Interviews With Officials
As mentioned above, the talks aimed at having a more precise picture on the regional scene regarding the problem investigated concerned institutional entities operating in the provinces of Bologna, Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia, Ferrara and an official of the regional administration. To these must be added the interviews with union officials in charge of foreign offices of their respective offices and the interview with a religious woman, in charge of an Immigrant Center operating in her own city.
The range of institutions within which the interviews took place includes, in addition to the Region, 1 Municipal Foreign Centre, 7 Vocational Training Assessors, 5 Employment Centres, and 1 Consortium of Municipalities.
Interviewers were provided by the research pilot group with a list of issues that could be used as a reference grid to be taken into account in the conduct of the interviews. Apart from the information relating to the department of reference, the specific service and the role played in it by the interlocutor, the choice listed the following topics on which to request information and/or solicit opinions and opinions:
- the definition of “work experience”, according to the respondent and in the sense used in the Service in which he operates;
- which – among the types of work experience provided for in the regional document mentioned above – are promoted, followed up, authorized by the Service;
- which are achievable by other Bodies in collaboration with the Service; which are also built independently by other bodies;
- staff within the Service involved; other bodies involved (public and private); procedures used; reference legislation;
- the amount of work experiences carried out over the last three years within the province, distinguished by types (exist and can be consulted statistical sources in this regard? If so, do they refer to the typology adopted at regional level?);
- work experiences in which foreign immigrant workers have been protagonists (or in which they have been involved) (reporting of any critical issues, barriers to access, strengths; reporting of initiatives that have mainly concerned, in absolute and percentage figures, immigrant subjects; experiences however considered more significant – in positive or negative terms – and therefore to be taken into account in the design of the interviews of the second phase).
Interviewers were also asked to collect relevant documentation available at each location visited.
It should first be noted that reading the texts of the interviews with officials give an impression of a marked disorganisation of the overall picture. There have also been significant imbalances which, while sometimes differentiating similar institutions such as tasks and functions, tend to be much more evident in marking differences between different areas of the regional territory.
Certainly significant, for example, a point is highlighted by all the detectors: the very small number of subjects who have been able to answer the first question, relating to the definition of work experience, also highlighting how different approaches in this regard in similar institutional areas are circulating.
But this disorganism goes beyond what might perhaps be considered a simple terminological question. As we go along, it is highlighted as a concrete inhomogeneity, which includes even profound differences in terms of:
- levels of knowledge and information on the specificities of migration in the reference air (both in terms of the number of immigrant presences and their composition, and – more seriously – in terms of the roles it plays on the labour market and in the local employment structure);
- ability to clearly identify the tasks and problems involved in such presences with regard to the specific functions assigned to the institution, section or service to which you are a member;
- sensitivity and effective commitment to the search for appropriate solutions, especially in cases where current regulations return to incomplete, inaccurate or even contradictory;
- ad hoc organizational levels and joints, i.e. the ability to develop solutions at that level too that take into account the peculiarities that differentiate the status of immigrant worker from that of indigenous worker;
- number and quality of relationships established with training bodies;
- number and quality of the work experiences mentioned and ability to provide data, information and articulated evaluations in this regard.
Given the data on the distribution of immigrants on the territory of the region, as mentioned above, that inhomogeneity may appear to be justified in part; but this is not the case if one considers it from the point of view of an institutional logic; as is evident to a large extent from the text of several interviews – in fact – from this point of view it is rather as an effect, on a case-by-case basis:
– particular local delays in the implementation of the planned obligations;
– of “excessive importance attached to administrative procedures in relation to the space that should be given to information and guidance activities”;
– the “slowness with which changes are introduced into the overall regulatory framework which would allow easier development of those initiatives that should be at the heart of the activity of promoting employment and orientation”. Specifically in the cases, reported by the interviewers, of particular local delays, the delays of implementation within the authority or service in question are always linked also to a lack of knowledge of the migration phenomenon, lack of ability to cite concrete experiences in this field, lack of links with training bodies; in some extreme cases, in addition to the detection of negative attitudes even expressed in stereotypical form: “there are few foreign users” (statement – the interviewer points out – which amazes by knowing the data relating to foreign presences, otherwise confirmed by other people operating, as trainers, in the same territories), “often lie and are victimists”; “there are cases of subjects who – got an advance on pay – disappear,” and the like.
However, in all the other cases considered, the considerations made in the interview by a regional official seem more appropriate, although they seem more appropriate, since “activities designed to provide the immigrant worker and the immigrant citizen with training or professionalisation tools to acquire specific skills have already had appreciable positive effects” (1), states the opinion that “a policy, at least with regard to aspects of work articulated in clearly defined strategies , organized through concrete actions carried out by local authorities or the region, does not yet exist“.
