LAB meeting, Italy

The first LAB meeting took place at the University of Turin on 5th February 2015. It involved an engaging and wide-ranging discussion among a number of local LAB members who are key stakeholders in the fields of youth employment, households poverty and school-to-work transitions in the metropolitan area of Torino. The main goal of the meeting was to discuss and share ideas about youth employment constrains and opportunities in Italy, at the local and the national levels. UNITO firstly illustrated the content of the STYLE project, detailing in particular Work Package 8, on family drivers.

The key question to LAB members was: what are the peculiar characteristics and frailties of young people not in employment in Italy (and more locally in your experiences), and how did they change during the crisis? What role do families play in sustaining young people’s employment transitions?

After the introduction, all participants from the stakeholder organizations illustrated their projects directed towards young people’s inclusion into employment and the main challenges encountered in those actions. In particular, they discussed the situation of young people and the challenges in the main policies affecting them (e.g. training contracts, precarious or short-term employment, difficult reach), with a particular view at policy innovation and the context of implementation. It followed a general discussion on the role of families of origin in the transition to employment and the implications for those being perceived as the most vulnerable groups: those above the age of 30 (threshold for the entitlement to favourable training contracts), low-educated, those living in jobless households, the NEETs, single mothers and prospective self-employed.

From the participated and engaging discussion the following issues emerged: i) young people social isolation: non employment strongly affects young individuals’ self-perception of self-worth and self-esteem, increasing social isolation and bringing about the feeling of being uniquely affected by unemployment or lacking the specific skills to find it; a particularly detrimental effect since ii) social networks are a crucial asset in accessing employment and social isolation makes for a difficult reach to interventions (esp. for NEETs); iii) care burdens, especially for women, represent a dramatic obstacle to finding but also holding employment; iv) accompaniment measures, offering specific search skills, providing bridges to enterprises and providing short specific training on technical competences matching requirements in the workplace (while in internship), seem the most effective; v) families of origin risk of doing “too much” (limiting independence) or “too little” (not contrasting isolation) and strongly segment individuals’ opportunities; vi) access to credit to finance projects and start-ups is extremely difficult and further segments individuals’ opportunities along the (economic and social) resources of their families; vii) the crisis has made more heterogeneous the people not in employment, and “new” profiles (traditionally less at risk) seem more ashamed and much less aware of (thus able to resort to) the available measures and supports.

Main issues of debate

1: Exit from unemployment: the path of self-employment

Many young people opt for following the path of self-employment and plan to create start-ups to respond to the need of finding employment in face of (increasing) scarcity of job opportunities. One stakeholder underlined the relevance, and challenges, in promoting not only start-ups linked to IT or technology (patents), but also other types of start-ups in the fields of more creative disciplines, culture, services, and traditional (“antique” and local) types of job. Net of the usual low survival rate of start-ups (on average, 7 start-up out of 10 are expected to fail), self-employment career seems paved by many critical challenges already in its grounding. Firstly, a very difficult access to credit through the banking system. Italian banks have a long tradition of strong guarantism and accessing a loan becomes possible only for those who already have financial resources, or families who can financially back-up. Second, there is a crucial role of the families of origin: on the one hand, parents can directly help their children providing financial guarantees; on the other, they can transmit a set of mind-settings, preferences and social networks to support the choice of self-employment and favour its probability of success and survival. Indeed, often the young entrepreneurs are children of entrepreneurs. Third, alternative forms of access to credit, like joint-ventures, are very difficult to create or access, because they travel within seemingly closed social networks, disjointed from young people. Crowd-funding (joining capital by small individual savers) proves even more difficult to achieve for start-ups or young people’s projects. Finally, self-employment through start-ups is a very risky path, because it makes it difficult (and might take a long time) to reach self-sustainment. It becomes even more risky for those coming from families with lower financial resources, or an urgent need to produce income. Nevertheless, a positive externality, even upon failure, is the activation of new social networks, which may turn useful for future job opportunities.

