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Working con amore

Working con amore

| Text: Lisbeth Davidsen, Phot: Björn Lindahl

After fifteen years in Italy, it feels wonderful to be taken on the wings of the Scandinavian labour market. Not under! That's the whole point.

The other day my inner alarm system was on red alert. TV2 Denmark, for whom I have been working as a presenter since September, had asked all employees to keep their telephone lines open between seven and ten o'clock. There are serious cutbacks at the moment, and during those three

hours those who faced redundancy were going to be told. Thank God my telephone never rang, but the mood was and remains sombre.

TV2 Denmark has got rid of 200 of their 1100 employees through voluntary and non-voluntary

redundancies. It's nasty.

But it could be worse.

The management at many Italian TV stations and other Italian work places dream of being able to do

the same. But in Italy trade unions have managed to keep antiquated rules which make it near impossible for an employer to sack people.

An Italian editor in chief confided in me that he would have sacked 30 of his journalist on the spot, if

only he could. There are people who spend a whole week not writing one sentence - and if they

did, the readers would suffer.

It has to be said that Italy doesn't provide for the unemployed like we do in Scandinavia. Statistics show my sacked TV2 colleagues enjoy very good prospects of finding new jobs.

Getting the sack in Italy is catastrophic. There are no job centres and a very limited period of state

support. Often there is also only one provider per family. But the Italian labour market is a quagmire, and the greatest hindrance to development is the fact that it is so difficult to get rid of people. Employers don't want to employ people on traditional contracts, when they cannot change

their minds about someone at a later stage.

So they typically turn to short-term contracts with bad social protection for the employees.

This hits young Italians particularly hard. They work in the black economy, are poorly paid - or at

best they have short-term, unsecure contracts. They have - not very surprisingly - no hope for or faith

in the future. You could call it a social catastrophe.

Several Italian governments have tried to address these issues over the past 15 years, but so far the

labour market is anachronous, and the trade unions don't seem prepared to give up anything to

change this.

I lived in Italy for 15 years and looked forward to moving home to the modern world. I have not been

disappointed. I have male colleagues on paternity leave! I never met one of those in Italy!

In this country we've actually managed to get rid of men's exaggerated focus on the female

body, after years of focus on sexual harassment. It is very liberating.

In Italy such harassment is still widespread, and it is accepted to a degree that men openly stare at

smart-looking women, including those they meet at work. It is wonderful to concentrate on being a professional rather than a woman when you're at work!

Although it has had the undesired side effect of totally eliminating playfulness between the sexes in

the Nordic countries, even outside of work. Practice!

There is one thing Scandinavia could learn from Italy, however. Up here in the north, our identities are defined to an exaggerated degree by our jobs. In Italy your feeling of belonging comes first and foremost from your family, your friends, your birthplace and culinary traditions.

And thank God for that. I am not only a journalist. I am also she who makes a heavenly lasagne!




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