Young Italians: what future?


Young Italians: what future?Can we talk of “Big babies”, mummy’s boys and immature youngsters or of victims of the crisis, immobilized by the future’s uncertainty? Manipulated by media and by politicians, young Italians can hardly fail to make their voice heard attempting to free themselves from distorted and stereotypical representations that often affect them.

However, beyond these usual clichés, what does it mean to be young in Italy?
For Marco, 30 years old from the province of Lecce, being young means “to elbow one’s way more and more each day to get back the right to decide of your own future against those who are close to senility but still persist on doing instead of you.” For Gianfranco, 29 years old, temporary teacher in Rome, it means, “making ends meet, contenting, reinventing and disillusioning oneself”. Emanuele, 28 years old is a mason in Lucca. He is married and has a girl. For him, being young means, “being mature, taking your responsibilities and working to support the family, hoping for better days”.

With an estimated annual average growth of 0.17% for the next five years and a birth rate close to zero, the Italian population is among the oldest of the world. In this country, where the average age exceeds forty, one is considered "young" up to 35 years. "They do it in order to fail recognizing our rights and dignity. Being young is too often synonymous with precarious," says Albert, 30, lawyer in Pescara. “I work for the right for labour – he continues – and I can say that in this Country, we lack the dignity of work which then becomes trivial and means ‘I work, therefore I get paid’. Very often, this simple equivalence is not valid”. Laura’s experience, a 28-year-old Sicilian, confirms it: “I worked as a freelance for a few months with a small publishing house in Milan. I worked from home, translating a book. Without any security and obviously, they still have to pay me.

Young generations are the first victims of the economic recession that struck Italy during the past ten years. The measures implemented by the government in order to increase market flexibility have indeed helped to create two million new (precarious) jobs. Nonetheless, they have also made the world of work increasingly inaccessible and frustrating especially for new recruits.

In Italy, there are currently more than 40 different types of contracts. Almost all of them offer weak or no social security and welfare for the so-called “atypical” estimated to over 200 thousand in 2009. Despite their high level of education, young people seldom exceed the limbo of the temporary contract and in most cases, they are obliged to accept low-paid jobs with no security.

Marco, musicologist, has been working as a part-time secretary for a sales agent in Lecce for the past few months. “Sure, it’s an important step to come out of unemployment with a full time job but I am not satisfied with this job: it doesn’t fulfil me.” He then adds: “Now, the adjective precarious not only refers to work but also to the entire person itself. During the past decades, the formula ‘more studies more opportunities to start a satisfying career’ was valid’. Today, this is not valid at all. It is proven by the dominant incompetence in the political and administrative environments.”

Young Italians: what future?
The data disseminated by the State in October 2009 reveal that 26,9% of the under 25 have been unemployed for at least 3 months making Italy join the countries having the highest unemployment rates in Europe. Nonetheless, the issue of unemployment concerns especially the southern regions . “After finishing school, I didn’t find any problems to work. In Bolzano, unemployment doesn’t exist if you are motivated to work” – relates Giada, 30 years old, accountant in an office. “I’m satisfied with my position – she adds – Here in the North the link between education and career is still real especially if you know German quite well”.

The number of graduate students or university researchers that go abroad each year is constantly increasing and 50% of them have no intention to come back. Those who choose to stay are often devoured by the cycle of “continuing education” lavishing on expensive master and postgraduate courses, the faint hope of finding a decent employment.

Elizabeth, 26 years old, coming from the Abruzzi, moved to Madrid after graduation. Since 2007, she works there as a project manager with a permanent contract. “I have decided to leave Italy after University because I think that in this country there is no future for youth”, she explains. “I believe that my generation is unable to conceive long term projects given the insecurity of life we are used to. In the current labour market, young people are the category detaining the least rights possible: without a stable contract and with a salary that obliges several among them to live with their parents or to share an apartment with other persons up to the age of 30 or more”.

Dissatisfaction increases and sometimes turns into anger, frustration, feelings of injustice and profound disillusionment in institutions and in politics. Elizabeth hasn’t voted for the past three years: “I feel that none of the coalitions represent me politically. I believe that the Italian political system is corrupted and governed by the mafia. All the parties are accomplices and guilty of the current situation”. Alberto defines himself as a ‘Marxist’: “I just couldn’t vote during the last elections: my party was the only one who was obliged to collect signatures…and they call it democracy!” Sarah has an Italian nationality but she resides in Belgium. “I didn’t vote during the last elections, but I think that I would have reluctantly followed, the strategy of the ‘least bad’ – quite in vogue these past few years”. Then she adds: “Anyway, I wouldn’t have voted Berlusconi. With regards to the future of this country, my hope is that people would open their eyes wide to the current political class that tends to take only its own interests into consideration. I also hope that more convincing opportunities will come on the opposing side. Let’s wait and see”.

Diego, 21 years old, from Bolzano voted right but he’s not satisfied by his choice. With regards to the recent cases of racism, he doesn’t know what to say, “As I don’t want to be considered as an extremist”. He adds: “However, I think that immigrants have contributed to the deterioration of the social situation in Italy”. Davide, 27 years old, thinks differently. “Italy is not ready yet to face this phenomenon, like Italy or Germany. For historical reasons more than social ones. It’s not that we are more racist than others…but we have no memory of what we have been ourselves”. Elisabetta sustains that the recent wave of racism “is due to a general barbarism of Italian mores. But also due to the hate that certain political factions instigate towards immigrants accusing them of all the country’s difficulties.” Sarah prefers to remember the difficulties the Italian emigrants had to face barely fifty years ago: “they weren’t always welcome among the hosting countries where they were confronted with linguistic and social problems, similar to the ones that devastate the immigrants which arrive in our country. I think that this should make us reflect on this issue.” Chiara is 26 years old and lives in Pescara: “Migration fluxes have always existed” – she says – “the countries of departure and destination change but not the substance. People’s mobility is a resource that is not only economical. The cases of racism in Italy make me feel like emigrating”. And Federico adds provocatively: “Immigrants: don’t leave us alone with Italians!”


Federica Araco
Translated by Elizabeth Grech
March 2010


Recommended Films in Italian:
“L’Italia del nostro scontento”di Muci, Fuksas, Le Moli (2009);
“Generazione 1000 euro”, di Massimo Venier (2009);
“Tutta la vita davanti” di Paolo Virzì (2008).



  1. The Economist: Pocket World in Figures, 2010 Edition
  2. Fonte: Svimez Report July 2009
  3. Unique case in Europe, Italy still appears to be divided in two with a very important internal geographical and social mobility. If the Centre-North continues to attract intense migratory fluxes, the South is increasingly depopulating losing its most promising youngsters. The last Svimez Report revealed that during the past ten years, approximately 700 thousand persons have abandoned the Southern regions to move to the North of the country.


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