The joint Labour and Social Affairs Committees met on 15 March in the Sala della Regina of the Chamber of Deputies to hear the Minister of Labour and Social Policies, Andrea Orlando, speak on the policy lines of his ministry, also in relation to the contents of the proposed National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Here are the most significant excerpts of his speech by topics.
- The impact of the ecological and digital transition on labour. Ecological and digital transition. Both are bound to change the workplace in the short and long terms. Both call for a change in public policy, social actors, companies and workers. The fact that sustainability has become a central theme does not mean that it is destined to take hold, nor does it mean that the transitions I mentioned will be fair, inclusive and democratic. For this reason, I think, the role of labour and its involvement in the choices of the future will be decisive. The digital transition will also profoundly reshape our society and already has an impact on labour supply and demand. Political action is needed to ensure that this change will not yield new oligarchies and inequalities, but rather steers technology towards social democracy and advocacy of basic workers' rights. Next Generation EU is a tool that can respond to the need to govern the transformation of the economy and work and will be defined within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
- Straightforward and universal social shock absorbers. "While GDP is expected to fall by just under 9% in 2020, the employment rate fell by less than one point in December compared to the previous year. Despite such a traumatic year, the labour market has held up remarkably well thanks to extraordinary measures: the negative balance in the difference between new hires and dismissals amounted to 42,000 jobs at the end of the year; a figure that is not negligible but which has a reduced impact when compared with the substantial reduction in GDP. Unfortunately, the state of emergency continues and this does not allow us to abandon the use of exceptional instruments. However, the protracted nature of the crisis makes it possible, on the one hand, to better calibrate interventions by matching different instruments to different situations, depending on the impact that the pandemic has had on production structures, yet, on the other, it calls for a system reform capable of meeting the challenges I have mentioned. In this light, the first issue to be addressed is a reform of social safety nets, aiming at universalisation and the simplification of measures. I opened a dialogue with the social partners for this very purpose when I took office. The first step entails simplifying the disbursement procedures, also by tapping into the possibilities of new technologies, for quicker access to support when employers are unable to pay in advance. A number of regulatory interventions and innovations in administrative practices are already well advanced in these areas. In any case, in relation to ongoing efforts to extend protection, it seems necessary that there be adequate coverage to temporarily overcome crisis situations without the risk of job loss, regardless of the sector of operation or size of the company. Particular attention must be paid to the 'new' jobs, such as platform-related jobs, whose protections are still unacceptably inadequate and deserve to be strengthened, along with the more vulnerable self-employed workers and professionals. With respect to the issue of platform-related work, I intend to convene the Permanent Observatory next week, as provided for by Law 81/15 yet still not activated, and I have therefore asked the associations that are expected to be part of it to designate their representatives. On the subject of employment protection through digital platforms, I believe it is important to also consider the experiences emerging in other EU countries and at the Union level itself.
Active policies are to be understood in a broad sense. It is time to make change effective, innovating tools, improving interventions, strengthening the territorial dimension and supporting situations of greatest difficulty
- A national programme for reforming active policies. The reform of social safety nets must be closely linked to a comprehensive reform of active labour policy instruments. I therefore intend to engage in talks with the social partners and regional authorities later this month. Recent instruments did not always bear fruit over the years, and the substantial resources made available to job centres—especially in terms of staff expansion and retraining—have not yet been fully implemented. It is therefore time to make the change effective, by innovating instruments, improving interventions, strengthening the territorial dimension and supporting the most difficult situations. In this scenario, active labour policies should be understood in their broadest sense. Vocational training policies therefore play a crucial role, since they are essential for anticipating rather than being exposed to change. Measures should be put in place to anticipate the dynamics of the labour market and refocus training opportunities on the basis of needs, paying close attention to the different starting points. We need to act, for example, on basic skills for workers who are most distant from the labour market, and offer more advanced training to the most qualified workers who may be in a transition situation in the coming months and may therefore need support in finding new jobs. This is precisely why I intend to introduce a National Reform Programme for active policies and training, starting with the draft Plan currently before Parliament.
- Customised job centres. In this regard, it is crucial to fully implement the extraordinary plan to strengthen employment centres, which has already been financed by the decree-law establishing the Citizenship Income: We need to quicken the pace in this area and be more ambitious. We should seek to set proximity standards and improve integration with the network of local services, primarily social and health services for beneficiaries with complex needs. Specific training should also be provided for operators, creating a national network of regional labour market observatories and completing the interoperability of information systems with the national system. In this regard, personalised interventions must stand at the heart of job centre engagements to improve employment opportunities, creating a public-private partnership model. The new worker employability guarantee programme is already being considered in the budget law, and is also to be implemented through a reform of the outplacement allowance. In this respect, I have already started discussions with the competent regional councillors to start defining the instrument in detail and to build a governance of the measure.
We must avert by all means the risk of a "lost generation". Precisely because of the urgency of addressing this issue, I set up a special working group to identify targeted policies and interventions
- Integrated training. The challenges facing training policies lie in fully integrating them into active policies and also in strengthening them so that the right to ongoing training also applies to employed workers. In order to complete the reform of active policies, I consider it appropriate to adopt a national strategy that networks the different institutional actors responsible for training and aims to support the realignment of skills to maintain jobs, employment transitions and support the outplacement of the unemployed. The Italian way of governing training systems will have to be revised through agreements at the different levels of government and between the various competent state administrations, to guarantee access to adequate and quality training throughout the country, and to define uniform standards, strengthening the system of skills certification and building a territorial network of education, training, employment and social inclusion services. The role of training providers at all levels, including the education and training at work sectors, must therefore be assessed, and we must succeed in making them operate in line with the professional needs emerging in the various territorial contexts. Under the European Skills Agenda of July 2020, we can develop public-private partnerships, promoting a network of institutions, companies and operators in the education, training and labour sectors that will work harmoniously to close the skills gap in order to meet the actual employment needs of companies. A central role should be given to youth employment through an appropriate dual system. Education and training systems should therefore be rendered to serve the labour market. Education and training pathways need to be modernised and qualified, thus fostering the entry of young people into the labour market through the enhancement, consolidation and dissemination of work-based learning, intensifying the dialogue with businesses and production systems. Training must also target workers who are currently employed, not only to make the right to continued training effective, but also to maintain employment levels in the phase of major transformation I have just described. Consider how absolutely essential this statement is for the success and prominence of workers in digital and ecological transitions. This is precisely why we need to reinforce the contemplated measures with the establishment of the New Skills Fund, thus transcending its experimental character.
- Young people & women The crisis is concentrated in certain areas of the country and in certain sectors: tourism first and foremost, particularly hotels, restaurants and travel agencies; yet not only there. There are significant weaknesses in leisure and personal services, retail trade (non-food) and textiles. And despite considerable diversity, young people and women are generally penalised the most. This is the effect of the sectoral composition of the crisis, given that those most affected are areas where women and young people are more prevalent. The penalisation suffered during the pandemic, especially by temporary workers, who are also more often women and young people, also took its toll. The 15–34 age group, in particular, while accounting for only a quarter of salaried employment in the non-agricultural private sector, contributed more than half of the job losses. We must avoid by all means the risk of a 'lost generation'. In response to the urgency of this issue, I formed a special working group to identify targeted policies and interventions to support women's employment and in particular to close the Gender Pay Gap. I intend to use this preparatory work to foster a debate and then an agreement between all the ministries that can contribute across the board to a project aimed at systematising active interventions and policies promoting female employment.