.

So, there is this nice site, that takes data from the UK Office for National Statistics.

We can see from this graph:

that the Italian in the UK have been growing steadily since the crisis in 2008.
The difference between two consecutive years is therefore the net increase of Italians in the UK.

So, let's put some numbers:
2008: 105000
2009: 108000
2010: 118000
2011: 124000
2012: 133000
2013: 142000
2014: 150000
2015: 162000  //this is coming from Table A of this file

On average, in 7 years, the Italians that have left have increased by 60%!

NOTE: In Italy the Press is  crap, just have a glance at this article from a well-known newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano: they mention 550.000 Italians living in the UK in Jan 2014! THREE times as much as the real numbers! An error of 200%. I mean, if they cannot even read a table, just imagine the quality of their articles when it comes to economics and finance.

Now that we know how many Italians, born in Italy, are living in the UK year per year, we can compute a net saldo of migration for each year, with the data coming from UK statistics.

2009: +3000
2010: +10000
2011: +6000
2012: +9000
2013: +10000
2014: +8000
2015: +12000

Now, let's compare this data with the data provided by the Italian ISTAT (at this page), that stops at 2014 (indeed they are a bit lazy in updating the website! and also to personalize the graph is a bit cumbersome...)

NOTE: the website of AIRE is crap, we need something more professional. ISTAT is definitely better

Italians Leaving Italy for UK:
2009: 5042
2010: 5251
2011: 5378
2012: 7404
2013: 12962
2014: 13491

Italians Entering Italy from UK (maybe they were fed up of pudding and soups..):
2009: 2255
2010: 2208
2011: 2283
2012: 2202
2013: 2152
2014: 2398

We are almost there...
So, net saldo according to ISTAT, which is based on data coming from AIRE (sic!) is:

2009: 5042-2255 = +2787
2010: 5251-2208 = +3043
2011: 5378-2283 = +3095
2012: 7404-2202 = +5202
2013: 12962-2152 = +10810
2014:13491- 2398 = +11093

For example, in 2014 2398 Italians left UK for Italy, 2398 left Italy for UK, so anet of 11093 Italians left Italy for UK. Simple as that.

So, we can finally compare the data from the UK office for National Statistics and the data from the Italian office for National Statistics.

Total Italians that left Italy from 2009 to 2014 (UK Statistics): +46000
Total Italians that left Italy from 2009 to 2014 (IT Statistics): +35000

A graph explains things better than a thousand words.

On the Y axis, the net number of Italians that each year have left Italy.

There is a huge difference between the two data-sets: simply stated, many Italians did not registered by the AIRE the same year that they registered in the UK. The two plots are completely decorrelated, i.e. each of them follows its way regardless of the other's. We can see that in the middle of the crisis, in 2009, there was a boost of Italians leaving Italy (red line).
But in a period of 6 years this is not sufficient: simply, many Italians have NEVER registered at the AIRE, and I guess this is for a simple reason. When they go back to Italy, they can still go to the family doctor, to the hospital for free, have many rights that otherwise would be deleted in their home country. Just imagine if you are being paid by the government if you have lost your job: you do not declare that you are working abroad and you go on taking the monthly the unemployment benefit. Not a nice news for the ones who still live in Italy and who are paying taxes also for those who left.

NOTE: in case you are wondering, I have registered my family at the AIRE. I pay taxes and services both in the Netherlands AND in Italy. In the Netherlands the social security number is called BSN.

So, on average, we can say that, on a mid-long term, the statistics from AIRE are suffering from a  (35000-46000)/35000 = 31% of error, ie 31% of the Italians are not known to the Italian Government to be living abroad.

Since I do not think that the Italians that go to live in the UK are so different from the Italians that go to live in the Netherlands or Germany, I am pretty confident that ALL the statistics of the Italians living abroad are suffering from the same bias.

On average, the Italians living, eating, working, etc. abroad permanently are 30% more than what the official Italian statistics claim.
There are not 1 million Italians in the UK, or 500 thousand, but 192000, including children born in the UK from Italian families.
Now you have the right figures and you can have conversation and comment news about Italians living abroad with a bit of background knowledge.

Another point worth noting is the following: the difference of 30000 people in 2015 between the Italians living in UK (192000) and the Italians living in UK that were born in Italy (162000).
This means that roughly 30000 children were born in UK from Italian parents in recent years. This is going to be an interesting topic for a future post.


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