Government approves 1999 NAP
In May 1999, the Italian government approved its 1999 National Action Plan (NAP) for employment. The NAP defines objectives and strategies aimed at stimulating the labour market, in line with the European Union Employment Guidelines.
The situation of Italian economy is a serious concern for both the social partners and the government at present. In 1998, Italian GDP rose by 1.3% (annual average), about one percentage point less than the EU average. Despite the low economic growth, a slight increase in employment was recorded (especially among women workers) mainly in the service sector, characterised by an increase in the use of fixed-term and part-time contracts (IT9905111N).
Italian unemployment differs considerably from unemployment in other EU countries. In Italy, women and first-time job-seekers make up the majority of unemployment while in the other European countries unemployed people are mainly adults and long-term unemployed. Moreover ,in Italy the unemployment rate differs markedly between geographical areas, it is higher in the South (22.8% in 1998) than in the North (7.4%). In the South, unemployment affects women and young people in particular, with rates of 31.8% and 56.5% respectively.
Against this background, Italy, like all EU Member States, has been obliged since 1998 to draw up an annual National Action Plan (NAP) on employment (EU9805107N) based on the EU's Employment Guidelines. Member States are to submit NAPs for 1999 during summer 1999, analysing implementation of the 1998 Plans and describing the policy adjustments made to incorporate the changes introduced by the 1999 Employment Guidelines (EU9810130F). The strategy developed by the government in the new NAP approved on 21 May 1999 has two main objectives:
- to make economic growth bring about a growth in demand for labour. To this end, the government is relying on the service sector, and it has decided to speed up the liberalisation process of the main public services such as the gas and water supply by 2000 and to strengthen non-profit services; and
- to achieve sustainable economic growth in those regions with high unemployment rates.
The main actions of the government outlined in the NAP concern the regularisation of the hidden economy, which is particularly widespread in the South, and support for local economic systems through administrative streamlining, infrastructure improvements and incentives for entrepreneurial initiatives. The government aims to achieve progressively by 2004 a growth rate in the South which is higher than the EU average. The plan both proposes objectives and actions for 1999 and defines a multi-annual strategy "which goes hand in hand with the complex economic policy and the reform of the administrative system".
The main contents of the government's action are as follows:
- reduction of taxes and social contributions through a more intense fight against tax evasion, a veritable "scourge" of the Italian economic system, and a serious reform of the "social shock absorbers" system (which eases the blow of redundancies - IT9802319F) and of employment incentives;
- reform of administration and of public procedures and liberalisation of goods and services markets;
- support for concertation and dialogue among the social partners, including decentralisation of concertation;
- liberalisation of employment services and development of temporary work agencies;
- an increase in school attendance and a reform of school institutions in order to make the relationship between school and work more effective, and an extension of workforce training through the implementation of regional programmes;
- increasing female employment through the adoption of measures aimed at reconciling professional life, personal life, training and maternity;
- use of the European Social Fund for active labour market policies and decentralisation of their management to the regions; and
- strengthening the capacities for policy monitoring and evaluation through the definition of incentives for those local practices which obtain the most satisfactory results.
The government believes that the additional supply of labour created by these measures will concern young people, women and older people in particular. Incentives will also be provided for a greater use of part-time contracts. Part-time work is seen as a means of promoting "the participation and employment of those groups of people which are still not very present on the labour market".