Finding a job
Italians are often laughed at for living with their parents until they reach the age of 30 or sometimes even higher. Unfortunately for them, it is not only their mother`s cooking that keeps them at home.
First of all, they are not expected to leave the house before they have found somebody who can pay close to as much care to them as their parents have done. Which would be proved by getting married to a loved one who has the approval of the family. Secondly, leaving the house without straightaway buying property is oftentimes not considered an option. Finally, their financial position may not allow them to live on their own. Finding and keeping work can be very difficult, especially in Southern Italy. If an employer takes you, he will do whatever he can do to give you temporary contract after temporary contract ? even for jobs that require an academic degree.
`Even young women in the South of Italy have a hard time escaping their traditional roles as housewives`
I am in Taranto today, under the heel of the Italian boot. Unemployment is high and there are very few opportunities for young people. Finding a job requires a lot of luck and a good network, while finding a job you actually like only seems to be possible by choosing the same job as a close family member. For everybody else, the major chunk of the offer is to work in the metallurgic industry next to the city, in a call centre of to join the navy.
Despite its high income taxes, Italy does not have a solid social welfare system. Being unemployed almost automatically means: earning no money. Which implies you have nowhere to live if you don`t have your own house and nothing to eat if you don`t have your own small piece of land. Sticking around with parents is a good way to make it through the first and uncertain years of a professional career. In most if not all cases, parents and children are perfectly fine with the resulting situation. Some early 30-ers may get tired of the situation, but parents will not be happy to let them go if there`s no solid guarantee that their son or daughter will have an equally comfortable life once he or she starts living on his/her own.
Andrea (31, photo) used to work in his brother`s local pub until he was recently contacted by the council for a job. `I had registered myself with the municipal labour centre some two years ago, and when they called me, I immediately accepted the job. I am now selling insurances, which is by no means the perfect job for me, but it is something at least. I could have been less lucky. I do not get a fixed salary though. Employers in Italy know that young people have no access to the labour market without any experience, so they almost make us pay to work for them. I only get a commission over the contracts I sell, and I do not have a fixed contract.`
Andrea tells that the situation for young women is even more complicated: `It`s obviously not socially acceptable, but employers will ask a young woman if she is planning to have babies soon. This may well be the first question in a job interview. Even if the answer is `no` they will be rather reluctant to hire a woman. It is the employer rather than the states who has to take responsibility for maternity leave, and if they suspect any risk of that happening, they will prefer to hire a man.`
Valeria (21) is willing to challenge the odds. She lives with five friends, not with her parents. She is studying pharmacy and is waiting for traditional role patterns in Southern Italy to evolve, because she does not feel like working as a house wive ? which still today is the only option for the many unemployed women in Southern Italy.
Entering the market
Ubaldo (25) explains that a diploma will be a minimum requirement, not and entrance ticket, for a `serious job`. Many of those require a diploma and a two-year internship with an established professional. `I am currently working for 100 euros a month to eventually become an accountant. People who are employees as interns almost entirely depend on the goodwill of their employer. The best way to avoid it is by having a father or uncle as your boss. In any other case, you need to be grateful with whatever position you are granted and whatever tasks you will be given. Only if you successfully complete the internship you can pass the state exam and officially exercise your profession. I will probably set up my own cabinet as soon as I am allowed to. Working for a boss is not very pleasant in Italy, it`s better to be a boss.
For many young people, working overtime is the rule rather than the exception. Despite the long lunches ? usually 13h until 16h30 ? many people work between 8 and 10 hours a week, and oftentimes, they also need to work on Saturdays. Claudia (29) does not like her job in the call centre very much, but she has managed to get a fixed contract, which she is very happy about. `I do work every second Saturday which is a shame but hey, what can you do.`
Francesco (24) also works many hours, but he has the advantage of liking his job: `I work as a teacher, with young children. Up to 9 hours a week for 6 days a week and I only earn a small salary. But doing what I like compensates for most of that. Getting the job was not easy. I studied psychology, then sent my CV and motivation letter to the company I worked for. I also knew somebody there, which is something that always helps in Italy. Without knowing the right people, life can be very complicated.`
Christian (32) studied literature. He wanted to become a journalist or possibly write novels, but for now, he`s working in a horse betting office. `In Italy, when you start working life, that`s usually where the fun ends. But at least I am lucky to work with a friend. He actually invited me to work with him. The days are long, up to 10 hours, which are not all paid for, but I at least have a salary. But it`s not enough to live on my own, so I am still staying with my parents.` Christian jokes that he could `kill to live somewhere else`: `New York would be great, London too. But I`m old now, I don`t think it`s ever going to happen.`
Moving to the North of Italy is a popular way to escape the difficult local labour market. Julia (22) confirms what all other respondents have told me before. I have many friends who now live in the North of Italy and they enjoy much more favourable conditions over there. When I complete my studies of communications, next year, I will join some of my friends in Milan.
Those who wish to stay in Southern Italy but do not have the `luck` of finding an underpaid job that does not correspond with their ambitions or studies, are limited to temporary under-the-table jobs. Possible options: work in construction, painting or maintenance. Alternatives: helping families out with the harvest of olives, grapes or whatever the products of the season are. Or for women, to become a (desperate?) housewife.
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