And so he continues, in the colloquium of which it seems appropriate to report large excerpts, which provide elements of undoubted interest to better define the space – in its normative and structural dimensions as well as in the conditionings and constraints that derive from it – in which the work experiences examined in the following pages are developed.
“There is no policy, in the sense mentioned, also because local authorities and regions do not have competences of this kind, and also because only very recently have the functions related to employment services arrived in our competences and in the provinces. Let me give you a concrete example when I talk about work experience: the ministerial decree regulating the possibility of carrying out training courses for non-Community countries was discussed a few days ago with the regions; before it is adopted (since it is a decree that is adopted by agreement between the Ministry of Labour and the Interior), that it is published and that becomes operational will still be some time!”.
The same regional official then continues.
“The national decree of internships is from May 1998: in this long period of time it is not that there have been no training internships for non-Community, but they have been done with a very complicated and very particular procedure, not monitored.
We constantly monitor all traineeships that take place, in accordance with Regulation 142/98, in this region, which is the only one to have them. Work is even being done on the evaluation of the W’s.E., therefore on the qualitative aspects of the work experience. (…) Traineeships as such; not specifically for non-Community countries, which are few, also because the access procedure is particularly complicated and even in the new procedure established by this decree, we will have to be very careful.
In fact, particularly for vulnerable sections of the labour market, traineeships, training and guidance courses run the risk of turninging. (…)
Much has been done in terms of training and often well. It was done, however, with instruments that were until recently partly inadequate: for example, it was almost never possible to think of a form of income support for non-EU citizens. While it is not necessary, in principle, for a normal person or dependent on the family, in the field of vocational training it is not necessary and perhaps not even advisable to think about forms of support, in the case of non-Community and generally weaker groups than the labour market, the idea of income support may be essential in order to promote the process of participation and qualification of one’s skills. This is an undoubted access barrier, because while other people can safely invest in themselves for some time, this category can’t.
A great deal has been done at that time, but a great deal has been done by acting on the immigrant who was already here and at some point in his life path he found himself out of work.
What we lack today is the possibility of closely related these activities to the same adjustments as the entry flows. Therefore, it cannot be solved only by the ordinary instruments of active labour policies, or only passable through instruments financed by the European Social Fund (ESF), but also requires regulatory action.
When the decree on flows defines the quantities of people and also the distribution of the countries of origin, it does not say much more about the fact that these people, once they arrive in Italy, can count, if they need it, on literacy, integration and vocational training paths. If it were possible to provide for an entry for training reasons, turning the presence of us for training reasons into a subsequent employment relationship – that is, a training permit for work reasons, but allocating a “share of the quotas” to those who are engaged in the path, this would undoubtedly favor this process. (…) But this is not yet there today and I believe it can be one of those areas on which we need to work (…) In addition, the specific immigration law, the new immigration law in our region, has yet to be reviewed. (…) In my opinion, we are addressed by this objective inadequacy of the regulatory instruments at our disposal.
In this context, however, many concrete actions have been developed to support the employment of immigrants, also aimed at specific targets of immigrants. In conclusion, it is possible to monitor seriously the training, guidance and few internships for immigrants, but these actions themselves are in danger of not being enough if we do not have an overall policy of intervention in the mechanisms for qualifying the regulation of flow”.
And, again from the recording of the same interview.
“There are some initiatives in charge, however, of the Ministry of Labour, because the decree has divided, in accordance with Bassanini, the competences between the State and local authorities (Regions and Provinces) on services to labour policies.
On 469/97, it provides, by cutting back, that everything that is supervision is in the head of the State and all that is active policies and service both in charge of regions and provinces. In the specific case of flows of non-Community sources, the same definition of flows is the task of the Ministry of Labour (…) defining flows is, yes, a supervisory activity but, first and first of all, it is a service activity and active policies. First of all, we must be aware that there are non-Community bodies which, from illegal immigration, can legitimately aspire to enter into regularity, even if they escape exploitation paths and risks of contiguity with the underworld (…) and also think that there are non-EU citizens who have regular residence permits for work and who at some point lose their jobs, or are still available workforces that can cover jobs for which perhaps applications for other non-EU ones are made… but not just for that reason.
In fact, the labour market proceeds through complex intersections of availability and skills: people who come from other parts of the world have very different skills and availability depending on their place of origin or individual characteristics: it is one count to be a Polish nurse, or a Slovak engineer, it is one account to be a Moroccan bricklayer or an Egyptian electrician. These are different situations both in terms of cultural approach, but also in terms of the type of relations that are established with the networks of other non-EU countries present in our country, already established on the territory.
