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The dramatic situation on the labor market has structural roots, as it reflects the weakness of an economy that has been stagnant for years. Youth unemployment, territorial inequalities and low female employment remain the most relevant problems. Whilst the employment rate has exceeded pre-crisis levels and reached the highest level in the recent history of the Italian labor market (59.4%), although it remains the lowest in Europe and well below the EU average  (69% excluding Greece), the scenario that emerges from CNEL's XXI Report on "Labor market and collective bargaining" highlights the fragility of the country's human capital, the real great gap of Italy. Our workforce is no longer competitive compared to the same categories in other countries. A composite phenomenon that stems from several factors, including low tertiary education levels compared to the OECD average; the employment prospects for graduates between 25 and 35 years of age, lower than those of graduates of professional upper secondary education courses; the persistence of phenomena such as the Neets (which according to Eurostat 2018 reach 28.9% in Italy, almost double the European average); the high number of low skilled workers (around 11 million for 52% men, concentrated in the most advanced age groups).

The Report on the labor market and collective bargaining of the National Council of Economy and Labor, now in its 21st edition, divided into 18 chapters, deals with the main themes and phenomena on employment divided into 3 sections: jobs (I), labor policies (II) and industrial relations (III).


The comment of the President Tiziano Treu     

"The picture that emerges from this year's labor market Report presents more shade than light. Despite a slight increase in employment, its intensity, measured on hours worked, remains lower than in the period preceding the outbreak of the economic crisis. Female employment is still far below male employment and far from European averages. Youth unemployment remains three times higher than that of adults. The involuntary part time highlights the fact that many human abilities are forcibly unused and still affects mainly women and young people, "says President Tiziano Treu. “Fixed-term work, a symbol of precariousness, remains high, especially for the first jobs, in particular for young people and women. Territorial inequalities have grown and are also reflected in workers' conditions. This labor market situation is not contingent, it has structural roots, because it reflects the weakness of an economy that has been stagnant for years. For more than twenty years Italy has remained on a growth rate that oscillates around 0.2% per year and on a rate of participation in the labour market that is always lower than that of the main developed countries. It cannot compete in today's world and cannot give prospects to future generations.


It should be noted the alarming fact that no Italian region has managed, ten years after the crisis, to return to the standard of living recorded before 2008. Employment in 2019 will grow by only one tenth of a point more than the trend, and the growth rate in 2020 will be lower than in 2019. In order to change this condition, isolated and partial remedies are not enough, nor the legislative changes, including the most recent ones. As CNEL has repeatedly mentioned, it is necessary to tackle the problem in its causes with a significant change of direction. We need strategic development that lasts over the years and is pursued with determination and constant monitoring.

The context

The close correlation between the quantitative data on the employed and the changes that have occurred under the regulatory aspect. The Report highlights how, with reference to the period 2008-2018, the increase in employment recorded is attributable exclusively to employment work (+682,000 units in 10 years), compared to a drop of over half a million units in self-employment, and how this positive performance of employment work should be ascribed mostly to the fixed term and only to a lesser extent - however not insignificant - to the permanent employment driven by incentives. Particularly interesting - also with a view to comparing different possible interpretations – are the considerations regarding the phenomenon of the transitions between the different types of work of the employee (fixed-term / permanent) on the basis of the ISTAT surveys, which show a reduction of the permanence in fixed-term employment and a corresponding increase in permanent employment transformations.

1 in 10 workers is an immigrant

Currently, one in ten employed people in Italy is an immigrant, 2.45 million foreigners are employed in the country, equal to 10.6% of total employment. + 4.6% increase in employment compared to 2018. We can see the coexistence of such a high level of employment of immigrants in the presence of high levels of internal unemployment. The most common type of immigrant employment, manual and low-skilled, concerns activities that cannot be transferred to countries with lower labor costs (construction, personal services). Immigrant work is growing but without rules («flows decree» and requirements of the job demand).


The impact of technologies

The phenomenon of automation and digitalization of production processes has penalized the growth of employment in some sectors and professions. The chapter also highlights how the adoption of task biased technologies negatively affects the number of average days worked by individuals in the company and, consequently, the prospects of employment stability and the accumulation of on-the-job skills. Moreover, new technologies have an effect not only on the quantity and quality of employment, but cause a profound change in the management of human resources and professional needs, acting on the same competition models. These aspects can induce increases in production efficiency and the ability to meet the demand and supply of skills which, in the medium to long term, can partially offset the negative impact in terms of employment.

The real big gap: the fragility of human capital

The XXI Labor Market and Collective Bargaining Report highlights the composite picture of the fragility of the country's human capital: low tertiary education levels compared to the OECD average, employment prospects for graduates between 25 and 35 years of age lower to those of graduates of professional upper secondary education courses, the persistence of phenomena such as the Neets (which according to Eurostat 2018 reach 28.9% in Italy, almost double the European average), the high number of low skilled (around 11 million, 52% men, concentrated in the older age groups). The chapter analyzes how the weak supply and the weak demand for skills in the production context has generated a mutual adaptation of training institutions and the world of work, with a downward characterization (low equilibrium phenomenon in the language of the European Commission). The picture shows the need for policies for the reskilling and upskilling of young people and adults in a long-term employability perspective, with respect to which the recommendations relating to the European Upskilling pathways in Italy plan constitute a fundamental reference point.

Articolo Successivo Mercoledì 18 dicembre l'Assemblea del CNEL
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