The civilian service is facing a profound change, and not just in terms of its name. The switch from national civilian service to universal civilian service marks a change of pace in what many consider one of Italy’s few youth policies. In 2018, the old formula established in accordance with Law n. 64 of 2001 – which has allowed 400,000 young people to engage in volunteer work (with a monthly allowance of €433) in one of five traditional industries (assistance, education and cultural promotion, artistic and cultural heritage, environment and civil protection) – will start to be replaced by the new format established by Legislative Decree no.40 of 2017.
But what will actually change? The Government’s aim is to ensure that all young applicants are given the chance to take part. In figures: 53,000 out of 104,000 young applicants were selected in 2017. That’s roughly 50,000 unsuccessful applications. “With the new formula”, says the Undersecretary for Welfare, Luigi Bobba, «the civilian service will be open to all the young people who wish to embark on this experience. Moreover, it will have a European dimension, with all applicants – including legal foreign residents – being given the opportunity to serve in an EU Member State Indeed, those who will apply for civilian service in Italy will now be given the chance to serve up to three months in an EU Member State, or to avail of a tutoring service for the same period of time, aimed at facilitating access to the job market
The civilian service will be open to all the young people who wish to embark on this experience. Moreover, it will have a European dimension
In the words of the Undersecretary: “In particular, the reform directs the training funds of accredited bodies towards disadvantaged young people, offering them opportunities for civic engagement and voluntary work, and the chance to acquire new skills that will help them enter the labour market.” “Professionalization”, therefore, is one of the cornerstones of the reform. The fact that a social experience develops a range of competencies and soft skills that will later become useful in the world of work is confirmed by the recent data published by the Franco Angeli publishing house in the book “Giovani verso l'occupazione. Valutazione d'impatto del Servizio civiliane nella cooperazione sociale” (Young people towards employment. Assessment of the influence of Civilian Service on social cooperation), written by Liliana Leone and Vincenzo De Bernardo.
According to the survey, the rate of employment one year after completing civilian service is 12% higher than that relating to young people who have not taken this route; a percentage that rises to 15% after three years. Moreover, long-term unemployment among those who have not engaged in civilian service is above 23%. Finally, on an equal employment basis, 6.5% more young people who have completed their civilian service are satisfied with their salary compared to those who have not. According to the authors, this is made possible by the enhancement of the human capital of volunteers, regarded as “the stock of knowledge and abilities embodied in the ability to perform labour”, and by the development of their social capital, i.e. the set of “shared rules, trust-based relationships and values that govern relations between individuals and groups”.
“Civilian service should not be regarded as a direct or indirect labour market policy”, states co-author Vincenzo De Bernardo, head of the Civilian Service for Confcooperative. “However, right from the volunteer selection stage, it is clear that applicants wish to both engage in a solidarity experience and to improve their prospects in the labour market.”
As regards employment, the main result worthy of note is that half of the respondents has worked continuously since the end of their civilian service, while only 23% has never worked. As expected, the greatest job opportunities after completing civilian service come from the non-profit sector (59.4%), but a substantial number of young people also find work in the for-profit sector.
According to the survey, the rate of employment one year after completing civilian service is 12% higher than that relating to young people who have not taken this route.
In general, employment is found soon after completing the civilian service experience, with half the young people interviewed finding work within three months. The rate of employment one year on, instead, is 12% lower for young people who have not engaged in civilian service. These differences are magnified in time: employment in the control group is 14%-15% lower after 3-5 years.
Another important advantage for former volunteers is the opportunity to be ensured a less haphazard and more continuous career path. Moreover, 6.5% more young people who have completed their civilian service are satisfied with their salary compared to those who have not.
Annual income is fairly similar in the two groups, but those who have not opted for civilian service generally face greater work unpredictability and more frequent and longer periods of unemployment: in the control group, long-term unemployment is much higher (+23%), and almost four times as many people have registered with a job centre.