Forecasts, analyses, outlooks and proposals to reform the labour market. There was talk of the crisis caused by the pandemic but also of reconstruction and recovery during the “Recovery Italia” panel discussion at Linkiesta Festival. Taking part were Deputy Economy Minister Antonio Misani, the Chair of the EU Economic and Monetary Affairs committee Irene Tinagli, the Adecco Group Italy’s CEO Andrea Malacrida, and the Secretary General of Confartigianato Cesare Fumagalli, with journalist Lidia Baratta as moderator.
Faced with the second wave of infections, the Italian government – as Misani explained – has introduced further measures to support the economy, adaptable to the regional restrictions in place. Despite an unexpected leap in the economy in the third quarter, the fourth quarter is still forecast to register negative figures. But subsidies alone will not be enough. There should also be a focus on the future and on relaunching the economy. Progress is, therefore, needed on the Italian Recovery Plan, which will benefit from the 209 billion euro on the way from the Next Generation EU instrument.
As Irene Tinagli explained, the EU funds will not be released before summer 2021. What can be done in the meantime? What actions can be taken to get businesses and workers going again?
“We need to implement the paradigm shift from finding a job to working on our respective skills to improve our employability,” replies Andrea Malacrida. “Covid 19 has made it obvious to everyone that we urgently need to work on our skills to ensure they meet the needs of the market.” This aspect, Malacrida admits, was barely touched on in the measures introduced by the government: “Cassa integrazione (Italy’s furlough scheme) and wage subsidies have surely had an effect, but they need to be supplemented with compulsory training schemes to adapt skills to the new jobs and to the new requirements of the market. This pandemic has made us realise that the needs of the market can change rapidly, and jobs can change just as rapidly. So, we need to be ready for change.”
This pandemic has made us realise that the needs of the market can change rapidly, and jobs can change just as rapidly. So, we need to be ready for change.
In Malacrida’s opinion, this is a necessary change also as far as labour market legislation is concerned. This is particularly true for the requirement to state the specific reasons for fixed-term contracts after 12 months as required by the decreto dignità. “The inconsistency in these regulations accelerated the loss of jobs during the first wave of the pandemic,” he explained. “In four months, 500,000 jobs were lost.”
In its budget the government has now extended the exemption from this requirement until March 31, 2021. But “the decreto dignità needs to be modified,” Malacrida points out. Deputy Minister Misani agreed, proposing to include this requirement in collective bargaining. “If anyone thought two years ago that the decreto dignità would curtail any misuse of limited-term employment contracts, sadly the result today is that job insecurity has increased and worsened. Let’s commit to changing it,” Adecco’s CEO explained.
As part of the 2021 budget, the freeze on layoffs has also been extended until March 31 next year. But then what happens? “The typical Italian entrepreneur does not want to make people redundant after March 31,” Malacrida replies. “In the third quarter, there were strong signs of recovery and companies want to get their operations up and running again. But those whose responsibility it is to create solutions in support of businesses need to listen to those of us on the ground every day.” On the contrary, Malacrida says, “the Labour Ministry has never listened to what we have to say.”
In the meantime, most of Italy’s manufacturing companies are trying to survive. It’s the smaller companies that are suffering, as Confartigianato (the association created to serve artisans and small businesses) confirms, and they make up the majority of businesses in Italy. At the same time, there are sectors that have literally been booming in the new economy of the pandemic. “We are witnessing a decrease in Italy’s traditional manufacturing-mechanical sector” Malacrida explains, “and at the same time a boom in sectors like care, healthcare, sanitisation and medical, with logistics and delivery services experiencing amazing growth.”
Faced with a labour market that has completely changed over the last few months, we need to take action “by retraining workers and providing them with the skills for the new jobs that are, and will be, in greater demand,” Malacrida stresses. “This means we need to focus on employability.”