Thursday, February 9, 2012

(Almost) Freezing in Sicily

Most of Italy - and a chunk of Sicily - is covered with snow and the (nightly) low temperatures are hovering around a few degrees above freezing. Yet Mount Etna is erupting. Quite a spectacle. This pic shows snow-capped mountains beneath cloudy skies near Monreale south of Palermo. Check out the weather in Sicily before you visit.

The February issue of our online magazine features articles on organic farming, Sicily's gothic architecture and the current economic situation in view of some recent legislation.

Debate regarding the economic recession and how to solve very serious problems is almost as hot as Etna's lava. Two days ago a government minister said that, in her opinion, young people in Italy should forget about the idea of "a lifelong job near mamma." Last week another said that "anybody who can't get an undergraduate degree by the age of 27 is a loser."

The context of these rather unkind remarks is important. Most college degrees in Italy are based on a 3-year program and the great majority of students live "at home" with parents and don't work part-time (or any) jobs yet fail to graduate before the age of 29 or 30. And it is true that many - lacking any work experience at all - then expect a "job for life" in their own city.

Companies large and small are reluctant to hire people full-time if they can never fire them (and terminations are nearly impossible under current labor law), so most employment is based on an "alternate strategy" of short-term contracts of 2 or 3 years. This has spawned a generation or two of precari who, in the current job market, may never get "permanent" positions. The government wants to change this.

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