NEWS » The growing "illegal" Italian economy

The growing "illegal" Italian economy

Confcooperative, an organisation representing Italian cooperatives, and Censis, a socio-economic research institute revealed in their last report that Italian illegal economy is growing fast. The report, entitled “Denied, irregular, drowned: The dark side of work” showed that between 2012 and 2015, legal employment fell by 2.1 percent, while the number of those working illegally in Italy soared by 6.3 percent. 

This study on the state of the country’s economy demonstrates that almost half of the 462,000-people laid off from their jobs between 2012 and 2015 were sucked into illegal employment during that period. Many people took on underpaid work, the country’s underground economy boomed by over 6 percent (up by 200,000 to 3.3 million).

The irregular cutting of labour costs means denied rights and exploited workers. In total, more than 3.3 million people are thought to work in Italy’s illegal or black economy, leaving them vulnerable to abuse by their employers, such as dangerous working conditions or low wages.

The report showed a huge gap between hourly wages in the regular and irregular economy; in the industrial sector, wages are around 53.7 percent lower for those working illegally, and in agriculture the gap is around 36 percent. The companies that hire them cut their own labour costs by 50 percent through tax evasion and failing to provide social security and health coverage for workers.

The most affected sector was domestic work, including cleaners and carers, where the rate of irregularity was estimated at almost 60 percent. 6 out of 10 of domestic workers (babysitters, cleaners, carers) were working without a regular contract. This is followed by agricultural employees (around 23 percent) and people in the tertiary sector, such as arts and entertainment, catering, construction, transport, storage and trade. According to the president of Confcooperative, Maurizio Gardini, a distinction should be made between a caregiver and a worker exploited in the fields or on construction sites, as sometimes families evade out of necessity because of high care costs for a child or an elderly relative, but in other cases black economy serves to multiply profits and outpace the many companies that compete in the market.

There was also a strong regional divide. Rates of illegal employment were highest in the south. In Calabria and Campania, 9.9 percent and 8.8 percent of workers respectively were believed to be working illegally, followed by Sicily at a rate of 8.1 percent and Puglia at 7.6 percent.

Giulia Lombardo

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