“A hand to count on”: a proposal to assist younger generations in Italy

The Bruno Visentini Foundation has looked at international intergenerational initiatives to propose ways to tackle the intergenerational problems of Italy, one of which is an “opportunity income” scheme. Luciano Monti, Scientific co-director of  the Bruno Visentini Foundation, explains the background, and the proposal.

The generational divide between conflicts and solidarity is the name of the report published (in March 2017) by the Bruno Visentini Foundation that highlighted for the first time the gravity of this divide, which affects – or could potentially affect – over 12 million Italian citizens.

The Report showed how people aged of between 15 and 34 (the youngest of whom belong to Generation Z, born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s, and the others to the Millennials) are at highest risk. Among these, according to Italian government data (Istat) for the year 2017, more than a quarter are living in conditions of total inactivity, both voluntary or otherwise, the so-called NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

The resulting debate was inspired by the observation, highlighted in the Report itself, that if a strategy to combat such a divide was not undertaken promptly, according to the Generational Divide Index (GDI), in 2030 there will be a huge number of people over 40 still looking for an independent and autonomous life. The GDI refers now also the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS) Sustainable Development 2017 Report and the Caritas 2017 Report on youth poverty.

Practical solutions

How to subvert this state of affairs?

In the said Bruno Visentini Foundation Report of 2017, the first guidelines of a real Youth Strategy were drawn up. The proposal officially presented to Government, social organisations and national media is substantially based on two pillars:

(a) the creation of a legal framework that could join together all the current generational measures within the national legal system;

(b) the introduction of a new financial multiannual plan totalling 30 billion euros, which would bring about a reduction in the current equivalent cost of NEETs in the medium term (Eurofund estimate). The funding of the plan would be fuelled by focusing the current generational measures – such as the youth guarantee, fiscal benefits for young employees, a cultural card for 18-year-old students and support to young farmers and young entrepreneurs – into the new framework and by a temporary levy on higher pensions.

The 2018 Report, The Generational divide: a new deal for youth employment, not only calls for a more in-depth reflection on the phenomenon of the generational divide and its economic, social and ethical implications, but provides the legislator with a platform for coordinated interventions without burdening the State accounts. No room, therefore, for further excuses advanced by those who believe that an intervention to safeguard the rights of our younger citizens is not feasible.

“Opportunity income”

The new Report, presented at the end of 2018, while focusing on the perspectives of young people linked to the new professions, brings together and assesses good examples of generational measures from 19 countries around the world such as the Employment Tax Incentive of South Africa, the Young Farmer Scheme in Ireland, the Respekt pilot programme of Germany, the Building Bridge to Education scheme of Denmark and the Youth Housing Benefit scheme of Sweden.

The 2018 Report concludes with a more detailed proposal for a new Youth Strategy and introduces the concept of “opportunity income”. The 4.5 billion euros a year needed to start the opportunity income pilot programme can be made available thanks to a 3.7 billion euro rescheduling of the numerous and fragmented generational measures (some also co-financed by European funds, such as the abovementioned Youth Guarantee, for example) and the redirection of an additional 800 million euros from other measures not directly generational but with a potential generational impact.

According to the  Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development the proposed new strategy fits with the Agenda 2030 8b target:“By 2020 develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization”.

A helping hand

The practical tool providing this door-opening opportunity income is called “Una Mano per Contare” (A Hand to Count on) because it should be considered as a helping hand, a hand you can rely on but also a hand youngsters can count on themselves to politically support their rights.

This individual card is based on a five-level framework (the five fingers of the hand):

  • the educational process and acquisition of new competences
  • the vocational process into a new specialisation strategy
  • the transition from school to work
  • the transition from ideas into entrepreneurial projects
  • housing and mobility.

According to this platform, beneficiaries – to help them open their “life doors” more easily – can acquire, over a period of about twenty years (from 16 to 34-years-old), tax services/benefits/tax reliefs to integrate their experiences of work-based learning, to develop research in companies, and to fund job orientation, continuous training, entrepreneurial activity, and housing and support services for their young family.

The total proposed amount of the opportunity income is estimated at 20,000 euros for each beneficiary for the entire period. In addition, the highest pensions tax will yearly fuel a national fund for supplementary pensions in favour of young people, giving back to them some longer-term economic security that is currently under threat.

In November 2019 the third Report on the Generational Divide will be published, and we shall present the first impact evaluation of the proposed opportunity income scheme in comparison with the universal (and therefore not generational) basic income scheme (Reddito di Cittadinanza) launched earlier this year by the current Italian government – and charged to the national accounts at 23.4 billion euros (FY 2019-2021).

Most recent data show that young people are not benefiting of the government’s basic income scheme – but rather they will only pay for it.

Help us to be able to do more

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in our work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate