Inspection strategy in agriculture and construction, Italy


Agriculture and fishingConstruction and woodworking
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In 2010, the Italian Ministry of Labour launched a special inspection strategy to fight undeclared work in agriculture and construction in four southern Italian regions. The project aimed to introduce an integrated and targeted inspection system to improve the effectiveness of controls and increase detection rates.



On 28 January 2010, the Italian government launched a special inspection strategy in the agriculture and construction sectors in the regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily to fight undeclared work.

Since 2008, the labour inspection activity has been significantly reorganised, with a view to focus on those situations which are more likely to present the most serious violations. This new approach seemingly led to significant improvements in the effectiveness of inspections: in 2009, while the number of violations concerning record-keeping decreased (-28%), the irregularities regarding substantial elements remarkably increased, including about undeclared work (+44%), subcontracting and temporary agency work (+193%), working time (+118%), Workers’ Statute provisions (+208%), social contribution frauds (+483%) and safety regulations (+53%). In 2010, also considering specific conflicts which had arisen in the agriculture sector, a special inspection strategy was launched in four Italian southern regions (Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Sicilia) which appeared more likely to be affected by the problems linked to undeclared work.


In order to fight undeclared work, also in consideration of the possible links to illegal activities and the risk of worker exploitation, the intervention was specifically aimed at agriculture and construction. This selection was due to the decision to focus on the sectors where undeclared work is more likely to have a significant impact on social conditions and conflict and where the connections with criminal organisations are more present. Some of the main issues to be addressed were the utilisation of undeclared work, including seasonal workers, illicit labour market intermediation (through gangmasters or caporali), and frauds at social security institutes, usually to get benefits without entitlement through recourse to fictional employment contracts. In construction, other important elements to be analysed were the procurement procedures, in the case of public works, and health and safety regulations. The project aimed to implement an integrated and well-focused inspection system to improve the effectiveness of controls and increase detection rates.

Specific measures

The measure consist of a series of planned and coordinated inspection activities carried out jointly by specific operative teams made of labour inspectors, Inps and Inail inspectors and military personnel of the Carabinieri (the Italian military force responsible for public order). The strategy identified seasonal agricultural activities as a specific target of inspections and listed the areas, the crops and the months in which the controls should have been concentrated. For both agriculture and construction, quantitative targets were identified. Overall, the strategy provided that a total of 10,000 agriculture firms and 10,000 building sites had to be inspected in the four regions. The strategy covered the period March to December 2010.

The strategy established the utilisation of 550 inspectors, including 50 coming from other regions and envisaging the circulation of the other personnel outside their territories. The programme budget of €1.9 million was introduced to cover the expenses for the mobility of the personnel coming from other regions.

Actors involved

Besides labour inspectors, social security inspectors and police forces, the strategy envisaged the involvement of social partners, notably through their joint bodies (enti bilaterali). The joint bodies could have disseminated information with a view to encourage the adoption of existing contractual arrangements, including flexible work, in order to reduce and fight the use of undeclared work. Moreover, joint bodies could participate in monitoring the local labour markets and provide services, like labour intermediation or the certification of contracts, thereby improving the performance and the transparency of labour transactions. Finally, their contribution in controlling their associate members could also be important. Therefore, the strategy provided that inspections had to be prioritised in firms not under the supervision of joint bodies.

Outcome of evaluations: lessons and conclusions

Achievement of objectives

The activities envisaged by the strategy were fully carried out and they allowed the identification of more than 20,300 irregular workers, of which around 9,150 were totally undeclared workers. Some 44% of the inspected agriculture firms showed some forms of irregularity, while in the construction sector the share of firms with violations was over 60%. In the nearly 14,000 inspected firms in construction, almost 10,000 violations were recorded in health and safety regulations.

Obstacles and problems

No particular problems to be reported.

Lessons learned

The importance of a coordinated action which involves different actors and focuses on the most problematic sectors and areas for undeclared work.

Impact indicators

Table 3: Results of the special inspection strategy in the agriculture and construction sectors in southern Italy (2010)
  Agriculture Construction Total
Firms (inspected) 8,445 13,718 22,163
Irregular firms 3,736 8,312 12,048
Workers (inspected) 31,007 35,005 66,012
Undeclared workers 3,832 5,315 9,147
Other irregular workers 6,724 4,463 11,187
Health and safety violations - 9,876 9,876

Source: Ministry of Labour, Nota del Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali del 14 gennaio 2011,


The cooperation between different inspection authorities and the definition of clear targets and objectives certainly represent a transferrable method to organise efforts to fight undeclared work.


Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali :


Istat (2011), La misura dell’occupazione non regolare nelle stime di contabilità nazionale.

Inps (2012, Rapporto annuale 2011.

Roberto Pedersini, Università degli Studi di Milano


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