Young generations don’t want to work.

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In recent weeks, the news on young people and work have followed one another, almost in a “question and response”.

On the one hand, we read of many small or large companies that declare they cannot find staff because the young people don’t want to work, they don’t want to work in the evenings and on weekends, they have “expensive” demands (clear salaries, set work days and set rest days).

On the other hand, we read news of “job” offers that have little to do with this term: those looking for young personnel without family ties, those offering hourly wages of 2–3 euros gross, those who don’t even want to talk about a contract because there is the unpaid “trial month”, those who do not provide a paycheck, but only undeclared compensation … those who, again, are looking for young people with many years of experience but to be paid as interns …

A broader analysis would be appropriate, considering the psychological aspects that lead young people to refuse “voluntary” jobs or jobs without growth opportunities, professional and contractual, underpaid or often paid off the books.

Those who “work” do so in an almost schizophrenic way: many work hours for no guarantee or adequate compensation. From unpaid internships or apprenticeships, which at most are provided with a negligible “reimbursement of expenses”, from free “trials”, to “atypical” contracts, which have become the majority and which in many situations are mixed formulas of work declared in minimum part and to black in the remainder. Without considering the plethora of “autonomous” and “freelancers” — often forced to open a VAT number because they are now too “old” or too “expensive” for the company to be hired — who accept ridiculous compensation to work.

Dr. d’Ambrosio Marri, how do today’s kids approach the world of work? What are the needs they seek to see met in a professional relationship, and which should employers consider? So what reasons push a young person to refuse a job?

The new generations also offer different nuances among themselves and clearer differences from parents and grandparents, however “youthful”! Some are rough diamonds that can release high potential, and some are NEET (Not in education, employment or training), i.e. they do not study, do not work, or are engaged in temporary training activities. They practically do nothing. For some, it is convenient; for others, it creates frustration. Others are within the freedoms and contradictions of the gig economy, so they choose a job that engages them more liberally. Still, at the same time, they are underpaid and have only recently had a semblance of contractual regularization, or they fall back on this choice while waiting for real job stability. Because speaking of motivations, today, the need for security (evoked by Maslow and Herzberg) has not gone out of fashion. Still, it is expressed in other ways, for which decent pay counts, but for many, this must be associated with the possibility of a greater balance between work and private life, especially concerning autonomy in time management.

The South working phenomenon should make us think about which, during the pandemic, many young people had gone to work abroad (better paid, better recognized, and with rapid growth prospects in intelligent companies from a management point of view). They decided, asked and obtained to return to their area of ​​origin, especially in the South, while maintaining the work carried out at a distance. This is creating a positive flywheel effect for local economies, for the quality of life of young people and for villages and localities that were shutting down. In short, new development directions. Understanding that motivations are more complex and that today they go beyond the concept of “pay” is a qualitative leap that the employer needs mental openness, not just of wallet.

There is a shortcircuit between what employers expect and what young people seek. Undoubtedly, decades of lower wages for self-employed, atypical and freelance workers and the irremovability of employees’ pay slips influence the “demands” of those looking for personnel.

Can we hope a collective “awareness” leads to a review of this trend?

In Italy, there is a dramatic fact: the number of NEETs is among the highest in Europe and, even worse, the European country where the average salary of workers has decreased since 1990 ( according to Openpolis and OECD data ). And to think that wages have grown in Europe even during the pandemic makes one look positively abroad. Still, it is certainly depressing looking at our country also because the scenario outside our house shows that it can be done! It is a question of vision, cross-investments, and development prospects rather than the logic of patching up already negative situations.

In many large companies, before and after the pandemic, policies were developed to enhance people of all ages and generations hard and soft skills; boys and girls are hired and seen as assets to be valued and trained.

