The dilemma of the new generation in Italy: “lie down” or “escape”?

Contemporary Italian young people are not so much a generation of “fleeing” and “lying flat” as a generation that is underestimated and ridiculed.

  In recent decades, the young generation in Italy has been caught in an extremely embarrassing situation. It seems that there are only two paths in front of them: fleeing from Italy and “lying flat” and relying on their parents. Parents and politicians criticized young people for being lazy and incompetent, and their peers in other countries laughed at them as “mumbo”, but they failed to see the strong struggle of young Italians under the economic crisis, high taxation, and cruel pension policies.
The end of college: Escape from Italy?

  ”Can’t find a job in Italy!” To many people, this is not an old joke, but a fact: Italy has the third highest unemployment rate in Europe, and emigration to other countries in search of work has become Italy A great choice for young people. According to 2020 data from the Italian National Statistics Institute, 340,000 people have moved abroad in the past five years, of which 240,000 are young people under the age of 34, of which nearly 70% have advanced degrees; even more frightening is that there are about 40,000 people who have moved abroad. 1 in 10 college students are planning to “run”! The UK, Germany and the Nordic countries have become destinations for young Italians.

Graduation ceremonies in Italy have a special ceremony: wearing a laurel wreath. The laurel wreath comes from the image of the god Apollo, who symbolizes talent in Greek mythology. In ancient Roman times, the laurel wreath was awarded to outstanding poets, contest winners, triumphant soldiers, rulers, etc., which symbolized glory, wisdom and victory.

The University of Bologna is recognized as the oldest university in the West in the world. Italy has always been proud of having some of the oldest universities in the world, but the number of Italian freshmen enrolling in universities is decreasing every year.

  Difficulty finding a job and low wages are the main reasons why young people choose to “flee”, and there is a deep-rooted social background behind it. First of all, Italy is a country where the traditional economic and social model still dominates, especially in the south. Unlike the “survival of the fittest” and “selection of the fittest” system in which companies select employees in most countries, Italy still largely maintains The outdated “baron system”, that is, a model that relies on “relationships” to find jobs. The only way to get a job is to “play football with the employer”, former Labour Secretary Poletti said in a cynical tone. It goes without saying that “building a network” is the key, but it’s not something that a fresh graduate can easily acquire.
  Second, nearly 20 years of tax reform in Italy have made it costly for companies to hire or fire an employee, making it impossible for new job seekers to get a full-time, life-long contract. Therefore, in today’s Italy, there are two types of workers: Class A workers with lifetime contracts and high wages—mostly their parents who have passed 50 years; Class B workers with temporary contracts and low wages— It’s about most of the younger generation. Young people with no family background, insufficient education or special skills can easily fall into a state of high-intensity work and low income.
  Again, the proportion of Italian government investment in education is much lower than in other European countries. Italy is miserly spending on education, at around 4% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the OECD, compared with 28% for the OECD.
  Italy has always been proud of having some of the oldest universities in the world, but the number of Italian freshmen registering at the university is decreasing every year, and more and more international students from all over the world come here. According to the OECD, 20% of Italian students drop out in their first semester of university, and only 45% of enrolled students survive until graduation, compared with 69% for the OECD. Higher college taxes and a lack of scholarship support have made college a “luxury”, and some of the lucky few graduates with higher education are planning to leave.
  The exodus of young Italians abroad, both culturally and economically, is a huge loss for the country. It is estimated that the Italian government needs to invest 77,000 euros to train a high school graduate, while it rises to 158,000 euros for a bachelor’s graduate and 170,000 euros for a master’s degree. If this expenditure is linked to the roughly 30,000 graduates who leave Italy each year, talent migration costs the country around 4.5 billion euros a year. How to summon these young people who have left, and how to retain those who are planning to leave, are exactly the issues that Italian politicians need to pay attention to.
  But from another perspective, just like the influx of immigrants into Italy, mobility has become a normal phenomenon in the world today, and Italy has to adapt to it. Luca and Michelle, both in their 20s, were graduating college students who refused to use the word “escape” when asked if they were considering “escape” from Italy – “We prefer to go abroad to gain experience first. “Michelle studied biological sciences, and if there is an opportunity to be involved in a project with the United Nations or other international organizations, whether in Africa or Asia, she is eager to do it. “The world is already a whole, if we stay in our own country and don’t gain knowledge and learn from other countries, then we will fall behind our peers. But the future of this country is in our hands, if we don’t come back , who will inherit the most beautiful country in the world?”
  Some people choose to leave and come back, and some young people never consider leaving because they firmly believe that their future lies in Italy. Sarah, 25, is a graduate of Rome’s three major archaeology majors. After graduation, she worked as a volunteer guide for a cultural association in the small town of Genzano, where she grew up. Every weekend, she and other volunteers accompany tourists to visit the only historical palace and exhibition hall in the town. She is enthusiastic and humorous, speaks fluent English and French, and knows that “there is no free world in this world.” Lunch”: “Every career I want to pursue requires at least 3 years of experience, so for me, now is the time to gain experience.” Sarah intends to volunteer while making the most of Italy’s The preferential transportation policy for young people under the age of 30, as well as the opportunity for archaeology students to enter historical and cultural sites for free, spend one year visiting all the attractions in Italy and enrich their knowledge. “If I want to work in the cultural tourism industry, which country is better than Italy?”

