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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.11 Current debates and reforms

Upcoming policy developments

The sections of chapter 3 are updated as of 31.12.2019.

In December 2019, the budget law for 2020 provided measures aimed at facilitating the entry of young people in the labour market. Among these, it is worth mentioning a series of actions aimed at a better implementation, within the vocational education and training system, of the dual learning model, as well as the introduction of specific incentives for level I apprenticeship - demonstrating the growing attention paid by the Government to the school-to-work transition.

However, the start of 2020 coincided with the outbreak of global health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected Italy, especially in the spring months, leading the Government to impose a lockdown from 9 March 2020 to 18 May 2020 and the state of emergency (currently expected) until autumn. The economic, employment and social consequences immediately appeared evident and long-term. The Government has tried (and is trying) to intervene with ad hoc measures, which also affect the labour market.

Decree law no. 18 of 2020, (so-called Cura Italia decree), the law decree n. 34 of 2020 (so-called Relaunch decree) and the decree-law n. 104 of 2020 (so-called August decree) in which the Government introduced – among other things – measures aimed at protecting workers’ rights, with the aim of: (i) defending employment, (ii) protecting workers’ health, (iii) countering the risk of impoverishment. As far as points i) and ii) are concerned, the most relevant measures are: the ban on dismissals, the encouragement of remote working (smart working/teleworking/homeworking), the introduction of the New competences fund (Fondo nuove competenze - extraordinary and temporary for 2020-2021), the expansion of income support measures during the reduction or suspension of work (ordinary and extraordinary layoffs and emergency income - REM). These measures are not specifically designed for young people. On the contrary, by supporting standard employment (except for the REM), they are of minor interest to young people who are over-represented among workers with atypical contracts.

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has therefore urged public and private entities to propose and implement a series of new actions with the aim of supporting young entrepreneurs and investments in innovation in an uncertain economic context.

In order to face this complexity, the Ministry of Economic Development has provided a series of measures for innovative start-ups and SMEs, including:

  • Non-repayable grants to purchase services aimed at creating innovative businesses
  • Support for Venture Capital
  • Tax credit for research and development
  • Extension of the guarantee for the central guarantee fund for SMEs
  • Investor Visa for Italy Program: halving of the minimum investment thresholds.

For its part, the Italia Startup association, with the support of industrial associations, has put forward five proposals to the Italian Government and Parliament to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem of innovation. The interventions include:

  • The establishment of a convertible venture debt fund
  • 100% liquidation with immediate refund for tax credits and VAT credits
  • 100% MCC guarantee extension for loans to innovative start-ups and SMEs
  • A €25,000 voucher to start-ups for launching and acceleration programmes, to be spent at science parks, incubators and accelerators.
  • The increase from 30% to 50% of tax relief for Business Angel and Corporate investments

Italia Startup has also created the #Restartup database - startup for the relaunch of innovative start-ups, scaleups and SMEs that offer useful solutions and/or products to manage the emergency in various sectors, such as:

  • Delivery
  • E-learning
  • Remote health
  • Services for the PA
  • Smart Citizen
  • Smart working
  • Business support

Ongoing Debates

The issue of youth work has long been a priority on the country’s political agenda and in public debates. However, despite the significant measures introduced in recent years – which, as documented in the chapter, leverage dual learning, employment incentives and the promotion of entrepreneurship, and the Youth Guarantee program – the ability to develop an organic strategy to support the employment of young people, with respect to which the presence of ad hoc measures is weak.

The need to support the expansion of stable and quality employment is a goal pursued in Italy mostly without specific attention to the needs of the different age groups. This is reflected, in a positive way, on the implementation of measures that target the entire audience of the active population, avoiding the paradoxical effect typical of targeted policies of producing inequalities between eligible and non-eligible subjects. On the other hand, the limited production of ad hoc measures for young people struggles to undermine the risk of their entrapment in the secondary segment of the labour market.

The issue of integration between labour policies and other policies (e.g. social and housing policies), which are essential to support young people's transition to adulthood in conditions that are favourable to independent living, income continuity beyond work transitions, procreative choices, and family-work reconciliation, also needs to be developed and focused on.

The importance of acting on the integration of policies and the personalization of responses stands out even more when considering the growing de-standardization of life paths that unites young Italians to their European counterparts. The concept refers to the progressive loss of representativeness of the standardized models of the life path, in which the stages that led young people to acquire the status of adults are less and less predictable a priori and can be ordered according to a pre-established order. This phenomenon is also reflected in the school-to-work transition: on the one hand, the correspondence once substantially discounted between the educational path followed, the professions aimed to be carried out, the job actually held is no longer present; on the other hand, learning unfolds over time by alternating entrances and exits from the training system and retraining opportunities (in the perspective of Lifelong Learning) that go hand in hand with discontinuous working careers.

Given these premises, the growing attention placed by Italy on the opportunities for reading and recognizing the learning and competencies that are acquired in contexts complementary to that of traditional education should be positively assessed. In this sense, the ongoing process of coordination and systematization of the repertoires of competencies defined at a regional level and the establishment of the National Atlas constitute a fundamental step for the flexibility of the education system. At the same time, the extension of the possibilities of certification of skills acquired also in informal and non-formal contexts represents a tool for adapting and strengthening individual professional profiles and those who are entering the market for the first time such as young people. In addition, the progressive coordination of the national repertoire of competences with respect to the European Qualification Framework will ensure, in the future, a more fluid and sustainable professional mobility between EU countries, counteracting the disqualification which is currently quite common in the context of these migrations.

A final remark regards the topic of entrepreneurship. The interventions of the MiSE and the proposals of the sector associations to support entrepreneurship are part of the already existing programs. However, measures aimed at developing entrepreneurial competencies, financial support and promoting the entrepreneurial culture should be accompanied by forms of monitoring the achievement of the objectives set. Youth entrepreneurship tends to find space in highly innovative sectors that are characterized by being highly uncertain economies. Monitoring, for example, the economic performance of new innovative companies, and not just their birth and death rates, through the national registers, would make it possible to understand which sectors guarantee greater profitability and production of innovation and, therefore, guide the design of measures to support initiatives with greater chances of success. In addition, many interventions dedicated to supporting innovation, and which are closely related to supporting entrepreneurship, are aimed at all age groups. While not excluding young people in principle, however, in practice they do not offer specific support to this age group which, on the other hand, is increasingly interested in evaluating the entrepreneurial career for its future.