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In focus: Italy

Going local: Tuscany

Contribution by Enrico Rossi,
President of the Tuscany Region

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To address the difficult situation in terms of job and training prospects for the younger generations as regards employment, entrepreneurship, education, training and housing independence, the Tuscany region, drawing particularly on support from the European Union's Structural Funds, especially the European Social Fund, launched the Giovanisì (Young people – yes!) project.

The regional project to make young people independent includes initiatives promoting a genuine right to study, vocational skilling, an experience of citizenship (through civilian service), instruments for facilitating access to work (paid traineeships as a young person's right and the quality of the traineeship, with efforts to prevent misuse thereof), forms of business start-up and enhancement of young people's talents in existing undertakings (including through facilitated access to credit), international mobility facilitating training and work experience, support for housing and independent living (including through rent subsidies and subsidies for first-time house buyers), and enhancement of occupations and services related to well-being in the community (social and cultural activities).

To ensure that such youth policies are ongoing, Giovanisì has developed an operational project (including measures, competition notices, etc.), along with a cultural process (the concept of a cohesive community sharing a spirit of cooperation and a priority undertaking promoting independence in young people as a development tool), a vast regional network (a central office at the presidency and many information points dotted across the region), and, lastly, a system of governance (with tools formalised by means of protocols, a coordination body and a platform of young people).

People's careers, particularly young people's careers, are currently progressing in fits and starts. There are difficulties in starting off and sudden halts forcing people to find new ways of accessing jobs; times of forging ahead and slacker periods, forcing people to retrain. These various periods when people are seeking work are the basis for the planning and management of Tuscany's youth policies, which focus intensively on the difficult transition from youth to adulthood.

Using resources from the European Structural Funds, in particular, Tuscany is therefore promoting specific measures:

  • traineeships – to give young people the opportunity to prepare for the world of employment with appropriate training, this initiative co-finances traineeships in businesses and public bodies with study grants (reimbursing expenditure) of at least EUR 500 per month, EUR 300 of which is paid by the Tuscany region;
  • agricultural entrepreneurship – this initiative enables young people between 18 and 40 wishing to start up an agricultural business in Tuscany to benefit from specific concessions intended to facilitate the structural adjustments needed to make their new business competitive on the market;
  • business start-ups – to facilitate the start-up of a business or entrepreneurial activity it is possible to apply for concessions (lower interest rates on loans and leasing agreements and provision of security also for loans and leasing), enabling young entrepreneurs to obtain funding;
  • mobility – this initiative promotes mobility for apprentices, newly-qualified young people and young graduates, first-job-seekers, the unemployed, those in employment, entrepreneurs and researchers so that they can benefit from exchanges, study visits, traineeships and experience on the ground designed to facilitate skilling, work integration and technology transfer;
  • scholarships and training vouchers - this initiative finances "Borse di studio Pegaso" (Pegasus scholarships), aiming to help young graduates access high-profile international doctorates at Tuscan universities; vouchers for Masters and research doctorates with a view to developing programmes for research, specialisation and upskilling for young graduates and researchers; and international mobility vouchers to support work activities abroad;
  • training - this initiative promotes higher technical training and education courses providing technical and vocational training and an appropriate level of cultural, technical and scientific skills and knowledge, designed for young people who have obtained their diploma di maturità (Italian equivalent of 'A' Levels).

There are already 6 500 young Tuscans involved in the Giovanisì project.





The national context:
Youth unemployment reached 35.1% in September 2012. Italy is one the EU Member States hardest hit by the current economic crisis. This has severely impacted youth employment while deepening the existing economic gap between the northern part of the country and the Mezzogiorno (southern regions).

Not only has youth unemployment increased since 2009 but the number of young people in short-term unemployment has also decreased by 50%,which means that it takes increasingly longer to get back into the labour market.

Gender inequality has deepened, as young women in the 20-24 age bracket have been particularly hit by the crisis with an overall deterioration of their conditions of life - especially for young mothers - because of the lack of work-life balance measures, low pay and precarious employment. The rate of young women not employed and not involved in some sort of education or training having to live with their parents is 24.9%.

The reform of the education system (carried out by Berlusconi's former government) focused on cuts, ignoring the need to effectively address mismatches in skills supply and demand. In 2011, the rate of early school leavers revolved around 18.2 %, well above the Europe 2020 target of bringing it below 10% by 2020. Regional differences are particularly high, with peak levels in the southern regions.

The NEETs level (young people not in employment, education or training) exceeds one million (1,199,000), with practically one young person in five being outside the labour market and the education system. In July 2012, the NEET rate was around 19.8% for the 15-24 age bracket (EU average 12.9%) and 22.7% if extended to the 15-29 category (EU average 15.4%).

Interestingly enough, the 25-29 age bracket, which is crucial in terms of economic emancipation and family creation, has been the most severely hit (27.8%) Most NEETs in Italy only have a lower education attainment and around 70% have no work experience at all. Given the gravity of the problem, all regions have put into place targeted measures to address the situation of NEETs.

Existing measures are mainly co-financed by the ESF. Italy is one of the Member States benefiting from extra support through the European Commission Youth SME action teams, aimed at better targeting structural funds in favour of employment and job creation. About EUR 6 400 million of EU financing were re-allocated through the work of the action team; 128 300 young people and around 28 000 SMEs are thus likely to benefit from re-allocation of funds.

Thanks to the use of structural funds, a Cohesion Action Plan was adopted in Italy to accelerate the implementation of structural funds in the Meridione. EUR 3.7 billion (of which EUR 1.4 billion in favour of education and employment) were directed in December 2011 to regional operational programmes towards education, employment, railways and the digital agenda.

Therefore, during the current financial framework : i) Sicily will implement an employability plan from which around 50,000 young people are likely to benfit; ii) 65,300 students from the southern regions will have access to new education activities and 13,000 to mobility programmes (Erasmus and Leonardo). An additional EUR 2,3 billion  - of which EUR 600 million target young people – were reprogrammed to finance  measures related to childcare, reduction of the rate of early school leavers, young entrepreneurship, apprenticeships, NEETs and young researchers.



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