Employment figures from March 2021, published today by Istat, indicate that the job market is hopefully about to see a re-opening in most areas of industry, while waiting for EU economic support. The most striking element to emerge from the data is the overall drop in the number of employed people compared to a year ago: with almost 900,000 fewer people in work, the employment rate has dropped by 2 percentage points. This drop was recorded during the redundancy freeze, meaning that those who were most affected were temporary workers who did not have their contracts extended or renewed, and the self-employed. The results show that employment fell across every population group, but the drop was most marked among fixed-term employees (-9.4%), the self-employed (-6.6%) and younger workers (-6.5% among the under-35s). The crisis in the tourism sector has certainly had a critical impact on the drop in employment. The labour market is now anxiously awaiting the end of the redundancy freeze, as it could lead to a further decline in the numbers. There is talk of a possible 600,000 redundancies. What can be done? What has not, unfortunately, been done in recent years. Active policies and protections for those who lose their jobs must be strengthened, the Dignity Decree must be left behind in order to clear the way for fixed-term contracts, the many unusable employment benefits – which exist only on paper due to the objective difficulty in applying them – must be scrapped, and a structural change in the social safety net must be implemented. SMEs will play a key role in the recovery, but their integration and network contracts must be supported in order to foster competition, including on foreign markets. Remote working will be a defining element in identifying the most innovative companies, and business owners must also be supported through this paradigm shift to avoid being driven out of the market. Last but not least, investment in sustainability and social inclusion must be linked to support for business competitiveness. Companies that focus on playing by the rules and on social responsibility, and those that stay away from social dumping must receive tangible recognition in terms of tenders, supply contracts and future incentives.
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