June 4, 2007

Social mobility

My husband was in Trento this weekend with our son and went to hear a few speakers at the “Festival dell’Economia” that took place from May 31-June 3. This year’s theme was “Capitale Umano, Capitale Sociale” and several interventions addressed Italy’s social class mobility within a wider economic context.

The journalist Marco Margiocco, in an article for the Sole 24 Ore financial newspaper, sustains that Italy is a “prisoner of its older generation and its social classes or castes”. Recent data from a European study on “Social mobility in Europe”, indicates Italian social classes as being 20% more rigid than those of Great Britain and at the bottom of at least the top seven European nations. Antonio Schizzerotto, a sociology professor at the University of Milan and expert on international social mobility adds that, “Italy does not value its human capital to the same extent as the other industrialized nations. The day to day reality is that individuals are not encouraged to do better, because they are not rewarded for their efforts. The individual that is the best prepared may not be chosen for a position or once in a role, does not necessarily advance. In his or her place, the usual “figli di papa” go ahead. The rate of social mobility, advancing ones social class through work, is only 20%, while in other European countries it ranges from 40-55%.” I soliti raccomandati statistically exist!

Economists agree that this is not a good thing for Italy’s economy and is even a major factor (together with social capital and infrastructures) in keeping Italy at the bottom of the advancing world.

The article, like the Festival dell’Economia itself ended without answering the question, “why”. The upper classes fear competition? Has Italy’s hyper-unionized workforce played a role? Does it have to do with the social stratification process that takes place in secondary school? What aspects of Italy’s history have encouraged this fossilization – not only in the South?

Lots of good questons. I’ll add another "cultural moment" one. What’s a mother to do to make sure that her sons have the possiblitly to be the best that they can be?

A domani,

1 comment:

Jadie said...

One thing you've already done: give them exposure to another culture, so they have perspective and can make their way with the realization that there's more than one way to skin a cat!