Rome

Census figures show Italy's north-south gap widening

Greek wages higher than southern Italian average

Census figures show Italy's north-south gap widening

(By Gordon Sorlini)Rome, March 19 - The gap between Italy's richer north and poorer south is increasing with the latter particularly battered by the global economic crisis and skyrocketing youth unemployment, figures from Italy's latest national census show. According to the figures, published Tuesday by social and economic thinktank Censis, both gross domestic product and unemployment have taken a harder hit in Italy's south with respect to the north - GDP dropped by 5.7% in the north between 2007-2012, compared with a 10% collapse in the south. Of the 505,000 jobs lost in Italy since the beginning of the crisis, some 60% are in Italy's southern regions, called the "Mezzogiorno", and salaries have dropped to below the average in Greece, or around 18,000 euros per year. Of all the countries of the eurozone, according to the figures, Italy is the country with the greatest inequality on a territorial level with certain social categories - like the young and women - particularly hard-hit in the country's southern regions. Young people aged 15-29 who do not study at university, do not work and are not in school - so-called NEETs - are much more present in the southern regions than in the rest of Italy. According to Censis, some 32% of youth in Italy's Mezzogiorno qualify as NEETs, compared with 22.7% for the national average. The situation is so bad in Campania and Sicily, where NEETs as a proportion of the overall population reach 35.2% and 35.7%, respectively, that Censis warns of a "social emergency". A situation that would appear to contradict expenditure on education: the south spends much more on education than the rest of the country: 6.7% of GDP, or 1,170 euros per student, compared with 3.1% of GDP, or 937 euros per student, in Italy's center-north. However, some 21.2% of school-age youths abandon school in the south, compared with 16% in the center-north and the learning levels are considered "decidedly worse" in the south, according to the Censis. Flows of students seeking better educational opportunities are also imbalanced, Censis figures show, with some 23.7% of university students in the south transferring to universities in the center-north, compared with only 2% of center-north students transferring to south-based institutions.

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