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The French connection

There has been quite a lot on the TV here about the rioting in France over the attempts of the French politicos to introduce new employer friendly employment contracts. After seeing all the goings on, I sort of suspected that the word 'militant' might have been French in origin until I checked and found that Latin was to blame.

The whole affair is striking a bitter note here with those who have been suffering the effects of the infamous Biagi Law. The problem is that employment here is too stable, too long term and thus damaging to potential profits. This means that businessmen are reluctant to take risks and has led to a certain amount of economic stagnation in Italy, amongst others. The unions still hold enormous power here in Italy, and even the likes of Berlusconi decided that discretion was the better part of valour and decided to leave them well alone. You can understand why. Many people in Italy enjoy the benefits of having nice secure jobs-for-life and a certain number exploit the situation to the maximum by just turning up at work and passing time at the coffee machine, then when they finish their working lives these people pick up a rather juicy state pension. One the subject of this end of employment bonanza, the state is somewhat worried that the funding for these pensions, which one suspects many actually come from the taxes paid by those in work at the moment, may run out in the not so distant future. This subject is not widely broached as it is considered to be one seriously hot potato, and to keep the clicheés flowing, to touch such a hot potato would be to get one's fingers very badly burnt. Hence the inaction here.

As a result of the power of the unions, and the social conscience of past politicians, it is almost impossible to sack inefficient staff here and it would seem that the absence of the sword ofDamoclese causes some of those with permanent work contracts to be quite complacent, much to the displeasure of those running the businesses. This is one reason why Italy's economy has been dragging its heels of late. In order to drag Italy out of the mire, more flexibility in terms of Employment contracts is necessary. When this eventually occurs many of those entering the employment market will be faced with something of a shock as all hope of a job for life drains quickly away. This is indeed already happening and many are now being employed on short term (3 months to 1 year)interruptiblee employment contracts. As a result many feel as though they almost have to re-apply for their jobs every few months. It could be said that the threat of imminent unemployment keeps people efficient, which from an employers point of view is probably a good thing, although one does get the impression that many do not bother giving their all because they do not believe it is worthwhile. The near stagnant job market is not helping matters either.

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Now, the employment market in the UK has become quite flexible and the UK has been doing rather well, at least economically. However, if one starts looking at how things are going below the surface, the picture is not so rosy. Let's think for a moment. The police force seems (I've gleaned this from the Policeman's Blog) to be so bent on hitting paper targets that is appears unable to deal with the spiralling level of gun related crime – despite the fact that gun ownership has been all but eliminated in the UK. Next we have the famous ASBOs – that's Anti Social Behaviour Orders (Nope these don't order their luck recipients to act antisocially) which have been conjured up by the politicians to deal with increasing levels of violence amongst the youth in Great Britain. After that there is the slight binge drinking problem which also seems to be provoking Westminster into taking some form of belated action. After that there are the stories of drug related crime seem to occur rather too regularly – recent stories which spring to mind concern a crack cocaine addled twosome who sledge-hammered and shot two people to death, the rape two young girls, one of whom was killed, the killing of a London lawyer by a burglar, the axe attack on a young schoolboy and the case of the gang of youths who went around hitting anyone they came across 'just for fun'. These stories do not paint a pretty picture of the green and pleasant island. My mum is wondering what the country is coming to. There may be money, but it's not being spent wisely and one may argue that the instability of the job market is causing even more problems than the prospect of high unemployment or maybe it's just that everyone now has so much cash that he and she does not know what to do with it all. Whatever the reasons, Britain seems to be sliding down a slippery slope, at least socially.

The question is, could this happen in Italy? The answer is very possibly 'yes', unless that is, the darling politicos come up with some way of adding flexibility to theemploymentt market while at the same time giving the employed classes something to hope for in the future. This would be no easy task, and it will not be aided by the strong possibility of a return to the 'old guard' after the elections here. As I've already mentioned in this here blog, many Italians are unhappy with the B man, but they are also equally unhappy at the prospect of having to put up with the same old same olds for the next few years.

If ever there had been a time to launch a new political party in Italy, then this must have been it. The trouble is that it's now too late to do anything. One suspects that there are going to be many hovering pens on the days of the election as people remain undecided to the last second before scratching an X and hoping for the best. Talk about Hobson's choice. Silvio got himself into power mainly because people were sick of the lot before him – that lot have not really changed. However the scent of victory does appear to be reaching the nostrils of the B man's opponents (that lot) and, seeing that the tanned one is just about down, certain well aimed political kicks are being launched in his direction to ensure that once he falls over he will not get up again. In some respects Mr B has missed a great opportunity – if he had managed Italy as well as he has managed his own business interests, the electorate would have been more than happy to have popped him back into power. As things are though, I don't see this happening. Exit B, enter P, I don't know, we shall see.

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