Skip to main content
EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.11 Current debates and reforms

Last update: 22 March 2022

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), thelaw decree n. 34 of 2020 (so-called Relaunch decree) and thedecree-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. These important measures have therefore opened the path for the introduction of the PNRR and to the decision to invest almost 20 billion for MISSION5

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 forinnovative 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, theItalia Startup association, with the support of industrial associations, has put forwardfive 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

A new project designed for the South and coming from a private initiative is WEBUILD: CHALLENGE 4 SOUTH” an initiative organised by the States General of the World of Work, promoted by Webuild and the Infrastructures Task Force of PwC Italy. The project aims to stimulate the most innovative and sustainable ideas, in the field of digital technologies applied to infrastructures, and to make them available to the growth and competitiveness challenges that the country is facing. The tool is a real research and technology "challenge", aimed at engineering students, women and men, of the Universities of Southern Italy. The initiative aims to create an important moment of mutual contamination between students and companies, under the banner of "You Challenge, We Change!" coined ad hoc by Webuild. An opportunity for the young people of the South to touch the company reality first hand, stimulating collaboration and co-creation, but also a way to strengthen Webuild's commitment alongside the partners of the projects it currently has in the South in the country.

Challenge4Sud is one of the many initiatives of the "Webuild Next-Gen '' Youth Plan, the program of activities in which Webuild is investing. Among the key activities of the program, the "Alberto Giovannini Award", dedicated to the best degree theses on innovation and digitalization of infrastructures, the "School of Professions", a professionalising path of specific training for new resources with insertion in the Group , "100 GiovaniIngegneri del Sud", a recruiting program aimed at encouraging the employment of young talents trained by the Universities of Southern Italy and "Ingenio al Donne", to enhance female STEM professional skills and reduce the gender gap in the sector.

Ongoing Debates

The issue of youth employment 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 targetedpolicies 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 standardised 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 systematisation 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 characterised 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.

In this regard it is also worth mentioning the first evaluation and reports regarding the application of PNRR, which seems still slow compared to its objectives, especially when it comes to young people, as highlighted by the IV report on the generational gap by the Bruno Visentini Foundation and Luiss University. According to the report, the gender pay gap between workers aged 25 to 34 has increased considerably from 1.3% in 2007 to 4.6%. Even among the employed between the ages of 15 and 29, between 2019 and 2020, there is a decrease of 1.5% for males, which for women is more than triple (-5%). The indicator relating to income, wealth and welfare for the under 35s goes from an average value of 63,500 euros in 2006 to just 15,000 euros, according to official data from the Bank of Italy survey.

The Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Family, Elena Bonetti affirmed in the Senate hearing on the" First report on the implementation of the PNRR " that the government has made an innovative choice from a regulatory point of view, i.e. introducing a principle that ensures that all 200 billion favour female and youth employment. There are conditionalities for access to tenders and bonuses for those who introduce gender equality. At least 30% of new hires must concern women and young people, the constraint cannot be combined, both objectives must be achieved. ""Companies with at least 50 employees, which are required to report on the code of equal opportunities cannot access the call if they have not complied with equality measures,  for other companies, if they have more than 15 employees within six months of the conclusion of the contract, they are also required to report on equal opportunities ".

Nonetheless it is important to notice that the interventions of a potentially generational nature, on the other hand, have an incidence of 2.9% on the resources allocated by the PNRR, bringing the interventions for young people to about 5% overall. Also in the 2021 Budget Law, in continuity with that of previous governments, the measures impacting young people - according to the IV Report - were disjointed and overall not commensurate with the importance of the challenge, the permanence of a real army of Neet and to the flight of human capital.