SURVEY: Half of all Italians say salaries are too low

After Italy's government said unemployment benefits were putting Italians off working, survey respondents said low wages and high taxes were a bigger problem.

A protestor shouts slogans during a demonstration on May Day (Labour Day), to mark the international day of the workers, in Turin on May 1, 2023.
A protestor shouts slogans at a march in Turin on Labour Day, 2023. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP.

Fifty percent of Italians think their country’s average wages are too low, according to a new survey conducted by research institute Quorum/YouTrend.

The poll, commissioned by Sky TG24, asked respondents for their thoughts on why employers struggle to recruit in Italy, following the Italian government’s announcement on Monday that it will cut the reddito di cittadinanza unemployment benefit.

READ ALSO: Italy cuts anti-poverty benefits in Labour Day ‘provocation’

Giorgia Meloni’s hard-right government said the move was needed as the benefit was too costly and was discouraging able-bodied people from looking for jobs – a sentiment that 19 percent of respondents appeared to share, saying they thought people would rather access benefits than work.

However half of all respondents said instead that low salaries were the biggest barrier to employment.

Meanwhile, 16 percent said they thought people lacked the professional qualifications needed for the roles advertised, and 12 percent thought that young people didn’t want to do certain kinds of work.

Italy’s unemployment rate stood at eight percent as of February 2023, according to the latest data from Italian national statistics office Istat, against an EU average of just over six percent.

However youth unemployment in Italy is several times higher, at 22.4 percent.

READ ALSO: No minimum wage for Italy as EU reaches living standards deal

One quarter of those surveyed by YouTrend thought that cutting taxes paid on salaries would boost employment, while 22 percent supported offering tax incentives to companies that hire new employees.

The government’s cut to unemployment benefits divided respondents, with 52 percent saying they supported the move, 42 percent against, and six percent undecided.

When asked about their own employment situation, 59 percent – almost two thirds – of respondents said they believed their salary was too low. 28 percent thought they earned a fair wage, and seven percent that their income was higher than it should be.

Overall, 87 percent said they would accept 1,200 euros net as a starting salary.

Workplace safety was another key concern among those surveyed, with 86 percent agreeing with the statement, “workplace safety is a serious problem in Italy”.

According to data from Italian workplace accident insurers INAIL, there were 697,773 workplace accidents in Italy in 2022, and 1,090 work-related deaths, amounting to almost three per day.

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Italy ‘yet to decide’ on quitting China’s investment plan

Italy has not yet decided whether to quit China's Belt and Road investment plan, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Sunday, but doing so would not damage bilateral relations.

Italy 'yet to decide' on quitting China's investment plan

“We have yet to make a decision,” Meloni told a press conference at the close of the G20 summit in New Delhi, a day after meeting for talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Should Rome decide to quit, it “would not compromise relations” with China, Meloni said.

Critics say the Belt and Road plan is a Trojan horse to increase China’s influence and Meloni is under pressure to exit, but hopes to do so without inflaming tensions.

The deal automatically renews in March 2024 unless Italy opts out by the end of this year.

Meloni said the government was “evaluating the merits” of being part of the trillion-dollar investment scheme, which debt-ridden Italy joined in 2019.

It is the only one of the group of leading developed democracies to have signed up.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said earlier this month that the Belt and Road initiative “has not produced the results we were hoping for”.

The Italian PM is tipped to travel to Beijing for a state visit in the next few months, or at the start of next year, but would not be drawn on a possible date.

“It makes more sense to go to China when we have more elements about our bilateral cooperation and how to develop it,” she said.

Meloni’s meeting with Li, their first face-to-face, came as a broad alliance of states at the G20 unveiled ambitious plans to create a modern-day Spice Route linking Europe, the Middle East and India, which signatories hope will offer a counterbalance to lavish Chinese infrastructure spending.

Some analysts expect Meloni to pull out of Belt and Road while boosting other existing Italy-China accords.

The meeting with Li Saturday “confirmed the common intention to consolidate and deepen the dialogue between Rome and Beijing on the main bilateral and international issues,” Meloni’s office said in a statement.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of a global strategic partnership between the two countries which “will constitute the beacon for the
advancement of friendship and collaboration,” it said.