A while back, I wrote a post spurred by a reading of the commentary Reverse Age Discrimination, written for Nature Physics by Francesco Sylos Labini and Stefano Zapperi, two physicists based in Rome. I was reminded of that piece over the week-end, when I glanced at this on-line article from La Repubblica, a widely read Italian newspaper. The article is in Italian, and so won't be accessible to most readers. However, the figures mentioned in that article will be clear to everyone.
Here is the executive summary. Italian academic staff has never been older. The average age of associate and full professors is over 51. Over 50% of Italy's full professors is older than 60, about 8% is over 70, only 1,7% is under 40 and less than 19% is under 50. About 25% of the associate professors is over 60, and only 10% is under 40. Looking at researchers, a paltry 2% is younger than 30.
How does my home country compare with other European countries? Not well, alas, judging from the figures mentioned in that article. The average age of university professors is 45 in France, 44 in Spain and 42 in Germany. There is more. In Italy only 4% of university professors is below 34. Compare this figure to the ones in France (21%), the UK (27%), Finland (28%) and Germany (32%), and you will see why Italy continues to suffer from brain drain whereas other European countries are reversing this trend.
Can anybody point out similar statistics for countries like Australia, Canada, Israel and the USA, say? And what about Eastern Europe?
One thing seems clear to me, and it breaks my heart to say so. A country that does not offer better job opportunities to its young academics will suffer in the not-so-distant future and runs the risk of losing whole generations of gifted researchers. I hope that things will change soon, but I am not very optimistic.