Despite the economic downturn, many firms cannot fill empty positions ranging from plumbers to pastry chefs. The reason? A stigma on blue-collar jobs.
MILAN, ITALY – In today’s economic downturn, one might think that every new job posting would instantly draw a hoard of applicants. Not so in Italy. Of the 94,600 jobs small Italian firms have offered so far this year, about a third have gone unfilled, according to a recent report by Confartigianato, the association of Italy’s family-owned businesses.
It appears that the shame of working a blue-collar job is so great that Italians would rather risk twiddling their thumbs than using them to tailor fine European clothing, whip up delicious cannoli, or tinker with sports cars. This cultural stigma, unmoved by the fact that some skilled laborers earn substantially more than white-collar workers, has become a real “curse” for the Italian economy, says Giacomo Vaciago, an economic policy professor at the Catholic University of Milan.
“Firms will always need these kind of workers,” he says, but very few young Italians are choosing such careers. “You can talk to the best mechanics in the Ferrari [car industry], and most of them will say their dream is to send their kids to college so that they can have a desk job ... even if this means they will earn less then their fathers.”