Nonna's Tired Of Feeding The Kids


Would you swap a stable job for multiple uncertain employment contracts? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider migrating to Italy.

In a recent interview, Italy’s PM Mario Monti discussed his planned Italian job market reforms. These will make much it easier for companies to reduce their staff.

The aim, he said, is to balance out the costly privileges of many Italian babyboomers who hold ongoing positions with good union protection. How? With total job instability for their children.

He didn’t mean to upset anybody when he tried to play down the country’s youth unemployment problem. He just said that having a job "for life" may be in the end terribly boring. He argued that young Italians should embrace the challenges posed by flexible employment.

He encouraged people to imagine the endless possibilities offered by a job market shattered by the economic crisis and dominated by interns, freelancers, casual workers — and people with connections.

Just imagine! An economy where six out of 10 companies prefer to rely on their acquaintances when hiring new staff and where the unemployment rate for people aged 24 or under is 31 per cent. Imagine how fighting for a new gig every six months would help keep your life interesting!

Even Monti wasn’t convinced in the end and later apologised. The PM was correct in some ways. Employment flexibility may provide young people with the opportunity to engage in diverse vocational roles, which could then lead to a more exciting professional life.

But in Italy’s stagnant economy, flexibility is also highly risky. It can mean social instability, longer working days and wages that even an Aussie teenager would scoff at.

When I went to Italy last December, I took the opportunity to investigate how the financial crisis was affecting common households.

I didn’t have to look far as friends and relatives flocked to my parents’ house to stare at the stranger that I had become (and at my Australian housemate who played a long tubular piece of wood).

I was regaled with stories of unemployed graduate kids and of adult redundancies. Many professionals aged over 50 are being made redundant, including my own father, who has worked as a sales executive for the past 25 years. At 56, he can’t work and he can’t retire. The new financial reforms have increased the minimum retirement age to 67. Who will hire him?

Or take my friend Arianna, 30, who graduated from Milan’s Academy of Art with a masters degree in art history and photography. For years after graduating she worked as a shop assistant on an $8 hourly wage so she could undertake unpaid internships in her field.

Her boyfriend Luca, with a masters degree in economics and finance, was offered an entry-level contract paid in train tickets and lunch vouchers. He refused and later found better temporary employment paid with real money, not Monopoly dollars.

Marketing consultant Camilla has seen her contract renewed three times by the same company, for periods no longer then six months.

And so the stories continued, among many plates of polenta and stewed beef. The few glasses of Gutturnio, a sparkling red wine from Emilia Romagna, didn’t blur my vision of two anxious generations.

As the debt crisis deepens, both parents and kids are worrying about a difficult economic future in Italy. It doesn’t look like it will be much different from the present — and aging parents are already sick of having to support grown-up kids.

If you thought that Italian extended families dine under olive trees in gardens, savouring life and waiting for nonna to come and feed them with a magnificent plate of spaghetti, forget about it. There is no olive tree. Nobody can afford the grove in Italy right now, nor can they afford to sit around.

As for nonna, she has just become a bitter full-time carer forced to babysit, wash, iron, cook and even pay for her grandchildren’s petrol so they can drive to an unpaid job.

She is most certainly tired of her "job for life".

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.