Italy has a relatively high unemployment rate, which was officially running at around 8.9 per cent (in the north around 5 per cent, in central Italy 6 per cent and in the south 21 per cent) of the workforce in October 2002. As already indicated, unemployment varies according to the region and in the impoverished south it’s as high as 50 per cent in some areas, where the youth has traditionally migrated to the north or abroad in search of work. Unemployment is a disaster for Italy’s youth; some 30 per cent of young people in the under 25-age group are unemployed, many of whom have little prospect of finding a job. It’s difficult for young Italians to get a foothold on the employment ladder due to lack of experience and many young people, even university graduates, attend vocational high schools or special programmes to gain work experience.
Although unemployment has hit manufacturing industries the hardest, no sector has survived unscathed, including the flourishing service industries. Some of the hardest-hit industries have been construction, electronics, communications, the media and banking, all traditionally strong sectors. Many companies have periodic bans on recruitment and expect many employees to accept short-term contracts, rather than life-long security (Italian job security had traditionally been among the best in Europe). Over a quarter of Italy’s working population have short-term contracts.
Unemployment benefits are virtually non-existent in Italy and less than 25 per cent of the country’s unemployed are eligible for any form of unemployment compensation, and families have traditionally been expected to support their unemployed members. There’s no national scheme or assistance for the long-term unemployed in Italy, although there’s a limited degree of support for low-income families in the south.
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