Italy according to Istat
by Giuliano Cazzola
The Istat 2022 report on the situation in the country read by Giuliano Cazzola
The Istat 2022 report on the situation of the country addresses, starting from the summary report of President Giancarlo Blangiardo, some of the most serious and difficult problems that, usually, are ignored or set aside in the debate; when it goes well they are the subject of ritual considerations, regularly denied by the political initiative. Blangiardo is a demographer and rightly insists on stressing the gravity of the "demographic question". "The widening of the deficit between births and deaths – already started almost thirty years ago – associated with the most recent contraction of net migration has triggered, with continuity since 2014, a phase of population decline, accentuated by the effects of the pandemic, which has been accompanied by profound transformations in its age structure.
As of January 1, 2022, according to the first provisional data, the resident population in Italy drops to 58 million and 983 thousand units, that is, 1 million and 363 thousand individuals less over 8 years. On the same date – Blangiardo notifies – there are 188 people aged at least 65 per 100 young people under 15, 56 more than twenty years ago; in the coming decades, a further increase in the elderly compared to the young is expected and the proportion, according to the most recent estimates, will reach a peak of 306 on 1 January 2059". Would it not be appropriate for some trade union leaders to question these prospects when they propose – on the pretext of flexibility – substantial advances in the retirement age?
It would not take long to understand that the expected and growing imbalance between young and old automatically transfers to another imbalance: that between taxpayers financing the pension system and recipients of treatment for a reasonable number of years. The first audience shrinks (not only because of the falling birth rate, but also because of the contraction of net migration) while the second tends to expand. But the regulation detrimental to the pension and social security system is also crucial for other reasons. "The profound demographic and social transformations taking place in the country also affect the elderly population, outlining new potential in health conditions and quality of life, but also new needs. Residents aged 65 and over – conventionally referred to as "elderly" – are over 14 million at the beginning of 2022, about 3 million more than twenty years ago; in 2042 there will be almost 19 million. The great elderly, with at least 80 years, exceed 4.5 million and the population with at least one hundred years reaches 20 thousand units, having quadrupled in the last 20 years; in twenty years we will have an increase of almost 2 million people aged 80 or over, while at least centenarians will triple".
The structural aspects of the demographic winter
Moreover, the phenomenon of the falling birth rate is not addressed or reversed – assuming and not granted that there is this intention – with interventions of an economic nature and in a reasonable period of time. There are structural, social, cultural and natural aspects at the base of the demographic winter that cannot be circumvented. Blangiardo in this regard emphasizes the existence of a limit that, at a certain point, becomes impassable, even if the devils of science can move it later in time: the fecundity of the woman. For how many Zan bills can be approved, although gender identity can prevail over the banality of the natural sex, procreation still takes place from the fertilization, through male sperm, of a female egg, whose production meets natural limits linked, at the end of the day, to personal data.
"The evolution of the birth rate over time – says Blangiardo – is strongly conditioned, as well as by the number of women of childbearing age and the intensity of their reproductive choices, also with respect to the "calendar" with which these choices manifest themselves, in terms of age at motherhood. In fact, it should be considered that women residing in Italy have postponed the reproductive experience towards increasingly advanced ages: compared to 1995, the average age at childbirth has increased by more than two years, reaching 32.2 in 2020. In the same period, to an even greater extent (over three years), the average maternal age at the birth of the first child increases, which rises to 31.4 years.
Since comparison with 2001, fertility rates have increased among women aged 30 and over, while they have continued to decline among younger women, reflecting a progressive postponement of motherhood that seems to have increased further in 2021. The result is a collapse of those born to women in their thirties. A decrease, already important between 2001 and 2011, which doubles in the following decade and is only partially offset by the increase in births to mothers aged 30 or over". The children of foreign couples increased, but only until 2012, when a phase of constant decrease began for them, still ongoing. In the years 2020 and 2021 the number of foreign births fell below 60 thousand units, marking a return to the levels of fifteen years ago, when, however, the resident foreigners were half of the current ones.
The contribution of foreigners
The foreign population in Italy as of January 1, 2022 is 5 million and 194 thousand residents. In four years, it has increased less than 200 thousand units. At the base of the slowdown are both the reduction of incoming migratory flows, and the absence for a long time of those regularization measures that in the past had given rise to peaks in the registration of migrants. However, to fully understand the real migratory dynamics over the last few years, we must consider another aspect that has become relevant in our country, as in other countries that have been a destination for immigration for a longer time: the acquisition of citizenship. Between 2011 and 2020 over 1 million and 250 thousand people have obtained Italian citizenship and it can be estimated that on 1 January 2021 the new citizens for the acquisition of citizenship residing in Italy are about 1 million and 600 thousand.
