I am so happy that many Italians will no longer get the “citizenship wage”, which has now been abolished by the new rightist government. Finally, millions of Italians will be able to find a cleaning lady, a plumber or a gardener who is willing to work, instead of sitting on the couch and getting paid anyway just because they have an Italian passport.
This was the idea of a “universal basic income”, introduced back in 2019 by the populist government led by the 5 Star Party – and it failed miserably.
Every democratic country in Europe and elsewhere has subsidies for the jobless, but Italy’s was the highest basic wage in the European Union: an applicant could get up to €780 per month (£670). It turns out that pretty much everyone who got the payment just sat at home.
I know people working six days a week, eight hours a day, and getting paid just €1,100. And I would understand if they decided to quit the job and pick up almost the same money for doing nothing.
In these past few years the citizenship wage has deeply affected everyone’s lives, making it a nightmare to find anyone to do anything. You want a delivery guy? Bad luck. Some extra hands to pick and press the olives? None available.
Earlier this year I had a cleaning lady who occasionally helped me with tough house chores. She only did a few shifts, but once, I asked her to go over something again, and she walked out on me. “I’m quitting,” she said. “Thank heaven I have the wage anyway.” She rushed out of my house, and as she left nearly knocked down a lemon tree with her car. It was annoying – but completely understandable. She didn’t want to work, she didn’t have to, so she left.
Each time I went to the bakery, the shoppers in the queue were whispering about how the staff kept changing from week to week. Everyone ditched their job to apply for the universal wage. I know a few families where both parents declared themselves jobless and got €1,500 a month plus another €500 for their child.
What was also pretty clear is that many beneficiaries pretended to be jobless in order to get the wage, but then “secretly” did a job on the side – and because that job was undeclared, they didn’t pay any tax.
At the beginning of this summer, several hoteliers I know complained they couldn’t find seasonal workers: waiters, cooks, concierges, tourist guides, receptionists, life guards, bartenders. For a sector still trying to recover from Covid, that’s a pretty serious problem.
Last year alone, the citizenship wage “killed” 250,000 jobs in the tourist industry – I wonder what the final balance of this super hot summer will be?
A few weeks ago I was sunbathing on a Roman beach when I overheard a few teenagers chatting. They were saying that perhaps now they wouldn’t be able to afford to turn down new job offers, given that the basic income has been scrapped.
But then one girl, with fluorescent pink nails, confidently said: “I’m sure the new government will find another way to help us. And if not, my granny has already promised me a third of her pension.”