Sin-cerity: In Italian politics truth has become a taboo.

Posted on February 9, 2012


We Italians are still looking for a permanent job in the town near our parents

With these words minister of the interior Anna Maria Cancellieri upset many workers. Her words came days after the Prime Minister, Mario Monti, had stated in an interview that young people must accept the idea that they will not find a permanent position and joked that such thing would be ‘boring’.

Once again, Italy’s technocratic government’s public relations have attracted extensive criticism due to a usual dose of sincerity. Indeed, this frankness would be nothing but a liability in the political landscape of 2012 Italy, were this government directly elected by the people. Yet this is a technocratic government, and it has developed a habit of facing Italians with reality rather than populism or demagogy.

During a time of deep economic crisis, it is normal for companies to fire rather than hire. However, there is a law in Italy which makes it harder for employers to fire employees in such times, known as ‘Articolo 18’. It states that when workers think they are fired without a legitimate reason they can appeal to a judge and –if the case is won, they are entitled to obtain their job back and even receive a sum of money as indemnity. Mario Monti has recently argued that this very law contributes to making Italy unfriendly territory for Italian and foreign investors. Meanwhile, the government’s will to retire this law has outraged the trade unions and their supporters.

The Technocrats’ latest outing regards the lack of flexibility in the Italian job market. The now legendary ‘posto fisso’ (permanent position) does not exist anymore, while the government is putting in place a series of measures that will liberalize a number of markets (upsetting a number of virtual ‘castes’ including those of the taxi drivers and the pharmacists).

For decades, the average Italian would take pride in a permanent position as much as in a position that offered good pay. Now, however, Europe’s volatile economy seems to favour those who are willing to change sector when needed, to move around within their own countries and indeed the continent to find employment.

Monti also claimed that Italy’s job market requires modernizing but Italian workers need to embrace the demand for flexible employment, both in terms of skills and in terms of geography, if they are to survive the economic crisis that has hit Italy harder than other countries.

However sincere and realistic this government’s claims may be, its ministers must not forget that it is only natural that people seek stable employment close to their hometown.

Indeed, those who don’t manage to do so will take Cancellieri’s words very seriously. Italian youths may generally not be as keen to leave home as their Northern European counterparts, but can you b

lame them? They face considerably lower wages with comparable rents and everyday expenses. After all, with ca. 4.000.000 Italian citizens living abroad, Italians don’t seem to be so unadventurous as to choose unemployment rather than migration.

Monti and his cabinet would be wise not to lose the people’s support since it is the unemployed and the poor that are being hit the hardest by the tax rise. These technocrats may not be directly elected by the people but the people have elected the parliament and the government needs the parliament’s support to last until the end of the mandate in 2013. Those Italian populist politicians that until now have hidden behind Monti’s unavoidable measures will not waste a chance to come out of this situation as heroes in front of the electorate, by pulling the plug on technocracy in parliament.

Monti is making an admirable effort to appear on television as much as possible to explain the current situation and the measures it requires, nevertheless he needs to maintain and advocate a more diplomatic attitude in order to preserve his government’s moral high ground and legitimacy.

Posted in: Opinion