ROME — While much of the world slowly recovers from the 2008 global recession, Italy continues to struggle with its recovery, stuck in its longest recession since World War II. The unemployment rate in Italy reached 13.2 percent in October 2014, compared to 12.9 percent in September. This is the highest since Istat, the national statistics office based in Rome, began the quarterly series in 1977.
Furthermore, the youth unemployment rate, counting job-seekers between 15 to 24 years old, was revised to 43.4 percent in October from 42.7 percent from the previous month. This percentage falls just short of the 43.5 percent record from June. The youth unemployment rate has doubled since 2008.
The obstinance of the high unemployment rate in the country reveals complex problems that have still not been resolved as the country heads toward its third successive year of economic recession.
The unemployment news coincides with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s key parliamentary victory for his Jobs Act, which is intended to add flexibility to the labor market and incentivize job creation for employers. Moreover, the Jobs Act should reduce the gap between overprotected workers with open-ended contracts and younger workers with no job security by allowing firms to more easily dismiss employees.
However, even if the bill is adopted within the next few weeks, as the government intends, it is not expected to change anything in the short term, leaving the joblessness untouched. In addition, frustrations over the bill and the weak economic condition have raised racial tensions against migrants and refugees in particular.
These angers emerged as protests against migrants took place all over the country in mid-November. Rome felt the discontent especially hard when protesters threw eggs and firecrackers at the economic ministry and one group climbed the Colosseum to show their objection to Renzi’s labor reforms.
The outskirts of Rome have had the highest levels of tension, where local residents attacked a refugee center, creating a scene of violence and intimidation by throwing stones and other objects, smashing windows, burning dumpsters and combating riot police for several days.
The country was thrown into further turmoil as widespread strikes in the transportation industry disrupted buses, trams, trains and even flights at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Over the last 12 months, approximately 150,000 migrants have entered Italy, many rescued by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard. The humanitarian operation was controversially shut down on November 1.
Many Italians fault the persistent economic slump with the influx of migrants and refugees, which is reflected with the surge in support for the anti-immigration Northern League Party.
The path to recovery for the country is still far away, and as the slump remains persistent, it alludes to deeper economic issues that have yet to be resolved. Until those issues are resolved, many in Italy will continue to suffer in poverty.
– William Ying
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, The Telegraph, NASDAQ, The Borgen Project 1, The Borgen Project 2