Among the many aspects that deserve to be deepened, prof. Blangiardo's report focuses on the variety of contractual forms that find space in the labor market. It is good to reflect on these data taking into account the "law of the taglione" on non-standard relationships proposed by the unions, in particular by the CGIL. "The work traditionally defined as standard, that is, that identified in permanent employees and in the self-employed with employees, both with full-time hours, is decreasing. In 2021, these modes of work affect 6 out of 10 employees. Independent work is decreasing, accounting for a fifth of the employed, as a result of the decline in entrepreneurs, self-employed workers (farmers, craftsmen, traders), adjuvants and collaborators. Fixed-term employment is increasing, especially on short-term contracts. Almost half of fixed-term employees have an employment of 6 months or less. Over the years, part-time employment has also increased, which in 2021 concerns almost a fifth of the employed and in most cases is involuntary (a definition that has never convinced the writer, ed). And it is precisely this form of part-time that has shown the most consistent growth. Almost 5 million employees, a fifth of the total, in 2021, are non-standard, that is, fixed-term, employees or involuntary part-time. Among these, more than 800 thousand are both fixed-term and involuntary part-time, cumulating the two critical issues. These are, above all, young people up to 34 years, foreigners, women, workers with a low level of education and residents of the South.
A marked concentration of non-standard workers is observed in the housing and catering sector and in agriculture, in that of services to families, collective services and people and education. These workers are members of 4 million and 300 thousand families and, in 1 million and 900 thousand of them, the non-standard worker represents the only one employed. The growth of non-standard work is also linked to the progressive spread of hybrid ways of working. Among these are traced – the report continues – the "self-employed", that is to say the employed who, despite being formally autonomous, are bound by relationships of subordination with another economic unit that limits their access to the market or organizational autonomy. There are almost 500 thousand: in 35 percent of cases they are non-standard workers. Contractual types characterized by an important non-standard component are also those of administered and intermittent work; the former, between 2012 and 2021 more than doubled – standing at 390 thousand units (on average monthly) – while the latter, in 2021, stood at 214 thousand, with an average work intensity of 11 days per month. Finally, it should be noted the workers through the digital platform, estimated at about 50 thousand individuals, for whom the most discussed issue concerns the lack of protections, especially when the platform manages formally self-employed workers, but determines their organization and working conditions, also in terms of hours.
The spread of non-standard forms of work – according to Istat – has contributed to a worsening of the overall quality of employment, also leading to lower average salary levels. The combination of low hourly pay and short-term and intensive employment contracts results in significantly reduced annual pay levels. About 4 million employees of the private sector (excluding the sectors of agriculture and domestic work) are low-paid, that is, they receive a theoretical gross annual salary of less than 12 thousand euros. About 1.3 million employees receive a low hourly wage, less than 8.41 euros. For 1 million employees, the two elements of vulnerability add up. Almost a third of employees are therefore low paid (hourly or annually), with a majority share of those who, as a result of a reduced intensity or continuity of work, fail to have adequate annual wages, despite receiving hourly wages exceeding 8.41 euros per hour.
Low hourly pay, as well as non-standard employment, is also more widespread among young people, women, foreigners (especially if non-EU), with low educational qualifications and residents in the South. If in many cases these are young people who still live in the family of origin, it is not uncommon whether they are single parents or in pairs. These are most often employed in the field of other services (such as, for example, associative organizations, personal service activities, repair of goods for personal and household use), in those of business support and entertainment, accommodation and catering, private education. Age differentials, effects linked to education levels and career progression, sectoral effects and in any case related to the position of individuals in the cycle of their working life intervene in the determination of the gap. Low-paid individuals are mainly employed in companies with more disadvantageous pay conditions, where low hourly wages are combined with fixed-term or part-time contracts. That's 700,000 businesses for about 27 percent of the positions. Then there are 420 thousand companies that collect almost a third of the positions, characterized by the coexistence of standard positions, overall prevalent, and part-time or fixed-term positions.
The methods of participation or non-participation in the labor market are – according to the Istat Report – among the most significant determinants of the condition of poverty, declining, depending on the phases of the life cycle, in a different way. In an insufficient income from work, because it is associated with precarious occupations and with low professional profiles; in a lack or occasional participation in the labour market, which prevents the youngest from starting an independent life and which requires the use of subsidies of various kinds or maintenance by people outside the family; in a small pension, due to the absence of a previous work activity or the result of discontinuous work histories in poorly paid sectors and often characterized by a high incidence of irregular work