For many employers, the age at which parenthood could be planned, especially if you are a woman, is faced with policies that support, do not discriminate, or penalize women on careers and return to work. Some increase paternity and parenthood permits well beyond what is required by law. And this also happens in medium-small businesses, yes, but enlightened. For others, however, it is an uncomfortable question: some prefer to hire women who have passed the “door” and say it; some do it but don’t. However, the problem exists because, in Italy, where the birth rate has not existed for years, the future is dark: persisting policies without all-round social services and welfare in support, not of women as such but of parenthood, continue to feed that vicious circle whereby there are many women who, after their first child, and above all after the second, leave their jobs and others who don’t enter the working world because they thus resolve the dilemma of choosing between children and work. It’s a dilemma that the state forces those who don’t have great possibilities. A blind state, which wastes resources in every sense, not only the skills and competencies of women (who, by the way, are always more educated than men), because the numbers show that wherever women are strongly present in the world of work and even in top positions, the birth rate is higher… Clearer than that!

The problem is not a question of awareness, which is now part of political correctnessbut of the courage to change the schemementality, and approach. Unfortunately, resistance to change takes many forms, and much work remains to be done.

According to ACLI-IREF research, 1 out of 4 workers over 40 has a “poor man’s salary”. Perhaps, as stated by Stefano Tassinari, national Vice-President of the ACLI, «We need to put in place an economy that seeks productivity not at the lowest cost of labour and suppliers but, as some companies of excellence do, in quality work, in the professional and individual growth of the people who work, the participation and collaboration with them ». What do you think? Could this be a solution?

Certainly, and this is related to what I was saying before. And continuing to think that resources are infinite and that progress is similarly synonymous with exponential growth to infinity is a boomerang. The dynamics of finance, the economy, scenario phenomena, the limits of globalization, which is leaving their marks, and climate change are all factors that are showing the other side of the coin: they are making visible the illusion of infinite growth and the data of growing inequalities are also witnesses of this.

Furthermore, it is the concept of the “however downwards” that does not work: it means adopting an archaic, primitive culture towards work, like the master of the ironworks, or tending towards a paternalism which, behind the facade of the “pat on the back”, still sees those works as something that should only be “exploited”, rather than as a person — a mixture of needs, ideas, often unexpressed skills and which, of course, has its limits. Unfortunately, this does not mean that there are many young and old who prefer to comfortably continue to live their adolescence, with parents who perhaps support them with difficulty but who at the same time allow them to bask in a privileged niche, refusing to assume responsibilities and logics both of adaptation and negotiation even at work, where they would like “everything immediately” in the name of an approach. Hence, it is up to the other to give you something, “almost regardless,” of an obvious logic of exchange.

In the last year, probably also due to the pandemic, many have abandoned an unsatisfactory job to look for something else. People’s needs have changed: in which direction are we moving? What could companies do to “retain” dissatisfied workers?

The Great Resignation, the great voluntary resignation, is a phenomenon with growing numbers, especially among young people aged between 26 and 35, looking for a more suitable job in terms of time and salary recognition.

But we also see the Great Reshuffle pressing, i.e. the great reshuffling, because after the lockdown and the pandemic, people have had the opportunity to think about their lives, perhaps for the first time, and now they are taking action to change jobs, looking for new balances safeguarding new priorities. Today qualified figures are required, but not only. And among people’s needs, there is a greater desire for flexibility and attention to many quality and health aspects. In a nutshell, many try to work in a company that activates some welfare policy. In selection interviews, the questions “Is it possible to work in smart working?” or “What does the company do as an ethical commitment and social responsibility?”.

So here is what companies can adopt on these aspects.

Inclusive people management logic, which does not mean seeking consensus at all costs, but implies moving in a participatory way, activating leadership styles that envisage authentic respect for the other (not manipulation) and the enhancement of differences of all kinds (age, sexual orientation, culture, disability). Decision-making is supported by the involvement of people, and motivational processes are managed according to true meritocratic logic and not partial and downward satisfaction for everyone. Be, as a company, consistent between what is declared in the mission (often written on the site) and management behaviours and those rewarded in organizational life, acquire tools for listening to employees, carry out cyclical motivational check interviews, adopt policies attentive to sustainability, offer decent salaries together with opportunities of training, identify corporate welfare tools that allow people to manage their time better and therefore their lives.

These are all possible elements to which companies can commit themselves, and many are already doing so. It is not a question of building Eden-sized companies but of realizing that innovation, business, quality of services and the well-being of the people who work are factors that can coexist and produce added value for the entire organizational communityAnd not only that.

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