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The Italian Job: Italy’s Employment Emergency

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The so-called ‘brain drain’ aspect of migration has seen a steady increase in the past years and it is affecting many countries in Europe. Among the nations who currently suffer the most is Italy. Irene Dominioni examines the opinion of Italian student media on this controversial issue.

Brain drain isn’t only a cultural or moral concern, as the student’s newspaper Inchiostro reports. It is a problem that affects the economic interests of Italy, a problem worth 1 billion euros a year. Bringing a student from elementary school to university degree costs $164 million to the Italian system, a sum that packs up and leaves together with the skills of those who migrate. Investment in education and research is one of the few truly effective methods to substantially improve the economic status of a country, and it also enhances political involvement. It still remains an Italian achilles heel when the situation is getting worse day by day combined with mass unemployment.

Italy has been choking on an economic crisis for too long, a crisis from which it does not seem to be able to shake off. The student paper Uninformato reports a rate of youth unemployment of 41.6 per cent, which shows an alarming situation. The so-called NEET (Not in Education or Employment Training) are becoming a dangerous reality, counting more young Italians every year who are increasingly discouraged. They don’t work because they are convinced they won’t find a job no matter what, nor do they study because they see university as an effort that will never be paid in return. Those who should be leading the country out of the crisis are the ones who are most heavily hit by it.

Employment emergency

Among the crises that the country needs to face, youth unemployment should be the priority. The young are paying the consequences of a crisis that they have not provoked and the state needs to start looking after them as the first and most durable source of wealth, when resources are drastically reduced and need wise redistribution. Saving its future, Italy must invest in its youth today. It is a waste to provide its citizens with good education and then force them to leave the country because of lack of job opportunities. Furthermore, letting someone else take benefit from their capacities. This does not mean that studying or work abroad should be stigmatised. They should be encouraged instead. The problem is that nowadays for Italians leaving their home country is often not a free choice, but the only alternative not to weigh too much on one’s family.

The feeling of obligation is one of the elements within the critique made by Il Bo, as the results of a study conducted in 2012 on the Erasmus Generation, which emphasises the entrepreneurial spirit of young Italians. The reality is not so bright. According to the study, 46 per cent of the young Italians surveyed are enthusiastic about working abroad. This number however can be read in a different way – that unemployment is what leads them to leave. Moreover, the study reports that a significant percentage (54 per cent) of this generation expresses a desire to work and live in a place close to home or in Italy.

This suggests that Italians would rather not walk away from their roots: a sign that contradicts the apparent wish of moving to a different country. 7.7 per cent would like to run their own business and 12.8 per cent  aim to be freelancers. It is important to note that freelance positions are the only solution for professionals as lawyers or architects cannot hope to be hired in the public system or elsewhere. In addition, 32 per cent aim to work for a multinational corporation and 18 per cent for a major national firm. These numbers reveal that autonomy in business is not a very attractive option for Italian youth. The unconditional praise of mobility in Europe and Italian entrepreneurial initiative needs to be re-conceived in a way that sticks more to reality, a reality which does not appear pleasant.

Is there a way out of the brain drain and desperate unemployment rates for Italy? To invert the tendency it would be necessary to have more people at work for a shorter time and to reduce (instead of extending) the retirement age, suggests Domenico De Masi on Uninformato. But these are adjustments that are not very likely to happen in such a moment of economic crisis. Effective solutions have not been adopted yet, and the future for young Italians remains more insecure than ever. What will come next still remains to be seen, but, if a change has to start somewhere, it should be right where it is most needed: a deceived youth united under collective awareness and concerted action is the only solution to ensure the attention of the nation is on this problem.

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