Italy’s Stagnant Economy Is Forcing Out the Country’s Youth

The unemployment rate among Italians under 25 years old is 28.6%. By comparison, it's about 8% in the U.S.

By: Bianca Giacobone, Planet Money

Ciao, Italia: Why Italy’s Youth are Leaving in Droves

Sometimes, when people ask me why on earth I left Italy, a beautiful country I’m lucky enough to call home, I drop a few numbers. Italy’s youth unemployment rate – the rate of people under 25 years old looking for a job and not finding it – is 28.6% as of the last quarter of 2019, according to Eurostat, the European Statistical Office. By comparison, in November 2019 the Eurozone’s youth unemployment rate overall was 15.6%. Here in the U.S. it’s about 8%.

Perhaps more worryingly, the Italian rate of people aged 20-34 neither in employment nor in education and training, the so-called NEET rate, was 28.9% in 2018. It’s the highest NEET rate in the Eurozone, which has an average of 16.5%. To put that more plainly, almost 1 in 3 Italians under 34 aren’t really doing anything at all.

“The Italian economy is not growing,” says Carlo Cottarelli, an Italian economist and former director of the International Monetary Fund. “The Italian per capita income is the same as it was 20 years ago. In terms of economic growth, this past decade has been the worst since 1861.”

Like many economists, Cottarelli has a long list of reasons why Italy’s economy is stuck, and they start with Italy’s adoption of the common currency in 2002. “We didn’t handle the transition to the Euro well,” he says, explaining that a common rate of exchange meant Italy couldn’t lower prices to compete with Germany. “Since we couldn’t devalue, we lost competitiveness.”

Then there are the usual suspects: excess of bureaucracy, one of the slowest civil justice processes in Europe, high levels of tax avoidance, high levels of corruption, a crippling economic division between North and South, and one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. “All these things, including an underfunded public education, condition the country’s growth.” Continue reading at Planet Money.

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