by Marzia De Giuli
ROME, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Italy's 2014 has started with signals of an economic recovery within reach but also a persisting lack of a labor market strategy which experts said urges remedy.
The national statistics institute Istat released on Wednesday the highest unemployment figures since Italy began keeping track in 1977. The ranks of the overall jobless have more than doubled since 2007, and youth unemployment at 41.6 percent rang an even more dramatic alarm bell.
While requests for benefits shot up more than 32 percent last year as reported by the social security agency INPS, job agencies are trying their best to help the millions of Italians in trouble.
In Italy the unemployed can direct to the public service, which offers recruitment bureaus and orientation offices at the local level, or to private temp agencies as well as online job sites. But in the ongoing times it has become very difficult to assist the crowds of job seekers.
"Many cannot even find their first job, while others are just in need of a more stable occupation," Raffaele Taddeo, a coordinator of the Informagiovani youth information service in Rome, told Xinhua.
Taddeo noted that in the last few years the number of young Italians in search of a job abroad has significantly increased.
The latest report of Aire, the official registry of Italian citizens residing abroad, said that more than 1 million of under-35-year-old Italians live in other countries.
Labor analysts said this scenario shows a lack of strategy in the labor policies adopted by the Italian governments over the past years.
Maurizio Del Conte, a labor law professor at the Bocconi University in Milan, was not surprised that the economy is improving while the labor market is not doing so.
"This highlights that an economy is being restarted which is still bound to old labor schemes that are not competitive anymore," he stressed.
Especially when the outbreak of the global crisis underlined the necessity of a dynamic labor market, Italy's governments missed the much-needed "modernization of work organization", Del Conte explained to Xinhua.
Italy continues to have plenty of skilled unemployed besides companies unable to find the professionals they need, he said. Meanwhile, more than 95 percent of workers find a job through their acquaintances due to lack of efficiency and transparency in the labor market.
The labor law introduced by the government of former Prime Minister Mario Monti in 2012 also ended to produce an umpteenth prolix legislation that failed to meet the market needs, Del Conte pointed out.
"Instead of continuing to change the contract models, Italy needs to ease those rigidities that strongly limit the evolution of workers as well as the development of companies, for example when it comes to moving a worker from one activity to another," he said.
In his view, "more training, internal mobility, organizational flexibility and respect for rules" are the keystones to get back productivity and competitiveness as well as avoid remaining stuck in ancient businesses with little value added.
The present government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta had also repeatedly marked youth employment as a "priority" but was not able to stem the tide of unemployment.
Thousands of unemployed workers were among the crowds of Italians who took the streets across the country over the past weeks to fiercely protest austerity policies.
The latest attempt to tackle unemployment was made by the new leader of the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) Matteo Renzi, who presented a draft of a package of job policy proposals called "Jobs Act" on Wednesday.
"This document focuses on a plan of strategic sectors, confirming that employment is not created by law but with business initiatives in emerging sectors and revaluing the traditional ones," Michele Tiraboschi, a labor law professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, told Xinhua commenting on the draft.
The Jobs Act also contains the idea of a labor code to simplify the legal framework, not imposed from above but as the result of a one-year complex process open to anyone who wants to make a contribution, Tiraboschi noted.
The professor had a positive opinion of Renzi's package of job policy proposals, that he described as "realistic" and said that could lead to the much-needed turning point in the Italian labor market.