NAPLES, ITALY - 22 JULY 2019: Antonio Pastore (45, center, unemployed) gather with other unemployed workers at the "Sgarrupato", an abandoned church seized by the "Movimento 7 Novembre" community organization in Montesanto, a working class neighborhood in Naples, Italy, on July 22nd 2019.
Here they share strategies for how to find work, and how to navigate the bewildering government benefits system.
Ten years ago, in the midst of the global financial crisis, Antonio Pastore lost the job he had held for two decades, restoring marble statues. He had earned about 1,200 euros per month ($1,349). As orders disappeared, his employer pressured him to agree to work off the books, he says, enabling the company to avoid paying taxes. He refused, and was summarily fired. That was the last time he has held a real job.
In Italy, the unemployment rate sits near 10 percent — lower than a year ago, but roughly the same level as in 2012, in the aftermath of a brutal crisis. But many in Naples say the crisis never ended.
Italian companies are deferring expansions and limiting investment rather than risking cash in a time of uncertainty. The public debt remains monumental, running at more than 2 trillion euro ($2.24 trillion), or more than 130 percent of annual economic output. Banks are still stuffed with bad loans — albeit fewer than before — making them reluctant to lend. An economy that has not expanded over the past decade is this year widely expected to again produce no growth.