Italy’s discussion on jobs liberalization: it’s the cultural factor that prevails the markets’ needs

The infamous discussions about the Articolo 18 in Italy is not news. Since the assassination of Professor Biagi by the Red Brigades, the topic of job liberalization and the possibility of laying-off redundant employees “without a just cause” has been popping in and out into the Italian mediatic and political scenario.

Only during Berlusconi’s last government this discussion had a stop probably due to the fact that the Premier and his political affiliates were busier covering other more media-attractive scandals rather than fixing an intricate labour market structure that brought off-the-record negotiations on the brink.

One aspect of this reform that still remains hardly touched upon is related to the the cultural change that this will bring. As a young Italian expat who regularly goes back to his homeland I can very well perceive a clash among young North and South Europeans with regards to the concept of fixed and undetermined work contracts.

While discussing about jobs, career, financial stability and so on (which are the most likely topics to be covered during a discussion among under 30-year-olds in a city like Brussels) I can always discern this typically Italian obsession with the “contratto a tempo indeterminato”, the permanent contract.

When I say, “I’m happy I got a one year extension on my contract” I automatically get asked a panting question: “But, don’t they give you a contratto a tempo indeterminato? Aren’t you worried about that?”.

The answer is “of course not. Why would they?”. I’m 26 years old, basically have a lot of things to learn and my professional development depends on them, on these people who are both paying me and investing on me.

Financial stability is a big concern every where in Europe. It is certainly a bigger concern in the South of Europe and what some bearish international investors started calling PI(I)GS in 2009.

The picture you see at the left gives little space to imagination about what many (not all) think about the obtaining of a permanent contract. Why is it like this? This answer is “because the Italian legal system still allows this”.

It is still a veruy common and eradicated practice to make off the record agreements in order to negotiate lay-offs. In fact, it results in many instances less expansive to negotiate a “leaving package’ than actually fire an employee who is not fulfilling his working duty. This has been for decades the case in the realm of the Italian public administration in which the Brunetta plan of action evidenced incredible rates of absenteeism and inefficiency in all spheres of the state administration, from managers at the national level to local administrators.

In relation to liberalization in the Italian job market, I strongly disagree with the non-application of this principle to the public sector. This has been the case in Greece were most lay-offs happened in the public sector after decades of speculations and they now face 210% GDP of public debt.

Why starting with the private sector then? Why not pursuing an all-encompassing measure that would be applied to both spheres?
Political castes in Italy are strongly entrenched in all levels of the national and regional bureaucratic system.

Let’s reform the job market first. We will stop cultural speculation when the state structure will allow it.

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