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Europe, Italy, Labour market reform

Italy’s 8 million strong precariat

New research has uncovered massive hidden unemployment in Italy and a new army of precarious workers that has ballooned since the onset of the economic crisis.

Official figures show unemployment at around 8%, or just over 2 million. But new research by the CGIL trade union confederation puts it at 13% or 3.5 million. The study also shows there are some 8 million Italians who are either unemployed, working part-time involuntarily, or laid off in temporary redundancy schemes (cassa integrazione) living on an average of 600-700 euros monthly.

The new figures include people who are not included in the “restrictive” official data, so all those who are of working age but not economically active, as opposed to those actively looking for work and availabile for work.

The study found that over 500,000 jobs had been destroyed since the onset of the economic crisis in 2007 when the economy contracted for 7 quarters and then returned to the anaemic growth rates since 2001, which averaged over the decade just 0.2% on average, way behind the EU average of 1,3%. The first jobs to go were temporary and then permanent contracts.

In the centre-north of the country, permanent positions represent an ever decreasing amount of new contracts signed – falling from 24% in 2008 to 19% in 2010.

Underemployment is on the increase with the number of people working in part-time positions who would have prefered a full-time job hitting 1.85 million in the first quarter of 2011. Fixed term contracts meanwhile account for 22% of all jobs, with people with a low level of education hit hardest, but also a growing number of people over 44 years of age.

Together with the loss of jobs, the figures show a dramatic deskilling of the Italian workforce since 2007. The biggest losses were in technical jobs, which fell by 347,000 in 2008-2010, while 141,000 scientists and other highly specialised workers losing their jobs. 140,000 ‘semi-qualified’ manufacturing workers and 125,000 skilled craftsmen also lost theiur jobs.

Younger people have been the biggest losers though. In two years 854,000 Italian between the ages 15 and 34 have joined the dole queues, with 235,000 job losses in the 15-24 age group.

The CGIL, which is campaigning for a reversal of ‘flexible’ labour reforms enacted since 1990s, a greater state role in building skills, hi-tech industries and above all policies for growth, says these figures reveal a “radical change” in the structure of the labour market.

The full study (In Italian)

Euronews on Italy’s precariat

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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