Finally, it must be remembered that paradoxically the immigrant citizen, if he is at a disadvantage, compared to italians, in the labour market and in society, is paradoxically more appetizing than others by companies, because many non-EU citizens are extraordinary workers and are willing to do things that our compatriots would not normally do”.
A specific observation should be noted immediately among the many important ones contained in this broad quotation, because of the frequency with which it recurs in the statements of the other institutional actors interviewed: that of the fact that under current legislation it is very difficult (some argue: impossible) to organize internships for non-Community workers.
Given the frequency with which this difficulty is reported, the attitudes and behaviours taken in this regard by the various institutional interlocutors contacted seem to be considered effective indicators with regard to the differences mentioned above.
Schematizing, the range noted during the interviews ranges from “therefore this reduces practically to zero the possibility of organizing work experiences for immigrants” (“renouncing” attitude), through various nuances of denunciation of the snag, considered however as an obstacle not circumventable today but of which it is possibly desirable a future removal (“legalist” attitude), to the illustration of experiences in which forms have been found – “unfortunately for now partial” – to bypass it , often in collaboration with external bodies (the social private sector or the third sector in general).
Examples in the latter direction have been illustrated, for example, in an operational unit of the Employment Policy Service of Reggio Emilia, one of the points, among those touched during the planned interviews, in which there was greater clarity on the issues of the proposed problem. The recording of the interview reads as if:
“The office takes care of the internships. There are three internal evaluation units covering:
- traineeships submitted with an application for ESF funding from training providers;
- traineeships requested directly by companies, of which the Employment Centres are now promoting (L.142);
- traineeships for the disabled (L.68).Within the work of the second nucleus, efforts are being made to develop the problem of non-Community expenditure. This activity has been developing especially for some years, also following the increased requests for promotions of specific internships by companies. It must be said that, as regards the organisation of traineeships for non-Community residents, Ministerial Decree 142 does not provide for the possibility that these may take place.
The province of Reggio Emilia, and in particular the bodies set up for such operations, take the view, however, that, when non-Community nationals are regularly registered as unemployed and temporarily unemployed, they should be considered in the same way as Italian nationals under the non-Community rules.
For about a year now, an experiment has been being carried out which addresses the issue, in particular with regard to the evaluation of the quality of traineeships requested by companies, of which the Employment Centres are the promoters: duration of the traineeship, skills required by the job carried out, incoming skills of the trainee, etc.This experience has led to an improvement in procedures and has made it easier and more appropriate to “certify competence“. The important thing to check is, in fact, that it is indeed a real internship, that is, that we are not in the presence of exploitation and “unpaid” work.
In the field of foreigners, the discourse becomes particularly delicate and precisely for this reason that it is required to make clear and transparent the “pact” between company and worker provided for in each internship plan.
The Office undertakes to evaluate each individual case and applies evaluation criteria relating to the characteristics of the company, the tasks entrusted to the trainee, the incoming skills in order to establish a correct and significant duration of the internship period and avoid any other “interpretation” of that experience.
Since February there have been about 80 internship experiences, and next February we will be able to start to draw considerations and evaluate the results obtained. However, everything possible is being tried, often also through the use of fairly “forced” interpretations of the law, pending the D.M. announced since the law was passed (it seems certain in a few months).
So far, limited numbers of cases have been worked on; in order to adequately deal with larger numbers, these procedures should be formalised in order to achieve a better design of traineeships also from an economic point of view. The involvement of the CFP would be important, also in support of greater credibility on the part of companies. Finally, it should be remembered that the regional directives allow traineeships to issue ‘declaration of competence’. This is a formula which is in high demand from outside the Community, which at least has a certain period of specialisation recognized. A recognised competence can sometimes make life change.”
Another interview, given at the Operational Training Unit for the unemployed in the province of Reggio Emilia, provides an even broader picture, accompanied by interesting assessments of the strengths and difficulties of concrete experiences.
“The Office carries out activities to facilitate entry into the world of work and is aimed at the postgraduate or graduate unemployed and the so-called “users with a lack of opportunities” (disabled people, immigrants…)”.
As far as foreign workers are concerned, it is necessary to divide the discourse into two specific areas:
1.Young people from reunited families: these children, who have already reached a parent who was already in Italy, are likely to experience a fairly stable family situation. They are often included in traditional school courses (with the possibility, therefore, of good integration in our country) and then started in two-year training courses, strictly professionalizing.
