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La Guerra Contro i Giovani

Despite the best efforts of technocratic Prime Minister Mario Monti to reform his country’s sclerotic economic system, Italy remains an awful place for the young to find work. The labor reform passed in the spring has been hailed as a major step forward, but as the FT points out, its focus was nearly entirely on the older generation and did little to alleviate conditions for Italian youth. The “reforms” may even have made things worse:

At 36 per cent, Italy’s youth unemployment rate is more than three times the overall level. As in Spain and Greece, where youth unemployment rates are even higher, fears are widespread that a generation could fall through the cracks. And critics say that Italy’s recent labour reforms have only reinforced practices that penalise young workers. […]
One of the main problems with the labour laws, according to Mr Boeri, is that newly hired workers with a permanent contract immediately get the same protection as somebody who has worked at a company for 30 years. This dissuades companies from hiring and leads young workers to a future of jumping indefinitely from one job to the next. Ultimately, it results in lower economic output for Italy.

Ugly and worrying. Tepid reforms, passed after months of wrangling, fail to address the country’s biggest problems. Securing passage of even this watered-down bill took a tremendous expenditure of political capital on Monti’s part, and it does not appear likely that another comparable measure will emerge from Italy’s fractious politics anytime soon. A generation of workers is at risk and the political system can’t respond.

Read more Via Meadia on Italy and the War on the Young.

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    Italy should reform it’s labor markets and embrace the kind of “flexicurity” that one finds in Denmark. This system combines open labor markets and free trade with a strong safety net, thereby providing workers with enough financial security that they do not feel that they are one outsourced plant – or one new computer program – away from poverty. We desperately need flexicurity in America too. It would mitigate protectionist pressures and the social stability would decrease political extremism on the left and the right.

    Even the right wing Forbes magazine has at least some good things to say about the Danish model. And since Denmark has a lower unemployment rate than we do, it would appear that Flexicurity is better than the American blue state model.

    “The Danes have also embraced labor flexibility, or what they call “flexicurity.” This Third Way tradeoff gives employers the right to hire and fire easily, while the state guarantees a good wage and retraining for the fired. As the South China Morning Post (other-otc: SCHPY.PK – news – people ) noted: “The Nordic model apparently manages to combine generous welfare benefits with flexible labor markets, which results in low levels of unemployment.” Earlier this year France floated its own flexicurity model but quickly withdrew it when French protesters took to the streets. The French would rather preserve their way of life with its 20% unemployment rate for young workers.”

    “Danes love to travel and trade, a legacy of their seafaring heritage. Neither on the political left nor right will you find many Chuck Schumersens or Lou Dobbsens.”

  • Kris

    Thank you for including a link to your previous post. It enabled me to easily find my previous comment:

    “Italian laws mandating that workers not be fired without just cause, combined with a legal system that heavily favors workers, have created a system in which companies are wary of making new hires.”
    And yet many of the “young” actively oppose reform of those laws. Reality, she is a harsh mistress.

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