Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Italians Are Increasingly Suicidal because of Crisis

The New York Times ran an article last week highlighting something that Italians have been freaking out about for a while: suicides. As the economic crisis takes its full toll, small business owners are deciding that they can't take it. The article mentions the heart-breaking story of Giovanni Schiavon, a business owner who couldn't bear the thought of laying off workers at Christmas time, and so shot himself instead.

As most of us know, this is just the tip of the iceberg of Italian economic problems. In particular, unemployment is out of control. University graduates are not finding work and are increasingly forced to work as tirocinanti (interns) for no pay for a period of 3-6 months, with the possibility of a full-time contract that seldom arrives. Instead, companies will just rotate through interns, since they know there are so many unemployed young people, hiring new free labor every 6 months or so. And I'm not just talking about the big companies here; even shops do this sort of thing -- an internship to sell clothes? Yes. In fact, that's the norm.

So, what's a young Italian to do? There are really two choices: stay or go. Even though Italians generally hate leaving the motherland (they just can't cook like home anywhere else!), many of the most educated, ambitious men and women are doing just that and finding opportunities abroad. This, of course, contributes to a huge brain-drain that sucks out the larger mart of the most intelligent young graduates. Second, they can stay. This means living with la mamma, either simply not working, or working a job that is either unpaid or paid very little (Italian shop assistants usually make 5 euros an hour).

Italy has only just begun to confront its economic problems. Any actual improvement would require a systematic restructuring of the way the economy is run, which by all accounts seems quite a long way off.

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