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'Dear Italy, I have left, but would return if...'

25 june 2013, 11:01
0
©REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
©REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
As thousands of Italians leave the country to look for work elsewhere, one young journalist's blog claims to offer "a megaphone for this generation," a voice to all those who profess to be ready to return "if...".

From disenchanted rants to nostalgic laments, feedback from young film directors, researchers and doctors in New York, France and Germany are published by Antonio Siragusa on his blog "iotornose.it" ("I'll come back, if..."), AFP reports.

"They have an interesting point of view on Italy, which is not heard enough. They can propose changes inspired by the countries where they are living better lives," the 28-year-old blogger from Caserte, near Naples in southern Italy, told AFP.

"The situation is dramatic. As a precarious worker, I feel it personally," said Siragusa, who began the blog after his brother, cousins and friends began to emigrate, and does not rule out packing his cases too "if nothing changes".

The stories on his blog speak of a country stuck in a two-year recession, where anti-crisis austerity programmes have squeezed ordinary Italians hard, but they also denounce a deep-seated culture of nepotism and corruption.

"I would like to return to Italy because the quality of life is better... but here I get a salary I could never dream of back home and my work is appreciated," said Michela Pascucci, 27, who works for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Brussels.

Natascia Musardo, 28, studying for a doctorate in law at Mainz University in Germany, said: "I'd return, even if I had to earn half as much, if there was a decent job to go to."

"I'd come back if, to achieve things, I was not forced to make frustrating or illegal compromises; if I was able, by investing time and energy, to obtain my goals without being someone's "daughter"; if Italy was ready to hire me on merit and choose someone else over me if they are better than me," she said.

From 2000 to 2010, according to a survey cited by La Stampa newspaper, 316,000 Italians between 25 and 37-years-old with university degrees emigrated, the majority heading for Germany, followed by Britain, France and the United States.

Confindustria business association head Giorgio Squinzi said this month that Italy had spent five billion euros ($6.5 billion) on educating those now working abroad, sardonically adding: "our incredulous competitors thank us for this precious gift."

Gabriele Scoditti, a 28-year-old project controller in San Francisco, says on the blog: "after living abroad, especially in a place like Silicon Valley, you can see how, while returning to Italy is possible, the price to pay is high."

"If you do it, you do it for your heart, not for your career," he said.

The eurozone's third largest economy did worse than thought in the first quarter of this year, shrinking by 0.6 percent, and the national unemployment rate in April rose to 12 percent.

The brain drain phenomenon is not new to Italy, but the issue has been exacerbated over the last few months, with youth unemployment reaching 40.5 percent in April, sparking promises of government action.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta earlier this month apologised to the country's young for letting them down, saying: "the biggest debt that we are accumulating... is towards the young people, which is an unforgivable mistake."

He vowed to push for action to "free up the energy of a country stifled by privileges, bureaucracy and conservatism".

Letta has also been at the forefront of calls for EU leaders to take immediate measures to boost job creation when they meet on Thursday and Friday.

The Italian government is set to unveil next week a series of measures for tackling unemployment, such as tax breaks for firms hiring young people, but many -- including the thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Rome last weekend -- say enough is not being done.

"Letta must do more than say sorry. We need a very courageous policy. Nobody has done anything about it in twenty years," said Gianluca Spina, president of Milan's business school MIP.

Italy's taxes are "excessive on payrolls and too low on property," he said.

"We cannot cut taxes but we can shift them. Such measures would be difficult to implement, however, because Silvio Berlusconi's right is very against the idea of a property tax."

At the moment, Italy "is a country which exports brains and imports muscles.

"It has become a country of emigration once more, but unlike previous waves driven by the lower classes, this is an 'emigration of talent'," Spina said.

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