Italy moves up to historic labor reform

ROME. March 21. KAZINFORM The Italian government presented on Tuesday guidelines of an upcoming major labor reform after reaching a partial agreement in a one-day meeting with trade unions and business associations, according to Xinhua.

The reform, which Prime Minister Mario Monti said will be a "crucial" turning point, is aimed at boosting stagnant economy by making it easier to find work in a country where almost one in three of young people are unemployed.

In order to achieve this objective, the Italian government said it was necessary to act on two fronts: make it smoother for companies to dismiss staff while incentivizing employers to hire workers on permanent contracts, and boost benefits for people out of work.

The main point of contention during Tuesday's meeting was whether to modify so-called Article 18, a law of the 1970 Workers Statute that forbids companies with over 15 employees to fire workers without just cause.

According to technocrats of Monti's cabinet, this law has made companies reluctant to hire workers on regular contracts, which has led to a profoundly unfair labor system in which older workers are offered a high level of security while young people have few rights.

Previous reforms carried out in 1997 and 2003 have made further easier for companies in Italy to hire youngsters on every kind of short-term contracts, but have not increased their job security, Labor Minister Elsa Fornero told a press conference after the meeting.

The new package, she pointed out, will fight widespread labor exploitation by boosting the use of permanent contract and limiting temporary employment, encouraging companies to invest in employees' training and prohibiting free internship for workers with a high level of instruction.

The reform will fight "bad flexibility" and encourage the good one, which is necessary in a modern labor market in order to enhance employment especially among women and young generations, thus boost growth and competitiveness, Fornero stressed.

Regarding the easier possibility for firms to dismiss their workers, for example in case of difficult economic situation, she said the new measures will provide a series of safety valves aimed at protecting workers in their period of unemployment while helping them find a new job.

Firing a worker for any discriminatory reasons will be strictly forbidden and punished, the labor minister pointed out.

In fact, the upcoming reform mainly aims at shifting from job protection to labor market protection, which is a goal almost all European states are striving for, a labor sociology professor at Bologna University Roberto Rizza told Xinhua.

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