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Working in Milan

Is working in Milan a good option for your career right now? Our guide to Milan helps you find an answer to this question. We will introduce you to the regional economy, local working conditions, and social security — a useful overview for expat employees interested in Italy’s business hotspot.
Italy’s finance capital Milan is home to the national stock exchange.

Working in Milan used to be among the most attractive prospects for employment in Italy. The northern region of Lombardy is still the country’s economic powerhouse and the center of its contemporary business world. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it profited strongly from industrialization. Later on, it became a center for several important service sectors, especially banking and finance. Unfortunately, not even the people working in Milan have remained unaffected by Italy’s current difficulties.

Economic Struggles Affect Expat Life

The global economic crisis of 2008/2009 sent Italy into a brief period with a shrinking GDP. This applied particularly to the banking sector and the employees working in Milan’s finance companies. In the two years after, it seemed the Italian economy was slowly recovering, although the increase of the GDP was lower than the EU average. But in early 2012, it became obvious that Italy had again entered a recession. In the course of that year, the GDP shrank by more than 2%. Fortunately since 2013 the Italian economy seems to be recovering. The GDP ended up with a plus of 1.9% in 2013 and slightly increased by 0.4% in 2014.  Experts still predict an ongoing growth. One reason for this positive development is the hosting of the EXPO 2015 in Milan. A recent study tried to capture the impact of the EXPO on the Italian economy in numbers. Between 2012 and 2020 the Milan Expo is said to generate about 25 billion EUR and to create up to 199,000 jobs. Furthermore, Milan benefits from the additional tourism that comes with the EXPO.

Apart from the influence of the EXPO, domestic demand and consumption are expected to rise and the unemployment rate (12.5 % by 2015) is expected to decline throughout the next years.

Moreover, the country is rightfully proud of its diversified industries, its strong service sector, and its high-quality output for niche products (e.g. food or fashion). The many people working in Milan contribute to those strengths and still benefit a little from them. Despite the positive economical trend, many young people between 15 and 30 years of age are affected by unemployment, no matter where they live. There is a definite brain drain of young, well-qualified Italians, especially from northern regions like Lombardy or Veneto, who emigrate as job-hunting expats to Germany, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and other countries.

Working in Milan: Then and Now

As mentioned above, working in Milan was often synonymous with having a job in manufacturing or finance. The heavily urbanized province was (and, to a certain extent, is) home to plenty of factories, for example, in vehicle manufacturing. Household names such as Alfa Romeo (sports cars) or Pirelli (tires) are familiar even to those who have never shown the slightest interest in cars.

Furthermore, Milan houses the Italian stock exchange and countless banks. However, the past pillars of the local economy may no longer be taken for granted when it comes to working in Milan. Traditional manufacturing — e.g. in chemistry or mechanical engineering — has been in decline for some time; the vulnerability of banking and finance was demonstrated drastically only a few years ago.

Fortunately, Milan has a diversified economy, with several thousand international companies based in the city. It is widely known for fashion, design, publishing, ICT, food and beverages, tourism, and more. The region of Lombardy features several industrial clusters for niche products, like furniture or jewelry. Some of Italy’s most coveted food exports — e.g. salami, gorgonzola, grana padano,panettone, and rice — originate in the Milan area. At the moment, there is also some potential in working in Milan’s research and development facilities.

A Future Full of Opportunities            

Northwestern Italy is catching on to the advantages that the northeast of the country enjoys — i.e. more future growth sectors. There are already dozens of bio-tech companies in Milan and nearby towns like Como, Varese, Lodi, or Pavia, as well as even more businesses related to pharmaceutics. The health and life sciences are a definite key sector for working in Milan, with its various universities, teaching hospitals, clinical research institutes, and modern science parks.

In addition to bio-tech, urban infrastructure projects, too, promise to further vitalize Milan’s economy and to promote business tourism. The latest economic stimulus was created by the government by including infrastructure projects and construction work all over Italy, e.g. in Lombardy.


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