Rome

Napolitano appeals as unemployment hits record high

Urges action amid wave of suicides

Napolitano appeals as unemployment hits record high

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, May 31 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday appealed for urgent action to help the needy and unemployed as Italy's jobless rate hit a new high. The head of State implicitly asked prefects to try to stop a wave of suicides among the rising numbers of 'new poor' in recession-hit Italy. He asked the local representatives of the State to show "the utmost attention for situations of greatest malaise and need, promoting initiatives of listening, support and integration to avert as much as possible tragic episodes like those which have occurred recently". Napolitano spoke a day after he invoked Italy's Constitution, based on labour, in the war on unemployment, and as national statistics agency Istat reported jobless rates hitting new highs, especially among the young. Unemployment reached 12.8% in the first quarter of 2013, the highest since the first quarter of 1977, Istat said Friday, with almost 3.3 million people out of work. The jobless rate among 15-to-24-year-olds hit a record 41.9% in the first quarter, also the highest since the first quarter of 1977, Istat said. Last week Istat said that 2.25 million 15-to-29-year-olds were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2012, 23.9% of the total. On Thursday Istat said 11% of them had given up on the prospect of getting a job. In the latest in a spate of recession-linked episodes on Thursday, a young man who recently lost his job threw himself off a balcony in the town of Arce south of Rome. 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. On Thursday Napolitano appealed for the nation's political parties, trade unions and businesses to combat the huge problem of unemployment. "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". "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.

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