Who Wants To Work For The Post Office? Snapshot Of Italy's Uncertain Future
Why are no locals in the northern Italian city of Verona applying for the once prized permanent job posting? The answer is found elsewhere.
Forget the myth of permanent employment, the secure job for life. In Verona, they are looking for postal workers, but can't find them. They can't find them in Bolzano or Turin either. There is a labor shortage in the post offices of Italy's northeast, and a shortage in the northwest.
The letter carrier's position has never been in such high demand as it is today. To tell the truth: few actual letters though many more packages to deliver. Postal workers are offered a one-year fixed-term contract at 1,100 euros per month, before having the opportunity to move up the ranks and secure a job for life within two to three years. A national contract, annual leave, health insurance and workers rights. Yet the last call for applications in Verona was almost completely empty.
"We are looking for applicants, but we are getting fewer and fewer than we would like," says Alessandra Bastianello, delivery manager at Poste Italiane in the province of Verona. "Maybe they don't come because they don't know how easy it is to apply, or maybe they don't know that we can offer job security and career prospects. It's not at all clear that those who start out as postal workers will do this job forever. There are paths to growth. Some people started out that way and now run a small office. Here in Verona alone, we have taken on 56 people in 2020 and 47 in 2021."
Economic recovery in action
Verona may be a wealthy city, but during the darkest period of the COVID-19 lockdown, 6,000 people out of a population of 259,000 had applied for vouchers, with the municipality only able to help half of them. In the past ,far fewer requests for support were submitted, all of which were accepted.
The economy has picked up though, and over recent months even the province’s largest logistics companies have been struggling to find workers. "The mailman's job is tiring, riding around on a scooter in the rain, freezing temperatures and blistering heat. You are always outside, you have to be organized and know the territory well," explains Antonio Lo Presti, general secretary of the Union of Postal Workers of Verona (CISL). "The data is objective. We are having a hard time finding new mail carriers."
So why is there a lack of new postal workers? There are several reasons. In Veneto, many young people have the opportunity to earn more money from their first job. In the past, it was also easier to get in, the process was faster. "Even the entrance tests are complicated," says Lo Presti.
A postman on a scooter in Italy
Pierre Teyssot/Image of Sports/Newscom via ZUMA
Another factor is clearly linked to the management of those benefitting from the "citizens' income" program, which started in 2019, considered a first step toward a Universal Basic Income to provide a basic welfare stipend for those who don't have a job. Lo Presti says that people on "citizens' income" are not called for this type of job. "Yet they should be called and many times they should be the first," says Lo Presti. "Poste Italiane cannot call them directly, but the employment centers should make the link between the two parties. This does not happen. I don't know why. But nobody calls them. The citizenship income is a fundamental instrument, but it is not very concrete."
Of the 10,200 unemployed people hired in the last three years by the municipality of Verona, only 40 were employed for public service work in the schools, maintenance and gardens of the city. Today, there are 3,284 people in Verona who need help.
Restaurants, tourism and the service sector are still suffering.
"The vast majority are fragile people, with various. difficulties, and I do not think it will be easy to integrate them into the labor market," says the city councilor in charge of social policies, Maria Daniela Maellare. "I can't explain this lack of postal workers. Perhaps there is a problem with the selection criteria. In Verona, the labor market is recovering almost everywhere, but restaurants, tourism and the service sector are still suffering.”
So they are looking for letter carriers in the city of Verona. In Italy's rich northeast. You need a driver's license to take the test on the 125cc scooter provided by the company. Finally, if chosen, workers are offered a secure salary, 1,100 euros per month and more: the famous permanent job post.
Mail carriers are sought after in the plains and valleys, in the mountain villages. All over Italy's northern and central regions. In three provinces of Emilia, in two of Tuscany. Advertisements call for qualified letter carriers, able to cover the routes and be responsible in their deliveries. It is not true that Italian workers are not willing to get involved, to change, to search. In the next few months, in Verona itself, 59 permanent jobs will be created at the Post Office: 57 of them are workers from other parts of Italy.