Today is Labour Day in Italy and most of Europe. Here in Italy most young people find their way into the work force only by wading into it very gradually, one tiny step at a time. Until they begin working full-time, and perhaps long afterward, Italians continue to live with their mothers and fathers.
Back in January, commenting on a bizarre Italian court decision forcing parents to support their thirtysomething son (who was still living with them) indefinitely, Renato Brunetta, a cabinet minister, remarked that perhaps all of Italy's "big babies" should be forced to leave home at 18. He was joking, but the problem of children relying upon their parents financially - and in many cases living with them - until they're 30 or 40, is a serious problem in Italy. The foreign press sometimes picks up on this, and the American news magazine TIME has written about mammismo (mamma's boys) in the past.
While American young people often begin working part-time jobs at 16, this concept is unknown among Italians who might receive weekly "allowances" (known as the paghetta in Italy) into their late twenties! What is amazing is how many of these "adult children" are poorly-motivated "perpetual students" taking eight or nine years to complete work on what is supposed to be a 4-year university degree. It's extremely distasteful to observe that, compared to their counterparts across the European Union, most Italian young people seem to take a very long time to grow up. One of our staffers even remarked that the social maturity of the "typical" Sicilian at 23 or 24 is more-or-less comparable to that of an American or Briton of 16 or 17. The lack of emotional or economic independence of young Italians is disturbing.
According to a statistic published some years ago, the combined annual incomes of Americans under the age of 19 eclipsed those of Italy's entire workforce.
Here in Sicily the problem is obviously social but (to a very real degree) also economic, complicated by high unemployment among young people. Marilu Romano touches on this in her article about Sicily in the current recession. It's not a pretty picture. There may not be an immediate danger of Italy following Greece - and now perhaps Portugal - into an economic abyss but our part of Italy is already there.