To understand the problem and possible solutions to unemployment from a jobseeker's point of view, Professor Raffaele De Mucci, LUISS instructor in Political Sociology, published a series of essays on unemployment, entrepreneurship and growth.
Edited with the assistance of LUISS researcher Rosamaria Bitelli, the book is the product of research group LUISS LAPS, in collaboration with CFI – Cooperazione Finanza Impresa – to understand what prevents unemployed Italians from resolving their problems through entrepreneurship. “The relationship between unemployment and entrepreneurship opens up to a discussion on proclivity for entrepreneurship as a cultural issue that affects professional development,” states Professor De Mucci.
“Our civic conscience is missing several cultural reference points that belong to other countries: Max Weber’s spirit of capitalism, Israel Kirzner’s proclivity for alertness, Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction. These formulas on innovation have been confined to stereotypes of economic theory, while they should be part of the guiding models of our political and professional activities.”
Effects of these deficiencies are evident, as demonstrated by the OCSE’s Index of Global Entrepreneurship, which places Italy in 48th place, above only Mexico, in its inclination towards entrepreneurship. “According to Eurobarometer data, only 11% of Italians would be willing to open a business, while 68% have never thought of it. Completing the negative image is our aging entrepreneurial class (80% are between ages 50-60, while only 5% are under 40), and the rare generational turnover in the entrepreneurial system. In my opinion, blame is placed in the myths of the welfare state and in growing expectations in state assistance, but not to be overlooked are failures in labor policies and widespread distrust of the private sector and the market.”
Behind the book’s nine essays is a survey of 750 unemployed Italians. Our objective was to try to bring out the dormant entrepreneurial side of the unemployed, but the questions and answers we received indicated that those without jobs are not very inclined to take on the role and responsibility of an entrepreneurial enterprise. In the face of the current crisis, it is the younger generation (15-24 years old), born and raised in the recession, that are the least optimistic. This sentiment is subsequently felt in the middle-aged unemployed (35-45 years old) and creates deep forms of social pressure and the disturbing NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). It is almost a paradox, but we find more optimism in the south, a testament of the resilience of those who face a long-term structural crisis, compared to those who are experiencing a cyclical crisis merely over the past few years.”
To stimulate new initiatives, such as a new startup or a cooperative, context is important. That which Professor De Mucci refers to as the entrepreneurial ecosystem, that is, all the factors and variables that condition business framework, offering financial resources and social-economic support to favor growth. Among these factors (access to capital, access to the market, the lack of supporting policies), the largest obstacle can be the access to credit, to savings to invest, and to financing from banks. However, in addition to cultural values and models, measures that would have a positive influence are financial support policies as demonstrated by the CFI experience and the workers buy-out model, where employees of a failing company form a cooperative and take over.”
Among the causes that slow growth and employment in Italy, the book also takes the role of corruption into consideration. “We know very well that scarce foreign investment in Italy is due to excessive bureaucracy, judicial inefficiency and corrupt relationships between political and economic powers. In the business world there are insidious networks and virtuous networks: relational capitalism, relying on professional abilities, is that which opposes so-called crony capitalism. Networks based on familiarity are a form of business degeneration, while, on the other hand, virtuous networks are structured to favor and strengthen skills.”
Several problems linked to limited entrepreneurial creativity in Italy require culture-based solutions. “Professional skills and civic virtues are two terms that have been at the center of cultural debate, from Plato to Hume. Today we see them reformulated in terms of the relationship between technocracy and democracy, or between honest and government know-how.” In any case, concludes Professor De Mucci, “We must find a balance between technical-professional skills and social networks. Such a balance can only be provided by a joint effort between schools and policies.”