Italy's government texts families to tell them unemployment benefits … – The Telegraph

Hard-Right ministers claim there are plenty of jobs in some parts of the country
The government of Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni is driving through a drastic cut in unemployment benefits as it argues there are plenty of jobs available across the country.
The unemployment rate in Italy has been declining for months and is now at its lowest – 7.4% – since 2009, according to ISTAT, the national statistics agency.
Ms Meloni, the leader of the hard-Right Brothers of Italy party, is planning to phase out the so-called “citizens wage”, which amounts to 550 euros a month for some of the nation’s poorest citizens.
The benefit, which was introduced by the previous populist government four years ago, is given to 1.7 million households to help with basic expenses such as food, electricity and rent.
Tommaso Foti, an MP in Ms Meloni’s party, claims it has cost the nation 30 billion euros (£26bn) and said: “It doesn’t seem to me that it has abolished poverty or helped people find work.”
Last week the first 159,000 families were informed by text message that the benefit had been cut.
Opposition parties have responded furiously, warning Ms Meloni that by slashing the welfare scheme she risks setting off a societal “bomb” which will lead to violent protests and civil unrest.
But ministers say there are parts of the country that are desperately short of staff, if only Italians would be willing to travel and take advantage of the opportunities.
Marina Calderone, the labour minister, said that in the southern region of Campania, for instance, where tens of thousands of people receive the “citizen’s wage”, there are 108,000 jobs available.
It was the same situation in many other regions and such figures made a “nonsense” out of the welfare payment, she told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Thursday.
“There are jobs available, in fact plenty of them. Whoever says otherwise is either ill-informed or speaking in bad faith. The official figures are clear – the number of jobs is growing and the rate of unemployment is falling. Companies cannot find the employees that they need.”
Luca Ciriani, minister for parliamentary affairs, said the government would continue to help the most vulnerable in society. “But it’s right that those who can, work, because that’s the only way a person can have their dignity.”
But many poor Italians say they will be unable to afford rent, food and medicines if they lose the payment and have taken to the streets in the past week to protest.
In a town in Sicily, an unemployed man threatened to torch the mayor’s office, while in Naples, trade unionists and far-Left activists held a rally outside the offices of the welfare agency, INPS.
The opposition accuses the government of lacking compassion as it pushes ahead with the welfare reform – and of extra cruelty in delivering the news by text message.
Roberto Fico, a senior member of the populist Five Star Movement, which introduced the citizen’s wage when it was in power, said the government was provoking social unrest. “They risk creating a social bomb, an anger that will be taken out on local authorities. Communicating the end of the citizen’s wage with an SMS was totally wrong.”
Giuseppe Conte, the current leader of Five Star who introduced the citizen’s wage when he was prime minister, said in parliament on Wednesday that the Meloni government should send out new text messages to apologise.
He accused the prime minister, who was elected last autumn, of “deliberately splitting the country in two” with the welfare reform. He said the government had “insulted people by calling them layabouts” and said it was hard for many people to find work, particularly those in their fifties and sixties.
Elly Schlein, the head of the main opposition party, the centre-Left Democratic Party, accused the government of “waging war on the poor”.
The citizen’s wage will be replaced by two new benefits, although there is some confusion over how they will work.
One will be called the “inclusion cheque”, worth a maximum of 500 euros a month per individual, for households which include children, disabled people or people over 60.
The second, a payment of up to 350 euros a month, will be given to people who are deemed fit to work until they can find a job.


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