The “Peter Pan” Generation

  According to the statistics of 2020, the “Neet” (NEET) between the ages of 20 and 34 in Italy has reached about 2.7 million people, accounting for 29.3% of the total number of young people, and an increase of 5.1% over the previous year. This is the highest of this figure for a European country and more than double the European average. For the media and the public, these young people are simply defined as “giant babies”, “mumbo” and “Peter Pan”.
  If the primary reason for such a high proportion of “Nite” is a problem with the social structure, related to the lack of employment opportunities, the insufficient capacity of the education system to provide professional skills training, and the inability of enterprises to take advantage of the talents of young people, then other than that In addition, “self-compassion” may also play a role in the lives of young “Nites”. Chronic frustration can prompt young people to stop looking and isolate themselves from society. In addition, the traditional Italian family culture is also an important reason, especially in the traditional families in southern Italy, the father has been missing for a long time, and the mother is the absolute victim, resulting in children’s excessive dependence on the family. The parents themselves, especially mothers, did not force their “baby” out of the “comfort zone” of the family. Only 18% of Italians believe that adult children should live alone without their parents.

Young people in Rome protest unfair work treatment

  Adults refuse to be independent, fear responsibility and face hardship, a psychological disorder known as the “Peter Pan syndrome,” which is especially common in men. The nickname of Italian men “Ma Bao Nan” is not a joke. Most of them still live in their parents’ homes, relying on their parents’ aid to support their lives, and regard their mother’s words as a wise saying. Once these young people hit a wall in society, they will return to their families to seek refuge.
  Whether it is “Nit” or “Peter Pan syndrome”, the problems of young people cause the country to suffer a double loss of labor and citizens, because social disappointment often destroys citizens’ desire to participate in social life. On the economic front, the numbers are stark: the impact of unemployment is 2% of the national GDP in Italy, the highest in Europe. According to a report by the Italian “Corriere della Sera” in 2016, the “Nites” cost the country 36 billion euros! Another Italian news agency, Adnkronos, claimed: “Without the nits, Italy’s GDP would have grown by 8 percent.”

Italy is an overly elderly-centric country. According to Eurostat, Italy spends 3.5 euros on pensions for every 1 euro invested in education (primary and secondary) and 44 euros on pensions for every 1 euro spent on university.

  At the same time, Italian men have a reputation as “playboys”. 33% of Italians have their own mother as their role model in life. The worship of mother makes Italian men very attentive to women and, as people often joke, will be a “good lover”. But Italian men don’t commit lightly, let alone into marriage, for fear of taking responsibility. Starting a family has to take into account the reality: into the new millennium, Italian real estate prices have remained high, while average wages have not increased, and young people under 40 years of age have become a fantasy to buy a house. In the 1960s and 1980s, a two-earner family could buy an apartment in the suburbs with five years of income, but now it takes 20 years or more. For the “thousand-euro generation” (young people whose wages hover around 1,000 euros) with short-term work contracts, buying their own house has become a luxury.
Anxiety of young people

  There is no denying that Italy is an overly elderly-centric country. According to Eurostat, Italy spends €3.50 on pensions for every €1 spent on education (primary and secondary) and €44 on pensions for every €1 spent on university. The new generation feels their needs are being ignored.
  In addition, in the past 10 years, employment and life pressures have been the biggest anxiety of the younger generation in Italy. But a recent survey by Italian media is surprising: Anxiety about employment has taken a back seat, with young Italians now worrying about climate change the most. Italy is one of the worst affected countries in Europe by geographical disasters caused by climate change, and almost every young person has experienced a natural disaster in the past 10 years, which makes them increasingly anxious about climate change. 80% of millennials believe that global climate change has reached a tipping point where they will have to start by changing their habits. In the run-up to the elections for the new government, young people in Milan are protesting over the lack of a climate and environmental response from the political parties: they are responding in a peaceful way to an older generation turning a blind eye to climate change.

Young Italians protest government inaction on climate change.

Left: The “Internet celebrity” with the number one global fan base on Tiktok is Khaby Lame, an unemployed youth from Italy. Right: Andrea Camilleri, one of Italy’s most beloved contemporary writers and novelists, attributes his twilight years to spending time with young people.

  Needless to say, the older generation also criticized the younger generation mercilessly: selfishness, laziness, incompetence, vanity. The Italian media often sighs: young people can no longer read words! In the eyes of the older generation, because young people are more addicted to short and fast information, their ability to devote themselves to reading books, newspapers, and reading an article has been greatly degraded. But there are also people who do not agree with this prejudice. For example, Camilleri, a famous writer who kept writing and died not long ago at the age of 94, once complained about the plight of young people and praised the creativity of young people. His achievements in his twilight years are attributed to the coexistence with young people. “I feel a little like Dracula, and I greedily absorbed their ideas to get my own.” Angela, a well-known journalist and science scientist, also holds the same Opinion: “We are a nation full of talent, and what’s missing is a system that makes the best use of talent and skills.”

