3.11 Current debates and reforms
Upcoming policy developments
The 2022 budget law has introduced and confirmed many important measures concerning employability and occupation, to better face the second part of the post-pandemic scenario.
The measures were specifically designed to target the most affected groups, envisioning interventions on trainings, female occupation, fragile workers and young people, while also supporting enterprises to favour new hirings, implementing the GOL (Garanzia di occupabilità dei lavoratori, Workers Employability guarantee) and working particularly to foster young people opportunities to find jobs.
More specifically it authorised spending within the limit of 20 million euros to meet the operating costs of the Employment Centers deriving from the activities connected with the implementation of active employment policies in favour of young people between 16 and 29 years of age, not employed, nor included in a course of study or training (NEET). In order to encourage Italian participation in the individual mobility actions of the Erasmus+ Program and to adequately respond to the increase in resources and the consequent substantial growth of the mobility actions of university students, according to the evaluation of the Ministry of Education and Merit, an annual allocation of 1.5 million euros has been granted for each of the years 2022, 2023 and 2024 in favour of the National Institute of Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research - INDIRE, in its capacity as Erasmus+ National Agency. Finally, for the celebration of the European Year of Youth in 2022, the expenditure of 5 million euros is foreseen for the implementation of initiatives of national value inspired by the guiding principles of the European Union strategy for youth and aimed at promoting the involvement and the wider participation of young people, as regulated by decree of the Ministry for youth policies which will establish guidelines, criteria and methods of use of the resources themselves. As part of the plan for youth it’s also important to stress again the substantial refinancing of the Social Fund for employment and training.
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 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 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.
In this regard it is surely worth mentioning the initiative by the Piemonte region for the recognition of competencies acquired through formal, non formal and informal learning, following the European standards and also providing relevant materials to better understand the different kinds of learning and available opportunities.
This initiative is financed with the resources of the European Social Fund, it’s free and individual and gives recognition of work experience which can lead to the issue of a public certificate that can be used in the world of work and in professional training. It is called the Identification, Validation and Certification (IVC) service and it has been promoted also through a nice communication campaign.
A final remark regards the topic of entrepreneurship. The interventions of the Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy (former 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.
According to the latest update of September 2022 regarding the implementation of PNRR by the former MiSE, 8 out of the 10 milestones indicated have been reached, with significant progressions regarding the access to credit and for the innovation of enterprises and for boosting start-up and ventures dedicated to sustainability and ecological transition, as well as for research and innovation within the Horizon Europe project and for the creation of female enterprises.
Again there is no direct mention of youth enterprises and initiatives, even though there is a generalised approach of incentives that involve by default young audiences, but it’s certainly visible an improvement in the approach towards youth’s more specific needs, indicating Italy’s slow but inevitable adaptation to the European paradigm.