Recent figures from Eurostat announced unemployment across europe has risen for 10 months straight, but the way people are coping is getting more desperate especially after hearing the suicide story from Greece. Le Monde ran a story from Naples, Italy where thousands of kids are leaving school to work up to 12 hours a day.
Under the headline “Child Labour Re-emerges in Naples”, the article describes how thousands of children have been forced to quit school and find jobs in order to help feed their families in the southern Italian metropolis. The article cites a local government report from 2011 which noted that 54,000 children left the education system in the Campania region between 2005 and 2009. Some 38 percent of these children were less than 13 years old.
The article goes on to record how child labour has become a fact of life in the region, with small children involved in a broad range of occupations. The deputy mayor of Naples is cited as saying: “Of course, we were the poorest region in Italy. But we haven’t seen a situation like this since the end of the Second World War… At age 10, these kids are already working 12 hours a day, which is a clear breach of their right to development”.
The Le Monde article points out that the desperate plight of children and youth in the region is a direct result of the austerity measures and financial “reforms” introduced by a succession of Italian governments. These have sharply reduced or eliminated access to federal welfare benefits for the unemployed and poor.
The main support for young people and their families in the region is provided by local associations, which are increasingly being starved of funding. The article notes that 20,000 workers in such schemes in the Campania region have not received pay for the past two years.
The re-emergence of child labour is not an Italian question. Two hundred years after the birth of the novelist Charles Dickens, who graphically portrayed the consequences of such practices, child labour is a problem which now confronts all of Europe. It is a devastating indictment of the political consensus in Europe, including social democratic parties and the trade unions, which back the European Union and its policies.