Country Situation Italy

Current national situation of young people having disadvantaged background

In Italy, with the term “young people with fewer opportunities” we recognize that category of youngsters who, for various reasons related to their specific condition, encounter greater difficulties than their peers accessing to formal education and non-formal education, planning a possible mobility, in feeling active citizens, having interest in social life, facing the job search path, all these life steps because of a poor decision-making autonomy and lacking involvement in society in general.

Some of the groups, in particular young people who do not work and do not attend any education or training course (NEET), have behind them and / or find themselves facing more than one of the above situations. According to an article published last December by the Italian on-line newspaper Le Nius[1] and according to the ISTAT (The Italian National Institute of Statistics), there are around 2.116.000 NEET young people in Italy. It is almost one out of four Italians aged between 15 and 29 years old which does not work, study or train.

This could also in principle mean that a lot of young Italians are traveling around the world enjoying life, or that they are depressed and closed in the house without even the urge to study or look for work, or that they are struggling to find a way out of the NEETs universe without finding it.

As for the territorial distribution, the southern regions present the highest data. Sicily, Calabria and Campania abundantly exceed the 30% share of NEET, followed by Puglia, Sardinia, Basilicata, Molise, Lazio, Abruzzo and Liguria with a share between the 20% and 30%. The regions with the lowest percentages are those of the north east of the peninsula, which have data in line or only slightly higher than the European average, followed by the other central-north regions with percentages between the 15% and the 20%.

Eurostat data have been available since 2004 and since that year, in which Italy was 19.6%, the level has continued to rise: according to their last data update titled “Young people neither in employment nor in education and training by sex, age and educational attainment level (NEET rates)”[2] in 2018 the percentage in the age range from 15 to 34 years old in Italy was close to the 25% of the group.




Main challenges of youth workers who work with youngsters having disadvantaged background in their daily implementation

The main challenge in this field is the drastic cuts to its dedicated public funding and the consequent link of breaking away from a dependence on public funding through the diversification of financial resources (through, for example, the sale of products or services, identifying donors and sponsors, public commissioning, crowdfunding etc.), while avoiding management geared towards the creation of a market which would put at risk the social mission of the youth organizations.

The lack of national support for “youth work” in Italy includes a lack of public recognition or regulation of the specific professional role of the youth worker, that would lead to achieve a sense of social and self-emancipation in overcoming both cultural nd social barriers.

To conclude, evaluation of youth work practice is still in its infancy, although youth workers in Italy have a high degree of autonomy and are largely immune from managerial interference and bureaucratic regimes.

Current tools and methodology that youth workers and social workers use by working with disadvantaged youngsters to promote their integration

Reaching and involving young people with fewer opportunities represents a key challenge in youth work, as widely acknowledged and recognised by many parts, such as, for example, the Erasmus+ Inclusion and Diversity Strategy in the field of Youth.

NGOs and local active youth workers continuously strive to adapt their communication and information channels to the specific needs and characteristics of young people with fewer opportunities. An evaluation of the work carried out in the project YEP- Young Enterprise Program identified a series of effective ways to connect with and stimulate the interest of youth at risks, one of this is a short list of key messages to give to young people about the job seeking process and more especially about entrepreneurship as:

  • It is not only limited to highly technological people or graduates;
  • It means turning ideas into actions;
  • It can turn personal passions – as smaller as they are (e.g. baking cakes) – into a way of financially sustain oneself;
  • It is a way to become aware of personal strengths and weaknesses as well as own goals in life, and to strengthen self-confidence;
  • It can help in acquiring and developing competencies and knowledge useful for the labour market in general (even if one decides in the end not to become an entrepreneur him/herself);
  • It is an opportunity to meet with peers and like-minded people, exchange ideas and integrate skills.

This list is the proof that even just saying the right words is a first step to support and encourage the youngsters. Another interesting tool from the same project is the experimental “social tutoring”.

“Social tutoring” refers to an individual and tailor-made support provided to every single young person participating in the YEP project. This represented more than a simple tutoring of the participants to the training course and incubation programme and meant an actual 360-degree “taking care” of the youngsters, by considering each person cultural and social characteristics and needs. The “social tutor” was thus a specific person who, coming from various backgrounds depending on the organization – youth worker, but also, social worker, trainer, etc. – supported young people – with their individual specificity, needs, talents and potentialities, etc.

Brief description of Good Practices on youth work aimed at youngsters having disadvantaged background in the country

Today, there is not a definition of youth work, nor a clear definition of “young people”. So far, there are no national laws regarding both youth work and young persons. All the laws dealing with this issue, both at national and regional level, have different concepts of what “young people” are. In fact, each of these laws considers different age ranges to identify the target, depending on the issue dealt with.

Italian youth policies have been oriented towards two main directions: on one side, they have dealt with young people involved in the labour market and, on the other one, they were oriented towards prevention of crime, delinquency and drug abuse. Since 1997, policies regarding youth have paid more attention on the issue of promoting youth sociability and the development of educational and recreational services, which actively promote youth sociability nationwide[1].

According to the Italian country report Working with young people: the value of youth work in the European Union (2014)[2], the organizations that deliver youth work in Italy share broad youth work values, which include:

  • Youth work should not be seen only as a way to provide instruments for the labour market;
  • Youth workers do not have to work only with problematic young people, they have to accompany and support all the young people in exploiting their potential;
  • Youth workers have to support the active participation of youth in the activities carried out at local level.