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Italy's Youth Blame Parents' Generation for Job Crisis

  • Henry Ridgwell

Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Monti says his new government will introduce incentives for companies to employ more young people. Youth unemployment in Italy is among the highest in Europe at and the lack of jobs for young people is stoking tensions between the generations.

Performing with his acapella group in Rome's jazz clubs is one of Jacopo Romei's many pastimes.

Life wasn't always so harmonious.

Jacopo struggled in early life - spending a year living on the streets of the capital. But he fought back and now runs a successful IT consultancy firm, Ideato.

Jacopo says life is getting tougher for Italy's youth.

"It's hard," Jacopo said. "You know, we are in a sort of transition between a free job market and a protected job market. There are no clear rules. So many are settled down to a model that doesn't exist any more while no one is really pushing the new model. And it's quite hard to match the extremes."

Analysts say those extremes are pulling Italian society apart. In October, youths rioted on the streets of Rome after a 200,000-strong protest turned violent.

Then students clashed with police in cities across Italy, protesting against the new government.

Prime Minister Mario Monti has pledged new incentives for companies to hire young people.

But plans to increase the retirement age and slash state pensions are exacerbating the generational divide.

Michel Martone is a professor of labor law at Rome's LUISS University.

"The cause which is more important is what I have been calling 'generational selfishness,'" Martone noted. "In some ways, the father has too many rights and too much money has been spent to pay for their rights - the pension rights, early retirement, for many things - and we have the third [highest] public debt in the world. Because we had a quality of life we couldn't afford."

Official figures show unemployment among 15 to 24-year-olds hit 29.3% in October. The overall rate is 8.3%.

"Many, many young people are leaving Italy," Martone added. "They are leaving and going to other countries because in some way they don't want to pay these huge debts they didn't contribute to create."

Rome's rush hour metro is still packed with commuters, but many young people here don't have their own homes to return to.

The latest available figures show over half of under 35-year-olds in Italy still live with their parents.

Psychologist Angela Salina has been studying the mental effects of the crisis on young people.

"The most common psychological problem these days is anxiety: the inability to face the unknown and to stimulate creativity. The problem for young people is that they feel they have no role in society," said Salina.

Back at the jazz club, Jacopo Romei had this advice for Italy's young unemployed.

"You have to stress your endurance," Romei noted. "You have to decide whether to complain or to act. If you decide you like your country, that's enough to decide not to complain and to try hard."

Analysts say that unless Italy can kick-start its sluggish economy into growth, the struggle for its young people to find a secure future will continue.