Napolitano invokes Constitution in war on unemployment

'Dramatic' youth joblessness

Napolitano invokes Constitution in war on unemployment

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, May 30 - President Giorgio Napolitano invoked the Italian Constitution on Thursday in an appeal for the nation's political parties, trade unions and businesses to combat the huge problem of unemployment in recession-hit Italy. Close to three million Italians are unemployed and almost as many again are off the job market even though they are willing to work, in many cases because they have given up hope of finding paid employment. On Wednesday the OECD forecast that unemployment in Italy would rise from 10.6% in 2012 to 11.9% this year and 12.5% in 2014. "We must have a republic that measures up to Article One of the Constitution," Napolitano said, calling on all the social and political groups to join forces in this. Article One of the Constitution states that Italy is a republic "founded on labour". Unemployment is especially serious among young Italians, as it hits almost four out of 10 15-to-25-year-olds on the job market. National statistics agency Istat said last week that 2.25 million 15-to-29-year-olds were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2012, 23.9% of the total. "This isn't just an Italian problem," said Napolitano. "The technologies and terms of employment have changed and it was realised very late that unemployment among young people is spreading in the West and in emerging countries. "In Italy we are feeling this acutely and dramatically". But Napolitano also stressed the country's youth needed to focus on meritocracy when looking for a job, not nepotism or favoritism. "There are many young people who still count on favoritism to get a job. However, jobs obtained by personal recommendations don't even scratch the surface of the problem of youth unemployment," he said "Even if this is a serious problem, the truth is that with or without favoritism, millions and millions of young people are out of work," Napolitano said. Italy's youth, already being called 'a lost generation', risk going "psychologically adrift," he added in urging "special attention" for them. "Above all, regional, local and government institutions need to focus attention on the condition of youth...who feel they have no prospects (for the future)," Napolitano said. Just after the president spoke, a young man who recently lost his job threw himself off a balcony in the town of Arce south of Rome in the latest in a spate of recession-linked incidents. The 26-year-old, a recent university graduate, was helicoptered to a Rome hospital with serious spinal injuries. Italy has seen a series of suicides apparently linked to economic difficulties in the last year but most have been older people, not in their 20s or 30s. A fertiliser-factory owner killed himself near Pisa last month while a man afraid of losing his job in an eyewear factory near Belluno and a carpenter whose business was in trouble in central Sardinia also took their own lives. Also last month, three people - a married couple and the woman's brother - committed suicide in Marche, gaining front-page headlines and adding to a toll whose exact impact has not been measured. Businesses are closing at an unprecedented rate, employers' associations report, while unemployment is at a record high in Italy's worst recession for 20 years.

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