Rome

Underemployment swells by over 30% in Italy

'Nine million suffer from work difficulty'

Underemployment swells by over 30% in Italy

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, August 16 - The number of Italy's underemployed grew by 154,000 people in 2012, the national statistics agency said Friday. According to Istat, over 34% more Italians joined the ranks of part-time workers last year. The number was over 66% higher than 2007. Nine out of 10 part-time workers said they would rather be working full-time, according to Istat. The average part-time employee works 16 hours per week in Italy. Italy's underemployed account for 2.4% of the workforce, below the European average of 3.8%. The percentage of female part-time workers is more than double that of male part-time workers. The country's labor market has been under historic strain amid the euro crisis and the worst recession in at least two decades. The number of Italians suffering from some form of labor difficulty, from underemployment to unemployment, is nearly nine million, according to the Ires research group. The jobless rate is over 12% and around four in 10 young people aged 15-24 are out of work. At the end of last month the Senate passed a government decree to combat rampant youth unemployment by giving businesses tax breaks if they make temporary work contracts for young adults under 30 permanent. Officials say the new decree could affect more than 190,000 small and mid-sized business, including about 54,000 operating in Italy's south, which has especially high unemployment. The new measure budgets 794 million euros over the next three years to encourage employment for young adults aged 18 to 29. The package introduces tax cuts of up to 650 euros a month per worker for 12 months for firms who make employees' temporary or freelance contracts permanent full-time positions. It is also possible for them to obtain tax breaks for a maximum period of 18 months for new hires. The decree is targeted at the under-30s worst equipped to face up to the effects of the recession, such as those without a high-school diploma, those living alone and those who have another person depending on them. But only a minority of Italian businesses are expected to tap into the program. Research conducted for the labour ministry found that more than 76% of companies are aware of the incentives, with about 20% of firms with between 10 and 49 workers saying they would certainly or probably use them. About 12% of the smallest firms said they were interested. The research also found that exporters were the most likely to consider making younger contract workers permanent, in order to make use of the incentives. Among firms that said they were not interested in the new program, the vast majority said it was because they did not need to take on new workers.

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