The strengths of these courses are:
– the internship in companies;
– children can use the canteen and public transport free of charge, so they do not burden the family.
2.Extra-Community adults with residence permits: as far as this group is concerned, the experience of the institution is very diverse, and it seeks to respect ethnic and gender differences. As far as women are concerned, over the years there have been experiences in the field of personal services, in the field of cleaning, hygiene and sanitization services; in the field of sewing and weaving. As far as men are concerned, experience is gained in sectors such as metalworking, repairs, slaughter and milking (the province of Reggio is full of stables).
The strengths of these experiences are:
– carrying out internships in companies, with good chances of stable integration;
– attendance allowances, as required by current regulations. The salary is six thousand lire for each hour of the course attended.
• The province deals with course planning and carries out support actions (e.g. training of operators to be included in cooperatives), but the management of courses is entrusted to external bodies.
• In all this it is very important to collaborate with voluntary associations and the non-profit world, with cooperatives and realities that have direct and concrete experience on the territory and enjoy credibility with foreigners.
• Within these training areas there is a coordinator who deals specifically with the weak user base. Each project is then monitored and followed in itinere.
• There is also good cooperation with companies, which often “urge” certain training processes; It should be remembered that Italians are often unwilling to carry out certain manual jobs considered too heavy, and for this reason foreign labour is being sought. The companies that most actively participate in these activities are those of medium-small caliber.
• Collaboration: the most successful projects are those carried out in collaboration with local authorities, in daily contact with the reality of immigrants. This makes it easier to find and contact users and build a relationship of trust.
• Differentiated planning of activities: not all “ethnicities” adapt to all types of work; some work tasks are not accepted because they run into the immigrant’s cultural background (difficulties for some to work, e.g. in slaughter). We need strong cultural respect, which can be achieved through diversification of projects and often identification of paths. However, this is one of the major commitments.
One difficulty that is often encountered is the management of heterogeneous classes, in which, for example, representatives of cultures in contrast to each other (e.g. Indians and Pakistanis) have to live together. This problem is solved by means of special figures, such as the cultural mediator. The problem of cohabitation is a problem for adults in particular; the youngest, being included in traditional school courses, are already more integrated into a culture that is not the native one.
The Consorzio della Bassa reggiana has been creating, for some years, a training experience that favors the employment of about 90% of the users who finish the journey. This is because the professional profiles envisaged meet the needs of companies in the area: there is in fact a close collaboration between the Training Center and companies and this communication allows to optimize the supply-demand ratio.
On the other hand, there is no shortage of notable notations in the overall picture which indicate how far we still have to go, not only in terms of the development of legislation, as the regional official pointed out, but also in the social and cultural context. An example of this is provided by the experience of the Consorzio della Bassa Reggiana mentioned above; some of the courses involving internships in companies could not be completed for two different reasons: because of the lack of availability of companies in some cases, in others because of opposition from the husbands of the women trained. The coordinator of these activities, who draws a conclusion from those experiences, should be recorded as a positive indication: the need for initiatives concerning the work of immigrants to always be conceived as moments of wider actions, taking into account the different aspects that connote their condition and their cultural characteristics, as well as basic needs such as language learning.
“It has become clear from these experiences that an individualised approach is represented by an individualised approach, capable of meeting the various needs (e.g. women with small children to look after, people graduated in the classroom with semi-orphaned people…). There has also been a tendency for every culture to specialise, so Pakistanis have proved more adaptable to factory work, while Indians prefer to take action in agriculture or in jobs where particular manual skills (e.g. shoemaker) may emerge.”
And again. “It is very important to consider a person as a whole, and for this reason an attempt is made to listen to all problems not strictly economic but “human”, while carrying out a counter activity to facilitate the immigrant in bureaucratic practices or in daily problems, such as rent”. (In this respect, this interviewee considers collaboration with the local Caritas to be valuable.)
Other difficulties mentioned several times concern the recognition of qualifications obtained abroad, and the possibility of documenting the fulfilment of compulsory education.
Two officials (respectively, as offices, from the province of Piacenza and the Centre for employment in Modena) express themselves in this regard.
“One of the major difficulties concerns the recognition of the qualification for non-EU subjects, (the regulation implementing the framework law on immigration did not clarify this, as many employees expected). Vocational training which qualifies presupposes the fulfilment of compulsory education. Since it was difficult to document it, and not being able to self-certification, it was thought to overcome the obstacle by:
– translation by embassy;
– recognition of the immediately lower degree (e.g. a graduate is recognized only as the fulfilment of the obligation).
