A recent survey conducted among Italian workers in the 18-39 age range reveals that 60% have worked with 'atypical' employment contracts and have never been able to find a stable job or an indefinite work contract in the labour market. They have only been given contracts on a per project basis, interim contracts and part-time contracts.
This growing phenomenon affects 57% of young people between 18-25 and 67.8% of workers between 33-39 with little distinction between men and women. According to the people interviewed, this ongoing job instability has affected their life choices and projects for the future negatively. Choices such as getting married, having children, being independent from parents, moving, buying a house, opening a savings account, getting a mortgage and even paying for additional training are all seriously jeopardised. The research reveals that instability on the job market affects people with a university degree more than others. 55.9% of young people with an MA or higher specialization are affected by this phenomenon as are 83.2% of those with a BA. Only 20% reveal that they have worked with one employer over a long period. Being paid on time is another problem. 71% of workers with an atypical contract are paid regularly but all the rest have to wait anywhere between 3 months and a year to be paid. Salaries are low and 3/4 of workers do not earn more than 1000 euros a month. This salary is their only source of income and obviously has negative effects on lifestyle and expectations.
This generation of underpaid employees are unsatisfied with their prospects and feel they are not protected or represented at union and society levels. It is interesting to note that there are many stress and anxiety related illnesses among this category of workers.
In addition to the general instability, these workers have to contend with competition from older generations in the 55-65 year old bracket. Instead of retiring, many carry on working and take up jobs that might have been available to the younger generation.
The survey also gauges real and perceived levels of poverty among Italians. 51.4% of Italians felt that their salaries did not guarantee them a decent living standard beyond bare necessities. Most admitted that they found it hard to get to the end of the month and an illness, an accident or company crisis would be enough to throw them into a real situation of poverty. The consequences of this situation, even pyschologically, are especially damaging.
This situation has also perpetrated an attitude among university students who prefer to stay on in the safety of the institution rather than face the instability of the job market. The phenomenon of the "eternal student" staying on at school often paying for courses he will never be able to use in the future.
Italy's new Biagi law which affects the labour market was aimed to favour flexibility and adaptability in the work force but has been seriously criticised because it has produced even further instability. Criticism towards this new labour law has come from all corners and points to a reorganisation of social policy and a possible European Social Model.