Italy is going through a period of change, right now. One could say, a period of upheaval. Not unlike most countries,I suppose.
We have what is known as a ‘technical’ government. The Prime Minister and the cabinet members have not been elected. They are here, temporarily, to ‘save’ Italy from the same fate as Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Monti (the PM) has been tasked with introducing reforms. The idea is that he will reduce the amount of government debt and reform the labour market to make Italy more competitive.
At the beginning, like Obama in the USA, he was hailed as the saviour of Italy but it’s now all turning a bit sour – just like it is with Obama.
The latest problem for Monti is his determination to reform the all-important Article 18.
Article 18 is a law that provides for any employee who has been sacked to be reinstated to his old job if judges think he was unfairly sacked.
Apparently, most of the time, the judges tend to side with the ex-employee. This is judged as the reason that Italian companies do not sack workers and why people stay in their jobs for EVER, thus depriving young Italians of a chance to get real, full-time jobs – and youth unemployment is very high here.
In order to ease the situation, some years ago, there was a law introduced making it much easier to hire workers on a contractual basis. It was cheaper for the companies and, of course, was intended that they could ‘try out’ a worker before offering them a full-time job.
But it didn’t really work out. Most employers renewed the contract for a couple of years (the limit) and then let the person go and found someone else just as willing (desperate) to work on a 6-month contract basis for a nice, low salary.
Monti (and many other commentators) seem to believe that, by reforming Article 18 and making it much easier to sack workers (who are bad workers, of course), it will free up the job market, providing employment to the youngsters and getting the Italian economy back on track.
Workers are worried that nasty bosses will just sack workers if their face doesn’t fit. Bosses think that the reforms proposed (enacted?) don’t go far enough.
But, in my opinion, they are all totally wrong.
First, it’s not the problem. And reform is not the solution.
The problem is much more complicated than this. The problem is Italian culture and this won’t be changed by the change in Article 18.
in my experience, certain young people get full-time jobs without a problem. They do this because they are from a wealthy or powerful family and their parents ‘call a favour’. In one case, for one guy to whom I used to teach English, his father simply created an Estate Agency and put him in charge. Making money was not really its major concern. Giving his son something to do, was!
Take the company I work for. Many people who work here are related. Cousins, wives, husbands, etc. It’s the way it works. Jobs are ‘found’ for people’s relatives. People ask if ‘you know anywhere that is looking for a xxx’.
Sure, it can be similar in the UK but here it is more so.
But it’s not just that. My first landlady here decided she wanted to ‘change her life’ a bit. She wanted a different kind of job. She was in the chemical industry. She thought she wanted to move into the Energy industry with a focus on renewable energy. In the UK, to change one’s career drastically, like this, is not really a major problem. Here it is virtually impossible.
She spent a year or more getting the qualifications that she needed. Then she found some work. On a temporary contract. The problem here is that people will look at your previous employment and, if it is not exactly relevant, will, quite often, dismiss it. It is very hard to change career. In the end, because it was just too difficult, she went back to the chemical industry. She didn’t have any other choice. And the only reason she was able to do it in the first place was because she had rich parents to support her. She’s mid-30s, btw.
Changing your career is simply not done here. Any skills you have obtained become almost worthless if you try to move out of your field. Getting another job in the same field is difficult enough – getting one out of your field is nigh-on impossible – unless, of course, you have the right connections!
Then there is the financial incentive given to employers to take on people under short-term contracts. They get to pay less tax and NI (National Insurance). Why take on someone full-time when you save money by taking them on a contract basis?
And, in addition, I don’t entirely believe that employers don’t sack people because of Article 18 and the judges, apparently, favouring the employee. I think there is a deep-seated fear of confrontation. Employers don’t want to confront employees. Everyone here wants an easy life.
Even here, in my company, there are numerous instances where employees appear to ‘take the piss’. Sometimes, something is said. But then everything just goes back to the way it was before.
And, remember, I used to employ many people – so I’m not predisposed to come down on one side or the other.
The worst thing about this whole thing is the belief by Monti and many commentators that changing Article 18 will be the magic wand that a) brings young people into employment and b) gives a kick-start to the Italian economy.
It is my opinion that neither of these things will happen with the reform of Article 18. It is a red herring and will change nothing.
Monti and his gang are a group of economists/bankers, etc. Look where they’ve got us so far! It’s like putting the prisoners in charge of the jail.
One day, people will wake up but with the false promises about the labour reforms that Monti is putting in place, this is likely to turn out the same way as Obama in the States. People will be disillusioned but everything will continue just the same. Except that, maybe, Italy will lose something important along the way.
I don’t see a good outcome, unfortunately.