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Sense of Hopelessness Permeates Italian Society

The bureaucracy wastes a lot of time, the red tape drives you crazy while the system favors thieves to the detriment of those who pay their taxes
The jobless rate hovers at over 11%, well above the eurozone average of 9.3%. Among 15 to 24-year olds it leaps to 37%, compared with a European average of 18.7%.The jobless rate hovers at over 11%, well above the eurozone average of 9.3%. Among 15 to 24-year olds it leaps to 37%, compared with a European average of 18.7%.

Italy gets worse every time you look at it and offers less and less to young people, says Antonio Davide D'Elia, just one of thousands of young Italians who have decided to try their luck abroad.

With the country struggling to kick an economic slump, some 40,000 Italians between 18 and 34 years old set out to seek greener pastures elsewhere in 2015, according to the Migrantes Foundation, AFP reported.

"Just talking with people (in Italy) it's clear going away might be the only solution," said D'Elia, 26, who has spent the last five years in London, where he currently works as a barman, and intends to stay for now despite high living costs.

According to Raffaella Cagliano, a professor at the School of Commerce at Milan's Polytechnic, some young Italians leave because "an experience abroad... is seen as an important added value for their careers". They want to "experience something different, open their horizons to the world," she said.

The phenomenon is global, and with around 15% of Italian university graduates seeking work abroad, it is not experiencing a notably bigger "brain drain" than elsewhere, she said.

No Meritocracy

But most of Italy's youth are unwilling to return—and the country is seen as offering little to attract foreign graduates. "This is clearly linked to the lower job opportunities, the weaker pay" on offer here, Cagliano said.

Growth in the country has been sluggish at best since 2014, following two years of recession. GDP is forecast to inch up just 1.3% this year. The jobless rate hovers at over 11%, well above the eurozone average of 9.3%. Among 15 to 24-year olds it leaps to 37%, compared with a European average of 18.7%.

But difficulties in finding work are not the only reason pushing young people to leave. "They also complain about the lack of meritocracy" and the time it takes to climb the career ladder, Cagliano said.

Valentina Bressan, 42, who works in the opera world of stage design and costumes, said she had opportunities in France "that I would never have had in Italy. If you don't have the right qualifications, even if you have the experience, you won't get hired," she said.

Bressan, who in 2010 became the first female technical director of the Choregies d'Orange summer opera festival in France, said that in Italy getting work was all about who you knew.

Crazy Red Tape

"In Italy it feels like if you are not from a certain family, or do not have links with certain people, you can't get anywhere. It is very unfair, competence is not rewarded, and that leaves little hope" of making it, she said.

Sergio Mello, who set up a start-up in Hong Kong before moving to San Francisco, said Italy "does not offer a fertile environment to develop a competitive business".

The government is endeavoring to encourage its graduates to return, notably with a new 50% income tax break that can be enjoyed for up to five years.

But Mello says there are other problems: "The bureaucracy wastes a lot of time", the red tape "drives you crazy", and the system favors "thieves" to the detriment of "those who pay their taxes".

Tax fraud and a feeble state foment "disgust and a distrust of the future," said Bressan, while Mello described the situation as "a farce" and declared all hope for change to be "dead".

Rising Debt

The debt Italy owes to the rest of Europe—25% of its GDP—is so bad that a default would "shatter" the country, cripple Europe with unpaid debts, and wipe 0.4% off global GDP, according to Oxford Economics analyst Taha Saei.

"If the eurozone’s fourth largest economy were forced to leave ... the euro, it would likely default given the increased debt obligations from settling this bill would cripple its economy," Saei says. Recovery would take decades, he wrote in a recent note to clients.

Italy's current debt is €430 billion ($495 billion), and is getting worse.

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