An article appeared on the Time.com website this week, and was tweeted by many of my Twitter buddies, a few of whom are young Italians in other countries themselves. An article like this is why I am continuously re-evaluating my desire to move my family to Italy.
The article is called, “Arrivederci, Italia: Why Young Italians Are Leaving”. It is a compelling and disturbing read about what so many of us have suspected in the economy of our beloved Italy.
An excerpt from the article, by Stephan Faris:
In an open letter to his son published last November, Pier Luigi Celli, director general of Rome's LUISS University, wrote, "This country, your country, is no longer a place where it's possible to stay with pride ... That's why, with my heart suffering more than ever, my advice is that you, having finished your studies, take the road abroad. Choose to go where they still value loyalty, respect and the recognition of merit and results."
The letter, published in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper, sparked a session of national hand-wringing. Celli, many agreed, had articulated a growing sense in his son's generation that the best hopes for success lie abroad.
I suppose that this is no surprise. The Italian job boards are slim pickings these days, and every job posting is very specific about what the company are looking for (right down to the age range of the worker, which is standard practice in Italy). Mysteriously, despite the very deep pool of unemployed workers, it seems that many of these positions go unfilled for a long time. This article helps to explain why those jobs sit there so long.
I have a dear friend who is a business owner in Milan, and she and I have spoken often over the years about the exorbitant and prohibitive expenses of employing people – even of hiring an employee in the first place. The Italian business owner is very heavily regulated (you think we have a lot of tax laws in the US? Hah!) and all but penalized for her/his entrepreneurship, initiative and willingness to pay people to produce. Therefore, business owners are not quick to take on new full time employees. Work must stay at a “reasonable” pace so that it can eventually be done by whatever staff they do have. Businesses don’t grow because they can’t afford to take on additional risk of employees that were hired but aren’t performing well, because it is legally difficult to fire the ineffective workers.
Taxes paid by the employer for each employee are astonishingly high – mostly, I speculate, to help the government pay all of those benefits that have been promised to the older generations over the last 70 years. The benefits that the older generations fight tooth and nail to keep, as mentioned in the article, that have almost completely disabled their political system and bankrupted a nation.
The employment laws make it difficult to hire and fire on the merit of the individual. The Italian economy has protected the worker very well – a full time job can be a job for life if you want it, unless you have done something criminally wrong or the business closes. The problem now is getting in the door in the first place, in a job befitting one’s qualifications, for a salary that can help to sustain growth of new families.
So, how can we help fix this? How can we keep Italian talent in Italy where it can help to revive the greatness of the country? Is it up to the foreign entrepreneur that has the gumption to deal with the Italian bureaucracy to open new businesses there and change things from the inside? Or do we have to let things get worse until the government begins to encourage the Italian business owners?
A Pain In The Foot
3 months ago