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Italy, Labour market reform, labour reform, Uncategorized

Growth and jobs: the propaganda of the Italian government

Italy’s growth and industrial production are rising, official unemployment is falling and the government is celebrating, but the overwhelming majority of new hires are temporary and part-time. Giorgio Cremaschi on how ‘reforms’ have swollen the Italian precariat.

Matteo Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni – the former the predecessor to the latter as Italian PM – boast that a million new jobs have been created by their Jobs Act ‘hire and fire’ labour reforms. This propaganda by the regime in Rome is contradicted by three simple truths:

1) There is an economic recovery all over the world, a very fragile one, according to many economists. In the US, GDP grew by 3%, in the UK by more than 2%, so too in Germany and France. The growth of 1.4% of Italy’s GDP is therefore one of the lowest and in any case is part of a general wave, so Renzi’s Jobs Act has nothing to do with it, otherwise we would have grown more than others and not less. In any case, after a long recession and stagnation, this rebound in Italy and in the rest of the world is not solid, not least because not one of the economic and financial causes of the crisis has been addressed.

2) While it is true that today the number of jobs seen in Italy in 2008 has been reached, the quality of employment is very different. All new jobs are precarious, not just temporary contracts, but also those formally deemed permanent. It should never be forgotten that the Jobs Act abolished protections in labour code Article 18 for all new hires, so those entering into permanent-term employment can be dismissed at any time without the possibility of reinstated. The 23 million jobs total today comprises a much higher proportion of precarious work than in 2008. Additionally, a portion of them are forced to remain in work by the Fornero law [of 2011 that raised the retirement age and length of service required before you could take out a pension]. If we were to measure the number of hours worked, we would find that many of the new hires are in low-paid part-time work Together the super-exploited, precarious, old-age workers of today are twice as many as yesterday’s. In 2008, the unemployment rate hovered around 6%, today it is around 11%. These figures should be considered before expressing, advertising-style, such idiotic optimism.

3) Lastly, in order to achieve this goal, the Renzi government spent from 15 to 20 billion euros in incentives to companies and Gentiloni wants to hand out more. Here, we must affirm a truth that strangely the free market leaders forget. No company hires workers that it does not need, even if the government produces large sweeteners. So the Jobs Act eurobillions went to businesses to hire workers they would have hired anyway. They were a gift to corporate profits and not to employment. None of the public money spent has created new work. The job market is now hooked on incentives. And if there were to be a new fall in production there would be a real  catastrophe, because, as has been said, all new hires are precarious or can be fired any time.

In recent days there was the announcement of the failure of the Piombino Steelworks, which the government had sold to a ghost entrepreneur who quickly evaporated; this could result in the liquidation of thousands of highly skilled full-time jobs. The same thing is happening in flag carrier Alitalia, IT firm Almaviva, and it is anticipated for another steelworks Ilva, indeed all the big companies whose crises are never resolved: currently some 200,000 employees are at risk of losing their jobs. Then there is the destruction of research – 22 precarious employees have just been dismissed from Italy’s Institute for Environmental Protection and Research – cuts in the schools and other public services like social care.

The neo-liberals in government, the Democrats, explain that all this is inevitable because the world changes, the old jobs end and new ones are born. It is a pity, however, that all the jobs that end are secure, properly remunerated and full time. While many of the new jobs are much shorter hours, paying just a few euros an hour. Here is the big con: the new jobs are nothing but a rebranding of the rubbish jobs of the bad old days: deliveries, cleaning and domestic services. Going are the 1,500 euros a month jobs, on the rise those offering just 600. That’s why, while officially employment is increasing, emigration is too, both internally and abroad, especially skilled and qualified people. And while female employment is rising, this does not outweigh wage and qualification disparities with men, but instead aggravates them, with the over-exploitation of underpaid labour.

So the latest employment data doesn’t point to Italy overcoming its crisis, but in some ways it means it is deepening. Italy is importing the American model that hides mass unemployment with millions of working poor. The same thing is happening in Italy, where simultaneously the number of employed and those who are declared poor increase. If the official statistics agency Istat were to adjust for the hours actually worked and the wages received, there would be rather fewer than 23 million. But, as you know, today you only need to work one hour a week to be considered officially employed, as a part time worker. Work has been degraded to slavery and our rulers boast success. Like supermarkets offering two products for the price of one.

Micromega

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

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

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