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The recent agreement reached on productivity between the Italian government and the labour and entrepreneurial trade unions is a good starting point, but certainly not the solution to the problem of competitiveness and productivity. We are disappointed with the President of Confindustria (the biggest association of employers in Italy). Though the strengthening of the second-level bargaining, the tax on wages, and the flexibility of labour interventions are certainly necessary, they are not sufficient for the starting of the new phase of development and employment that the President himself auspiced after signing the agreement with government and trade unions.
So far the issue has been addressed from the perspective of “…we need to work harder,” rather than “we need to work better.” The discipline of the labour law has undergone a period of reform towards flexibility which, unfortunately, has often degenerated into insecurity of labour relations, due to the absence of a genuine commitment to the transformation of the production system–all in the name of the development of human capital and the promotion of innovation. On this side, the failure of an entire ruling class is quite evident. The next government will be responsible for launching the policy for competitiveness, repeatedly called for in the columns of this newspaper. The social partners, however, will compete to converge responsibly towards a logic of cooperation between businesses and workers.
The following is a typical proposal of the model of social market economy: 1) bridge the competitive gap of our business institutions on international markets, 2) strengthen the service sector, making it more competitive as it can effectively support industry in the process of competitive realignment, 3) re-render the system attractive for international investors, as it is more than ever necessary to re-start the country on a positive direction.
On one side, it is necessary that firms start up along the path of conversion towards sectors with higher added value, more in line with our costs, focusing on technological innovation in both product and process and, where necessary, divesting productions no longer competitive. On the other side, it needs to focus on the conversion of the job force with workers’ lifelong learning policies and with the launch of policies forwarding education, university and research, capable of forming youth skilled in soft abilities. This is the issue of the quality of growth, rather than growth altogether. Of course, we cannot do it without flexibility, provided that this does not degenerate into instability: it is necessary to focus on education and innovation, eliminating yields that have a negative impact on social mobility.
To finish, in a respectful social market economy, policies for job and companies must match social policies, easing the labour market entry of young professionals, who can be trained to interpret the systemic change. Only then we will be able to reverse the intergenerational pact, where whole generations of twenties and thirties have been denied the opportunity to free themselves from their families, with serious consequences in terms of the dynamics of the national system and the seal population. On this new covenant it is necessary to build a subsidiary welfare, focusing on the protection of the person, not on the workplace.
Being adopted in a systemic logic, and accompanied by a rise in the quality of legislation and in the re-thinking of some of the administrative reforms (that, rather than simplify, have so far produced less stable administrative acts and a more complex regulatory environment), such reforming efforts can help to attract new investments in our country and, through these, finance those policies for competitiveness that will make Italy an infrastructure of opportunities.
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