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The Italian Job (Part 2)

Stress, Job condition, unemployment, Michela MurgiaLast month, I have started my analysis of the job conditions in Italy by making reference to the Il mondo deve sapere (literally: The world must know), written by Michela Murgia, and published by Isbn Edizioni in 2006, which refers to the call centre of a multinational company, selling a domestic appliance. It is now time to move from the local context of that office to the general job conditions of a relevant part of the middle class employees in Italy.

Well, at a first glance, the differences with the office where Michela Murgia used to work, unfortunately seem to be rather limited. As a matter of fact, nowadays it is very difficult for a person to find a stable job in Italy. And such a difficulty is particularly pronounced for young jobless people with college or university education.

When looking for new people to be hired, the employers in Italy can choose, among several different typologies of temporary (fixed term) contracts, the most appropriate one in order to save money, and/or to reduce the guarantees and the duties towards the employees.

Consequently, in the last decade, bad practices in the management of human resources became a de facto standard. For example, hiring young people with an apprenticeship contract ensures low costs and high flexibility for the employer. When the training period is finished, the apprenticeship should be upgraded to a position with more benefits for the employee (i.e. more duties for the employer). Very often, instead, the employee is fired and replaced by a newcomer, again with apprenticeship contract. Another practice, more and more popular in Italy, consists of firing female employees during pregnancy, and hiring them again after the baby is born. Of course, with another temporary contract.

It is not my intention analysing the bad, and potentially catastrophic, impact that such a course of action has on the quality of work, on the productivity of companies, on the quality of products and services, as well as on the motivation of employees. I do not even want to identify the responsible for such a condition.

What I want to do is drawing the attention on the aspect that really concerns me, when thinking to the job conditions just described: in the last years, we got used to a progressive decadence of the Italian system of job and employment.

In the '70s and '80s a middle class person was satisfied and grateful when getting a permanent position, with a salary appropriate for covering the cost of living and saving money, as well. Nowadays, the same person is satisfied and grateful when getting one year collaboration contract, with a salary objectively insufficient to cover all the living costs till the month after.

So, what happened to us during the last decade (and more)? Is there a consistent reason if we became less and less demanding? Starting from the fundamental assumption that I do not justify at all the inappropriate and scarcely forward-looking strategies applied by our leading class in the last decade, I must admit that the social substrate has given them a helping hand.

Job conditionsMost of us passively accepted a slowing down productive system, weaker employment conditions, and a job context in which survival and mediocrity, started replacing the concepts of success and excellence. What we are responsible for as Italian citizens, is that we feed day by day the establishment of a sort of Dutch auction. A wicked game leading to negative outcomes for everyone, starting from us, and climbing up to the role of our Country within the European and worldwide context.

The art of getting used to less favourable treatment is certainly a commendable facet of the human psychology. However, common sense should be thoughtfully exploited in drawing the line. In defining the limit below which accepting worsening conditions is sensible, and beyond which it becomes self defeating.

Defining such a border, and gaining full consciousness of it, are of vital relevance. Because we, as human beings, have unmistakable limitations, in terms of material needs, of personal dignity, as well as of prospects concerned to the future. According to such human features, we will never be thankful for nothing. More importantly, we will never be satisfied and grateful if the Italian job will resemble more and more a sort of Italian blow-job.

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