The Rome Opera House was paying its orchestra and chorus “16 months” per year to work a 28-hour week—and that was before you got into the really ludicrous union rules. So earlier this month, after months of fighting with the union, its board simply fired them all.Because Italy writ large will not do the same, Nicholas Farrell writes in the Spectator, it “is doomed”:
Italy can’t blame all its problems on monetary union, however. The euro did not cause the catastrophe, but it deprived Italy of a means to combat it and exposed its fatal structural weaknesses.The youth unemployment rate here is 43 per cent — the highest on record. That figure doesn’t factor in the black market, which is so big that the Italian government now wants to include certain parts of it — prostitution, drug dealing and assorted smuggling — into its official GDP figures. The contribution is thought to be sizeable enough to take the country out of its third recession in six years.We should remember that Italian companies get state money to pay workers to do nothing and not sack them — currently about half a million workers are in what is known as ‘cassa integrazione’. So the real unemployment rate in Italy must be at least 15 per cent, and that does not include all those who have given up trying to find work. Just 58 per cent of working-age Italians are employed, compared with an average 65 per cent in the developed world.
Italy is the world’s 8th-largest economy, and the geopolitical consequences of its problems may prove to be significant. For an entertaining last look at a great and cultured country’s bitter decline, read the whole thing.