Take an unusual step

  In the spring of 2022, Georgia, who graduated from the University of Florence, decided to start a business after being unemployed for two years. She and a friend partnered to open a fast food restaurant on the street. Many people on the Internet praised the girl who refused to “lie down”, but it also attracted countless ridicule: “You should close the door when you receive the electricity bill and tax bill!” Between 2004 and 2019, young Italians Employers fell by 51.4%, not to mention the grim figures during the pandemic. Can the younger generation just “lie down” and admit defeat?
  The survey results of the “Youth and Work” Observatory of the University of Pavia show that the global epidemic has made working and studying at home the norm, and college graduates are greatly less interested in full-time jobs and iron jobs. A more flexible area – the network. As a generation that grew up in digital technology, young Italians are definitely not lacking in creativity and a sense of technology. Among the 15 young entrepreneurs selected by the media “Millionaire” in 2019, 12 have achieved success by relying on technological means, involving urban shared cars, games and videos, robotics and drone industries and other fields, “We are witnessing With incredible cultural and generational changes, today’s young people are more emotionally driven, more ambitious and more willing to try new paths.”
  Also not to be underestimated is their emphasis on social media. Compared with other European countries, young Italians believe that social media represents social progress and that the Internet has the potential to change their lives. They are active in various social software and bring the irony skills in Italians to the extreme: they defend Italian traditions with humor, expose hypocrisy on the Internet with satire, and attack the dross of society in a tactful way. But when it comes to the next goal after becoming an Internet celebrity, Khaby Lame, the Italian stall operator with the largest number of fans in Tiktok, confessed: “Buy a house for my mother.” The Italian nation has never lacked creativity, and fashion and art are always right. Choice, but by no means easy fruit. Entering this industry requires not only talent, but also sweat. The young artist Julia has a job that makes her parents proud and her friends envy. She works in the design department of Gucci, and she paints some of the flamboyant patterns. Julia is also a member of the “return wave”. After graduating from university, she worked in London for 5 years. “Italian identity is a free ticket to enter the fashion industry”, but her life in the UK is not easy , “London is too cold, so are Londoners.” She misses fragrant coffee and delicious three meals, misses the warm chat with neighbors and even strangers, misses the blue sea, blue sky and bright sun, misses her father and mother. So, when the epidemic in Italy was the worst in 2020, she chose to return to Italy. When it comes to the Italians’ reputation for being “cheesy and lazy,” Julia definitely disagrees: high-intensity work usually eats up her Saturdays, and she and her colleagues are probably the last Italians in Rome to get off work,” but the boss Work is more life-threatening than us.” In the context of such a “volume” in the work environment, Julia also understood the true meaning of “volume”, and she decided to spend nearly 10 hours a week to learn Chinese: except for the 2 hours on weekends, The rest of the time comes from 1 hour early every day. After studying the methods of time management, she also arranged painting into her nightly schedule. “Work is not the whole of life. Doing what makes you happy is the most important thing.” She decided that when one day can rely on When his own creations make a living, he completely bid farewell to the pressure work of fashion tycoons.
  Italy has been one of the most expensive countries to pay in the 2020 outbreak of the new crown: nearly 180,000 people have died, mostly the elderly. During the most severe epidemic period and the shortage of medical personnel, college students in the medical and nursing department had to graduate early and embark on the front line of anti-epidemic. Laura Bage, a third-year nursing student at the University of Parma, has not yet graduated, but has been placed in the most terrifying ward in Italy. Since she doesn’t have a formal degree, she can only work as an intern, but she also has to work in shifts that don’t stop. “COVID-19 patients are conscious to the end, they realize that they are dying. They have no relatives to visit and can only die alone. So they put their last hope in you, and you are their only support in life. I learned in school Got everything the job needs but didn’t expect to take on the responsibilities at such a historic time.”
  Another graduate, Anastasio, arrived just hours after getting his graduation via video Ambulance on duty. “My degree was born in the midst of a pandemic, like a soldier in training being sent straight to the battlefield. With 44 people who graduated early with me, we don’t know what we’re facing, we’ve never seen the coronavirus The virus. But the hospital needs us, and the patients need us.” In 2020, tens of thousands of college students in Italy went directly to the front lines of the fight against the epidemic. It was this special era that gave birth to a strong and brave generation.
  Contemporary Italian young people are not so much a generation of “fleeing” and “lying flat” as a generation that is underestimated and ridiculed. Whether it is the new Italian government or the proud older generation, they should act to give more opportunities to young people and retain talents for this country. What needs to be done more is to attach importance to education investment and listen carefully to the demands of the younger generation.

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