People sit at a cafÃ© terrace overlooking the sea on June 24 in Manarola, northwestern Italy. Photo: VCG
Coronavirus restrictions have eased, tourists are returning, but Italian restaurants and hotels face an unexpected problem – they can’t find the staff.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s unity government is counting on a solid rebound from last year’s recession, Italy’s deepest since World War II, and counting on tourism – helped by the new COVID pass – EU 19 – to lead the way this summer.
But emerging recruitment challenges, echoing reports of chronic labor shortages in hospitality industries in the US, UK and Australia, could hamper recovery prospects in Italy and the UK. euro zone in the broad sense.
“We are in trouble,” said Stefano Giuliodori, who is struggling to hire 12 waiters and maids for his hotel in the Adriatic resort of Riccione. “We are expecting a lot of visitors and we absolutely need staff, but it has become really difficult to find someone.”
Alessandro Massimo Nucara, managing director of the hotel lobby group Federalberghi, estimates the labor shortage in the sector at around 10%, or 50,000 workers.
Employment data suggests that young Italians should desperately want to work. In April, 33.7% of job seekers aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, one of the highest rates in the European Union. In addition, more than 23% of Italians between 15 and 29 years old have no job, no education or training – almost double the European average for âNEETsâ and by far the highest in the bloc of 27 countries.
Giuliodori, who offers net monthly salaries of around 1,200 euros ($ 1,430), believes part of the problem lies in social benefits, some introduced before COVID-19 arrived in an attempt to prevent families fall into poverty. âWith all these subsidies, people would rather not leave their hometown, pay rent and stay with their families doing odd jobs,â Giuliodori said.
Most of Riccione’s seasonal workers come from outside the region, which means they have to find accommodation and food, which represents an income that can be well below the roughly 20,000 euros per year, according to Eurostat. , which is average for a single Italian with no children.
A basic social scheme set up in 2019 pays job seekers around 500 euros per month.
A separate emergency scheme for people hard hit by the pandemic but who were not entitled to the so-called “citizen’s salary” pays up to 840 euros per family.
Official statistics show that in March 2021, 2.99 million people were receiving citizens’ wages, while 628,242 families were on the emergency scheme, which lasts at least until September.
“Citizens’ wages are preventing young people from finding jobs,” former center-left prime minister Matteo Renzi said last week on Twitter, calling for money to be diverted to cut corporate taxes and the cost of hiring.
However, many argue that the labor shortage is not due to social benefits, but to poor wages and working conditions.
The tourism industry, which accounts for around 13% of Italy’s GDP, has a particularly bad reputation.
Employees complain that they are often paid in cash, without the formal employment status necessary to qualify for regular social security benefits and the specific COVID-19 plans they might need if infections rise again.
Giuseppe, from Catania in Sicily, who declined to give his last name, said he had worked in pizzerias for 10 years but was fed up with never having a proper contract.
“Everything was in cash. Thirty euros to work from early afternoon until late at night,” he said. “If they want to find more workers, they will have to offer regular contracts.”
Roberto Sabato, who heads a seasonal workers’ rights group called ‘Oltre la piazza’ (Beyond the Square), says the pandemic has led workers like him to reassess their lives.
âPeople are now thinking: the pandemic means I can die tomorrow, and I’ve spent my whole life as a slave. I don’t want to do this anymore,â Sabato told Reuters.
Not just Italy
Businesses have also sounded the alarm bells about labor shortages in other European countries, notably Germany and Greece, dependent on tourism.
“There was one [labor] shortage, which is quite strange, after a seven-month lockdown, âsaid Greek Restaurant Federation President George Kavvathas, adding that a government worker support program was part of the problem.
In Germany, around 30% of the thousands of hospitality businesses that did not reopen in June after the closures eased cited staff shortages as the reason, the German Association of Hotels and Restaurants said.
In Italy, the coronavirus has forced several-month closures for bars, restaurants and hotels, with one in four jobs in the sector lost in 2020, according to hotel and hotel associations. There are now fears that some workers will never return.
A survey carried out in Germany showed that 42% of hotels and restaurants saw their staff move to other sectors such as retail, logistics or hospital canteens.
The window of a store selling typical Sicilian products on June 22 in Taormina, Italy. Photo: VCG
A tourist takes photos in Taormina, Italy on June 22. Photo: VCG
Students from the Nicola Spedalieri High School in Catania visit the Teatro Antico de Taormina on June 22 in Taormina, Italy. Photo: VCG
Tourists stroll across the Ponte della Paglia bridge in Venice, Italy on June 5. Photo: AFP