 2: Social networks

The absence or selectivity of social networks is a crucial aspect stressed by all stakeholders. Social-networks are still the main channel for finding a job for young people in Italy. Many actions to promote employment by our LABs are indeed centred around this: either by promoting the building up of social networks, or by replacing them in affording a more equal access to relevant networks (of potential interested employers or potential financers). Two stakeholders highlighted the saliency of helping young people engaging in actions that can activate new social networks: if not directly leading to employment, they help terminate the social isolation, sense of frustration and lowering self-esteem that accompanies (long-term) non employment. One of the main problems seems to intercept that part of young people, the NEETs being particularly difficult to reach out, because often in conditions of extreme social isolation. New social networks in addition to helping young people finding a job, also help them in lowering the perception of a stigma, personal inability, isolation, or as being uniquely affected by unemployment.

 3: Work-poor and work-rich families and the age threshold

Work rich families seem more capable of supporting their children in finding a job, a feature that emerged also discussing of self-employment careers. However, one stakeholder points out that young people living in a household with no earners is more compelled (and better positioned than her parents) to find quickly a job. Several also reported of a positive spiral in the jobless families: when one young adult enters employment, she does not only provide an income to the entire family, but activates also a new social network, which can benefit all the members in the households (but may hinder her chances of emancipation from the family). If, in many cases, young people reveal a great resource for the family instead of a burden, a speedy access might have adverse consequences for the type of job entered, as well as for later employment-related outcomes.

The image of young people as lazy, listless and low determined, does not correspond to the perception stakeholders have of young unemployed people. On the contrary, they all pointed out how the crisis has made much more heterogeneous the pool of young people in need for help to (re)access employment, and how the newly emerging profiles, once more shielded from unemployment, feel more ashamed and are less skilled (to downsize consumption or keep the pace with previous investments, i.e. housing) to cope with unemployment or to resort to public measures. The family of origin does seem to play a heterogeneous effect on the employment career of their children, which strongly depends on their social and economic backgrounds. In this respect, it is illustrative the association between the educational level (and type: general of professional) of young people and the social class of their family. Given the structure of the local productive system and the demands by small enterprises, in case of unemployment, young people with only a secondary degree or lower, but holding a professional qualification rather than a general one, usually have higher chances to exit from unemployment. Tertiary education seems also to have a positive effect. Greater difficulties are for those who have a low or general education. Next to the educational level, age is a particularly salient dimension for young people’s chances of entering employment. A policy that sets at 30 the age at which (much cheaper) fixed-term training contracts can be activated, makes most successful those interventions aimed at providing (subsidised) internships for individuals younger than 29 years, and least successful the labour market insertion for those above 30. This also constitutes an incentive for firms to recurrently recruit new younger cohorts of people once the training contracts expire, instead of contributing to young people stable employment careers.

 4: Young people living independently

Most of the discussion was about young people still living with their parents. Those living independently face further challenges. The most disadvantaged group is clearly that of single mothers due to their care burdens. The challenges of finding a (suitable) job add to the risk of loosing it for responding to the demands for care falling on them (this is also the case for those caring for long-term ill or disabled children). Job placement becomes particularly difficult for single mothers because of the time constraints, the reduced social networks, and the scant alternatives for affordable care. Young single mothers who manage to find and keep a job are mostly those who can rely on some help by their family of origin. This is again another channel of reproduction of social inequalities among young people.

Location: University of Turin

Dept. of Culture, Politics and Society – Campus Luigi Einaudi

Lungo Dora Siena 100, Torino

Date: 5 February 2015

Participants:

University of Turin (hosting partner)

Tiziana Nazio, Marianna Filandri, Nicola Negri, Sonia Bertolini

Sonia Bertolini contributes to the H2020 project EXCEPT, due to start on May 2015

Impresa Sociale Ouverture (NGO – www.ouverturetorino.org)

Mario Gattiglia, member of Ouverture & partner of Acta Consulting (www.actaconsulting.it)

Giorgio Merlo, member of Ouverture & formerly head of Social Policies for the Province of Turin

Renzo Crivellaro, member of Ouverture & partner of Azimut (www.azimut.it)

GiOC – Gioventù Operaia Cristiana (NGO – www.gioc.org)

Valentina Marangon, Treasurer & spoke

Ufficio Pio della Compagnia di San Paolo (www.ufficiopio.it)

William Revello, head of the section “Services to persons”

Silvia Cordero, Director

Luciano Sciascia, Scouting Enterprises

Magazzini OZ (NGO – www.magazzinioz.it)

Martina Beria, Coordinator