“In the last few months I have been touring Italy meeting many companies. I was recently in Bergamo at an automotive company. And while I was speaking to the head of staff about employability, he interrupted me to tell me that it had been twenty years since he too had addressed these issues, in particular the prominence of individuals and continuous training that makes skills more performing and corresponding to the demand.”
This is how Andrea Malacrida, Country Manager of The Adecco Group introduced the topic of employability at the Linkiesta Festival during the panel entitled “Feed your work”. One of the agency's core business is also one of the most talked about issues when it comes to work. “Compared to twenty years ago, the reaction and expectation times have completely changed. Today the need to update their skills is vital for those who want to stay in the labor world. That's why the concept of employability is necessarily at the heart of our vision: we appeal to all age groups, from young people to the over-50s who ask us how to retrain,” Malacrida continues. He adds: “The digital revolution is impacting languages, systems, vocabulary and work organization. As a group we have always been an object of expectation about employment, but our concern is to raise awareness with these people and our stakeholders that the focus cannot be only employment, but above all the interpretation of the evolution of employment. What it means to create awareness and think of employability.”
The need to update their skills today is vital for those who want to stay in the world of work.
A position that contrasts against the daily news and public debate that focuses exclusively on general data, without a strategy and without a vision. “Politics celebrate and values the Istat’s (Italian National Institute of Statistics) quarterly surveys reporting on few decimals more or less of employment", Luigi Sbarra, Deputy Secretary General of Cisl, one of the largest Italian unions, accuses. “The real assessment is that in the years of the crisis we lost an impressive number of jobs. We're recovering slowly. The analysis shows that we have more people working but fewer hours worked. There's 600 million missing. It means that work is getting poorer.”
For the Secretary “globalization and technological progress are accelerating the change of the labor world that we call the fourth industrial revolution, which puts us in front of this need to update our views. As a trade union, through our instruments of representation, we must provide trade union relations, bargaining, the bilateral system: we must put ourselves in this strong and tumultuous change. To quote a powerful message from Pope Francis, “you must have the ability to stay within change while balancing digitalization and technology with a new humanism”.
But what does it mean to put the person back in the center? According to Sbarra “the real big challenge is to work on the quality and stability of the employment. To do this you need to make a big investment in terms of skills, human capital. Training is the tool to give stability and quality of work. The real art. 18 (an article of the Italian constitution that protects worker’s rights), 50 years after the creation of the statute of workers, is called training. Without improving the skills and professionalism of those who work, we will not be able to help tens of thousands of people to find jobs. Let us learn from Germany, which is doing this. In Italy, on the other hand, people want to sort everything by law. It's not like that. We have lived it with the Jobs Act and we are living it with the effects of the Dignity Decree. On the issues of labour regulation, the law can be made more fluid but it does not help when there is no public and private investment and training. We are seeing a vacuum: there’s no talk about active labor policies, no talk about training and no talk about helping people in the transition and job-seeking phases.”
While the national policy is lagging behind, the European Union expects answers. “The idea of creating a European unemployment instrument is to respond to this fragmented world of labor. It's a tool that is yet to be created, but the idea is taking shape. It is a proposal from the European Commissioner who has instructed the Italian Paolo Gentiloni to imagine it”, the MEP of the Democratic Party, Irene Tinagli underlines, though clarifying: “It will not be a European subsidiary and will not be used to deal with structural unemployment. But it will be a tool designed for very strong moments of employment shock.”
What will this new lever look like? According to Tinagli, “the idea is to create an economic policy instrument with an anti-cyclical function. These are the stakes within which it will move. It may have a form of loaning to countries in trouble. But I guess there will be conditions. Such as the obligation to have active training policies. Of course, it will be up to the Member States to figure out how to use this possibility.”
But national policies are a sore topic. “One year after the Dignity Decree came into force, after the transitional period and with the introduction of the citizenship income, the number of hours worked has increased, bureaucracy has increased and we have gone in the opposite direction to the trend of the real economy”, Malacrida attacks without holding back, “In concrete terms this legislation does not create real changes in the world of work. And what were the undesirable effects of these choices have come true. Today, what was supposed to be the reduction of insecurity, and the objective of the Government, has become worse. The situation is becoming paradoxical.”
A rejection that also finds the Cisl’s support. For Sbarra “regarding the citizenship income we have always had our position made available for dialogue, which has not happened. In a civilized country, it is right and normal to have a measure to combat poverty, exclusion and marginalization. And we had the inclusion income. We imagined a widening of the REI (a form of prepaid credit card for needy families). The experience of the Citizenship Income, as we see, gives some results on this front, that is, that of poverty. But it does not work at all on active labour policies because, as we pointed out, it is wrong: before you redistribute labour you have to create it. Especially in the South, there is no job to redistribute because the work simply isn't there. The CIs message about work is devastating: a charitable and merciful measure, that reeks of financial assistance. That is, the exact opposite of what a young southerner is looking for. It is a propaganda operation, demagogic and fruitless. We will wait another year, but we will have to sadly and bitterly record that we have committed resources that could be used to make a big investment in school, internships, infrastructure, training. In short, we could have supported a great recovery plan, particularly in the south.”
The conclusion? Sbarra condenses it into a single word: "The future of work is on a single path. Training.” Or in other words, employability.