Italy is the only European country without a minimum wage, and earnings are falling, registering a 3% decline in the last 30 years – leaving it the country with the lowest salaries in the European Union. Italy’s youngest workers are most affected, struggling to find jobs and underpaid compared to their more mature counterparts, but low wages and the absence of work are feeding tension all over the country. Natural-born Italians are insisting that all of the jobs are being stolen by the country’s large migrant population, and the issue of wages has set older and younger citizens against each other. On a broader scale, the country’s inability to pay its people is frustrating millions of skillful workers into leaving.
The disastrous economic situation has caught the rest of the European Union’s attention. At a press conference for the Ansa Editorial, E.U. Labour Commissioner Nicolas Schmit expressed confidence that “the Italian government and the social partners will reach a satisfactory agreement to strengthen collective bargaining, especially for the less well protected.” Schmit predicted that “in the end, [Italians] will conclude that it could be essential to introduce a minimum-wage system in Italy,” but that “it is down to the Italian government and the social partners to do it.”
Indeed, Italian political figures and intellectuals have called to implement minimum wages, which are vital to protect workers’ dignity and work towards proper remuneration. “This country needs a minimum wage, which must be approved in this legislature,” the Minister of Agricultural Policies wrote in a Facebook post.
Italy’s economy has been stagnating for the past 25 years, with any number of causes to blame: many have accused trade stocks, inadequate government, labour market issues, or the absence of technological progress. The main problem with Italy’s moribund economy is its poor management style; businesses often use nepotism to determine who gets ahead. Before the rise of technology, this management style did not hurt the economy, but after the computing economy took off, the practice of rewarding loyalty over competence cost Italy between 13% to 16% in productivity gain as the country failed to keep pace with global development. To compete with these global markets as they emerged in the 1990s, Italy chose to keep salaries low rather than investing in higher quality production.
Financial reforms are essential to improve Italy’s labour market and kickstart the country’s stagnant economy. Introducing minimum wages will be crucial, but it is also necessary to invest in young workers and ensure their future in the country. Ensuring that younger Italians feel welcomed by, respected in, and encouraged to work for their nation will prevent them from being forced to search for opportunities abroad.
Introducing minimum wages and investing in the youngest population share may give Italy the opportunity both to escape its stagnant economic situation and to soothe the tensions fomenting within its borders. Valuing all sectors of the population and offering equal opportunities to all Italians will allow everyone to grow, without having to accuse each other of stealing jobs or inciting conflict. Working reforms can soothe Italy’s increasing inflammation: between older and younger citizens, between natural-born Italians and migrants, and between Italians and their government.
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