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Italian labour minister defends youth employment remarks

Fornero calls interpretations 'exactly the opposite' of meaning

Italian labour minister defends youth employment remarks

Rome, October 23 - Italian Labour Minister Elsa Fornero on Tuesday lashed out against criticism of her comments on youth employment that sparked furor and headlines. "The statements attributed to me about squeamish young people" are "exactly the opposite of what I said", Fornero wrote in a letter published in Italian daily Il Corriere Della Sera on Tuesday. Fornero invited readers to examine the current government's track record on seeking generational equity and trying to build opportunity for young people - including the underprivileged - through reform. On Monday, Fornero advised students "not to be overly choosey" when looking for work in the current economic environment, because "one can not expect to find the ideal position". Fornero, who was addressing a conference at the Assolombardo business association in Milan on Monday, also added, "Young Italians today are willing to take any job...so much so that they are in marginal (working) conditions". Leaders of all stripes - politicians, union leaders, business lobbyists, and even a fellow minister - leapt on Fornero's comments to promote their own messages on Tuesday. "She was certainly misunderstood," said Industry Minister Corrado Passera. She was simply trying to "convince them that one can...create one's own business and do it without (guardian) saints in heaven," Passera added. Passera's mission is, among other duties, to promote entrepreneurship. "The problem is not about being choosey or not, but to give dignity to manual labour, and especially help students to make choices that take the needs of the labor market into account as well as their own inclinations," said Claudio Gentili, education director for Italy's influential industrial association Confindustria. "Young people choosey? I rather see lots of young people increasingly excluded from the labor market," said Susanna Camusso, secretary-general of the left-wing union CGIL.

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