The YOUTHShare project continues its focus articles regarding regional particularities, featuring the city perspective of Potenza and its surrounding region of Basilicata at the South of Italy.
The regional law 11/2000 from the Basilicata region regards the “Recognition and Promotion of the Role of the Young Generations in Regional Society”. The law further protects the rights of citizenship of young people and promotes their autonomous participation in civil society and in regional institutions. It also supports the full development of their personalities at a cultural, social and economic level. In that framework, the law provides for a plan of short-, medium- and long-terms measures that support extra-curricular traineeships, contracts of first, second and third level apprenticeships, contracts allowing for a proper and qualified training agreement, and overall respectable conditions of work and general protection of employment.
Against the provisions of the law, the reality is strikingly different. According to the national statistical authority, ISTAT, the employment rate in 2020 for the age group 15-64 in the main provinces of the region was just at 50% (Potenza 50.4%, Matera 51%) which presented only slight changes compared to 2019 (49.8% and 52.7% respectively). Among the employed manpower, however, the predominance of men is unquestionable with 63.4% for the whole Basilicata region, compared to 37.7% of women. On the other hand, the unemployment rate presents a relatively unexpected drop during 2020 at the age group 15-74 in the same region, from 10.8% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2020. In that framework, the participation of women was higher compared to men, as expected. At first sight, a lowered unemployment rate would not make much sense during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the secret lies with the inactivity rate which presents a stark rise between 2019 (42.9%) and 2020 (44.5%).
A deeper insight into age divisions would reveal that the age group 15-29 is highly and unequally affected by the overall situation. 26.7% of the same age total population was unemployed in the province of Potenza and 20.4% was the respective rate for the province of Matera. What is shocking, though, is the inactivity rate of the same age group. A total of 71.6% of that age group was recorded as inactive in the Basilicata region during 2020. Among them, 78.9% were women and 64.8% men. The change between 2020 and 2019 reached almost a 5% increase.
It is apparent that young people and women are the social categories that have paid a very high price during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being in the most precarious end of the production process, their “expendable” job positions made them the first to suffer the consequences of an acute crisis right after a long recession. After their fixed term contracts were not renewed, they were recorded as unemployed or they just gave up looking for a job.
The regional law 11/2000 now appears to be more of a wish list, rather than a plan to be implemented. Regardless of the reasons, Active Labour Market Policies like the ‘Youth Guarantee’ and ‘Universal Civil Service’ programmes have not risen to the social circumstances caused by the pandemic. They need to be improved and go beyond the focus on the initial reception of young people in the labour market by creating real and long-term job prospects. But taking care of young people also means taking care of their needs beyond employment. Housing, childcare and cultural access, are just the minimum in order to really achieve what the regional law states, namely ‘the development of their personalities at a cultural, social and economic level’.
The YOUTHShare project through the Italian branch of the Transnational Employment Centre based in Potenza, aims not just to reduce economic disparities but also to increase social integration through multidisciplinary training, soft skills provision and job placement targeted to the needs of the local young NEETs.