Under the tuscan… unemployment. Three perspectives.Part I.

Having no job is crushing. It goes further than the financial implications: it crushes one’s self worth, self respect, self care, desire to help and be present. It diminishes the desire to live.

It affects one emotionally, physically and mentally.  You start by feeling unworthy, you then feel pain in your stomach and your mind decides that you don’t worth to be there, to live.

I have come to Italy hoping for a chance to stay. I can stay only if I have a way to support myself (and my parents if possible). Because of above mentioned reasons, it is important to have an active work life.

It has not been long since I got here but the effects of looking for a job, that I would choose, and getting absolutely no answer…oh boy, it hurts.

I decided to look deeper and understand what is going on. There are three perspectives that I find interesting to look at.

  1. European level- OSCE
  2. Country level-Italy
  3. Street level- my experience

I will present these in three posts, three parts.


Let’s start with what the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe(OSCE) has found in regards to the critical state of the labour market in Italy.

OSCE conducted a study so as to understand the causes of the unemployment in Italy.  What was found is striking: the problem is the lack, or mismatch, of the competencies. Words clusters as low-skills equilibrium and skills mismatch are being used to describe what is going on here.

They came up with a competency strategy for Italy. I have read the synthesis of the report, the same as indicated in the link above.

The document is interesting to read entirely but I will present here only the main issues, the skelet.

The national Strategy for the Italian Competency was implemented between July 2016 and March 2017. More than 200 stakeholders (representatives of: companies, workers, education, research institutes, the government) took part.

The essential finding :  Italian workers have a low level of  competency in respect to the one in other countries. They have less possibilities to use specific  cognitive competencies ,which are important for the workers’ performance and that of the companies.

As an example of the aforementioned skills mismatch: About 6% of the workers has the competency for the job they are doing,  while 21% is under qualified. More than that, 35% of the workers is engaged in a field is not the one they have prepared (studied) for.



What might be striking is that the managers also have modest levels of skills. That combined with the “ingenuity” of their teams  and the low investments in technology (which require different skills) and the use of practices which would contribute  to and improve the productivity, well that in the end (and in reality) is absurde!

Why is that so?

In Italy 85% of the companies are managed by the families, that is, these are companies created by La Famiglia. These companies employ 70% of the people in Italy.

You might know by now that most of the times, La Famiglia stinks. There so many elements at play inside a La Famiglia company… I will not go into that now. The managers of these companies most of the times do not have the skills, or don’t improve, but they have the power to decide just because they are the first primate on the hierarchy, the managing monkey.

OSCE is proposing a strategy. This strategy is based on four pillars and the corresponding challenges.

Let me present these pillars :

1st pillar -Develop relevant competencies . The  first challenge here is the need to offer to the young the competencies needed for a continuous learning process  and for life.

The document presents in a more detailed manner the steps already done (Buona Scuola, Alternanza Scuola Lavoro), the view of the stakeholders and relevant suggestions for the future. The second challenge is the accessibility to tertiary education, at the same time the improvement of the quality and the relevance of the competences.

Some interesting numbers in this sense: only 20% of the Italians aged 25-34 have higher education. The OSCE norm is 20%. Third challenge : improvement of the adults’ competencies (more than 13 millions of adults in Italy have low level competencies).The majority of the low competence adults have declared that they did not participate, nor did they wish so, at courses. Which means that the employers, at their turn, have requested such low levels of competency that the employees did not even think about the possibility to improve. An interesting thing to note is the cause of not learning, the one mentioned by the workers : lack of time or family responsibilities.

Here we go again, La Famiglia!

2nd pillar- The activation of the competency offer which comes along with its challenges: the activation of this need (for competent workers) on both, request and  offer sides. Which I understand as letting these people know that there might be better, faster, more intelligent ways of doing their jobs. And they have the chance to find those ways! Cool, ha?

Boh…they say.


Boh, what?  Wake up!!!

In Italy the unemployment of specific demographic groups is a thing, the unemployment of women and young people, to be more precise. These groups have difficulty to find a job and stay in it.

The stakeholders say, in this regard, that the public employment services are not functioning well, they are fragmented, so that the Italians find work through informal ways. La Famiglia!

Next challenge, related to the above mentioned pillar, is to encourage women and young people to take their share of work possibilities, to try to get on the work market.The situation now , according to the stakeholders, is that the youngsters do not have good math competence, and also, they don’t speak good English.

The English thing for me is really bizarre and revealing of the Italian capacity to stay away from the world, the fear of the outside, the different.

My hair raised when reading that in the Italian culture women are perceived as the “family assistants” so that most of them don’t even try to get a job or higher education! Which in fact, is real. What do I see around on the streets, me as a young woman looking for a work place, I see women of all ages looking for their dogs’ poop.

This is bizarre, Italy.

More than that, if  women are employed, they are favoured in taking the maternal leave, not the fathers. Even more, Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates among the OSCE countries, the average age of women having their first child is quite high (old) and there are numerous women without children. These facts make us think that besides the “family assitant” reason there are other causes for unemployment of the women. One of them, women choosing academic specializations which are not much requested on the market.

Regarding young  unemployed people, the document mentions different steps already put into action, like Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro (supposed to help fresh of the school benches to find a way into the work market by giving them the chance to work/ train on a job, during their last studying years), Garanzia Giovani (referring to young, 15-29, during the next four month, after having finished their studies or having lost their job, and proposing them different activities meant to make the change easier).

The reality: the stakeholders say, young people come to them without relevant competences. Young  people are not part of any orientation programme or don’t know about their existence. Stakeholders don’t know how to determine the sectors in which women are less represented or are not aware of the lack of equilibrium.

Let’s continue.
3rd pillar-The use of the competencies in an efficient way which is tied to an obvious challenge, a better use of competencies on the job. The second challenge at this point is the competences’ leverage so that innovations could come in.

Could the stagnant Italian productivity be linked to the skills misuse, besides low investments?


4th pillar- Reinforcement of the competency system. One challenge  here being: the reinforcement of a multileveled governance and partnerships so that the competency levels get better. Second challenge: the promotion of competency evaluation and forecast, so that the skills mismatch could be reduced.

The strategy presents a series of sensitive points in need of attention and steps which have already been done, just a few examples, misuse of big-data, the dispersed information about job offers…

In the end the OSCE  document is making it clear, Italy has now, with the help of this diagnosis, a clear picture of the situation and the possible causes.

It is time to take action, OSCE says.


Next time let’s see what Italy says…

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