Italy offers grim future for children, says report

Country rates low in EU in Save the Children survey

Italy offers grim future for children, says report

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, May 20 - Italy ranks low among European Union countries when it comes to providing a bright future to its children, Save the Children reported Monday as it launched a national awareness campaign. Trailing behind Greece and Bulgaria, Italy is seventh to last in the 27-member EU according to the NGO's "poverty of future" list, which includes criteria such as offering education and work opportunities to children and adolescents. To raise awareness, Save the Children is launching a series of events and stunts in 16 cities, chiding the country for "robbing children and families of funds, a lack of resources, and the low level of education and work available". The name of the campaign is 'Allarme Infanzia' (Childhood Allarms). In Rome and Milan, cardboard cutouts of children were installed around the historic centers, with phrases such as "they robbed my fresh air", "they robbed my school lunches" and "they robbed my house". The theft "committed at the expense of our young human capital...has resulted in the lack of resources for a dignified life. That includes food, clothing, vacations, sports, books, hot meal programs and school programs," Save the Children said. Nearly 29% of Italian children under six years (approximately 950,000) live on the edge of poverty, placing the country 21st in Europe for risk of poverty and social exclusion among children aged 0-6 years. Save the Children used 12 indicators outlined by the European Commission to compare opportunities for Italian children to those of their peers in Europe. On Monday, Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini said that formulating a package by the end of June to tackle the country's high youth unemployment will be a priority for the Italian government. The goal is to reduce unemployment among the country's 15-to-24-year olds by 8%, bringing it down to 30%, the minister told the Italian daily La Repubblica in an interview. To create the package, the government will be meeting with business associations and trade unions "to listen and think through (solutions) together," Giovannini said. The minister said that the government will invest between 10 to 12 million euros, "if not more" to "maintain" the program outlined by ex-Labour Minister Elsa Fornero, defined during the previous Mario Monti administration. Among the possibilities to ease the rampant youth unemployment is a shift for older workers from full-time to part-time leading up to retirement, without penalizing the employees' previously accumulated benefits by adding State subsidies, to make room in the market for younger workers. Another "idea" is to make way for early retirement with "proportional penalties," Giovannini said. Youth employment in Italy reached 38.4% in March, 3.2% higher than the same month in 2012, according to national statistics institute Istat. Young adults who are not studying or working are draining as much as 2% off of Italy's GDP, an employment report said in October. Young people aged 15 to 29 and classified as NEETs - not in education, employment or training - are costing the Italian economy as much as 32.6 billion euros, said the report by Eurofound. NEETs - are much more present in the southern regions than in the rest of Italy, according to a report by economic think tank Censis in March. 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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