In practice, these solutions were unclear. The problem was then solved in another way, referring to Article 14, Law 56 of 1987, which allows the assessment of professionalism. Thus, at the end of the training course (e.g. 25 welders, October 1999), non-Community users were only granted a certificate of attendance (and not a qualification). Subsequently, always using this article, they were subjected to a test-examination that gave them the qualification, (thanks to the skills acquired however they were able to pass this test). But it seems that this article will be abolished, and so the problem will resurpose itself”.
And the second, “Another criticism that I would like to point out is the difficulty in documenting the fulfilment of compulsory schooling for minors: recently we have a problem with the Provincial Directorate of Labour, which does not issue work books to children, who in our opinion would still have the right to be included in the world of work, having turned 17: those born in 1983 and before that should in fact be out of the application of the new rules on the absolvation of compulsory schooling. But the aforementioned Directorate asks for documentation attesting that they have at least attended 9 years of school at home. This is a big criticality added to that other one we just solved (…) because before it was really problematic to be included as trainees for non-EU citizens (…) because the ministerial decree referred to further regulation which would also take account, for example, of the conditions of reciprocity. In fact, the regulation has never been issued, but it has been resolved differently: those residing in Italy who still have the right to be included in the world of work, can be included as trainees. Another not insignificant problem is that of the language barrier: it is only a problem to explain what a training course is (…) which is what our service must offer.”
However, some things are clear from all the interviews of the first phase of the research, although in the disorganism noted:
all respondents (with one exception already mentioned) state that the labour supply of immigrants corresponds to increasing demand from enterprises (and/or families) in their territory;
in all the territorial areas concerned, the majority of the labour placements of foreigners (both in industrial and agricultural enterprises and in services) take place informally (the worker presents himself directly, on his own initiative or on the instructions of fellow countrymen and acquaintances) however non-institutional (2);
training courses for foreigners (or with the participation of) have increased in recent years mainly by private bodies and associations, not always in connection with public institutions; when some type of link occurs, it often assumes, with the exception of certain local situations which can be defined as “good practice”, the characteristics of a delegation to the executive body or association, with predominantly bureaucratic controls (3);
the training courses activated provide for a limited amount of work placement activities; in cases where this is provided for, effective mentoring is often entirely delegated to the company where the work experience takes place (4);
there is no, or very incomplete and imprecise, an overall assessment (quantitative and qualitative) of the experiences of foreigners in the region over the last decade. Detailed and precise information – particularly on the methodologies adopted and the results obtained – is available only on a number of large-scale projects developed in recent years; · the moments and opportunities for coordination and/or connection between offices, services, agencies in the public sphere, in order to activate synergies and cross-reference skills that take due account of the complexity of the migration phenomenon, and that allow to optimize relations with external bodies by stimulating the use of the resources available in society, appear mostly the result of local initiative in points of particular commitment. The same can be said for the choice of professionals to be trained, which is mostly entrusted to the sensitivity or knowledge of the territory by training providers, or depends on the demand from particular sectors of enterprises, or on impromptu possibilities of access to certain channels of financing, rather than on strategic considerations or on the reference to programmes emerging from at least a medium-term analysis of current trends. , concerning labour markets and the directions and characteristics of the development of the regional economy and society (5);
finally, the considerations of some interviewees on the difficulties attributable – including to these problems – to the fact that a certainly growing component of the population of the region is not yet able to express its own representation, able to participate fully in the social bargaining on the allocation of available resources, cannot be recorded as relevant.
(1) The example is that of the Employment programme, and in particular the Integra sub-programmes.
(2) These methods are also widespread for Italians, so much so that they have been described as “traditional” by some entrepreneurs interviewed (in particular small business owners). More detailed notations in this regard – as already mentioned in note 1 – are developed in the pages of the report devoted to interviews with enterprises.
(3) This last remark raises a general problem frequently raised by research on various aspects of immigration intervention, especially with regard to initiatives promoted by Local Authorities, in many cases, in fact, the promoter – while taking action on certain problems and / or needs of immigrants residing (and / or employed) in its territory – does not appear to have the necessary skills within itself either to design the interventions, nor to judge the quality of the projects presented in this regard, monitor their course and evaluate the results.
(4) Deficiencies of the same order as those indicated in the previous note seem to be at the root of what is observed here in terms of work experiences. Given that in this case the observation also concerns private training institutions, the problem seems to be becoming even more serious.
(5) In this regard, mention should be made of the comments contained in the broad quotation given above of the interview with the regional official. More generally, however, this point refers to the criticisms that have been made on many sides of the methods used to quantify the needs of various types of labour expressed by the productive and service fabric, and consequently to establish the planned immigration quotas and their regional distribution.