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Renzi says most difficult moment for jobless Italians

Premier promises govt trying to create turning point

05 March, 11:26
Renzi says most difficult moment for jobless Italians (ANSA) - Siracusa, March 5 - Premier Matteo Renzi said Wednesday that it was the worst moment in decades for joblessness in Italy, but promised that his young government was working to turn things around.

Unemployment hit a record high of 12.9% in January and over four in 10 under-25s are out of work in Italy, which emerged from its longest postwar recession in the second half of last year, although the recovery is weak.

Democratic Party (PD) leader Renzi, Italy's youngest premier at 39, has vowed that a package of measures to boost employment called the Jobs Act will be ready by the middle of this month.

"It's the most difficult moment in 30 years for those who have lost their jobs," Renzi said in the Sicilian city of Siracusa during the second of what he has pledged will be weekly visits to Italian schools.

"We have to try to create a real turning point". One of the main aims of Renzi's Job Act would be to simplify Italy's labour system, eliminating many parts of the current myriad of work contracts and lay-off benefits.

A key proposal of the package Renzi announced in January, before unseating his PD colleague Enrico Letta as premier last month and taking the helm of government, is to have single employment contract with job protection measures growing with seniority.

As things are, older workers with regular contracts tend to enjoy extremely high levels of job protection, while young people are often forced to accept temporary contracts or other forms of freelance employment that guarantee them few rights and little job security.

The current system has been blamed for making firms reluctant to hire, as it is so hard for them to dismiss workers once they are on the books, and contributing to the high levels of joblessness, especially among the young.

Renzi was heckled in Siracusa by supporters of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and people with insecure labour contracts.

They shouted "you are not credible, you should first come (to office) via the vote of the people". Renzi is Italy's third straight unelected premier.

Deals between parties also led to the creation of Letta's administration after last year's inconclusive general election and the emergency technocrat government of Mario Monti in 2011.