Is citizenship income still useful?

Culture - October 18, 2022

The summer has now passed, but never before has the warm weather and the vacations brought to the headlines as much as it has this year, not a great desire for levity, but the voices of the many detractors of the citizenship income-not a frivolous topic at all-all hinging on one main criticism that the subsidy as designed by the legislature would disincentivize especially among young people from seeking continuous employment. So to listen to those who don’t really agree with this law, the majority of citizenship income recipients would rather not work, or work off the books, than lose state aid.  This sort of “pocket money” to which the Citizenship Income is intended to be juxtaposed, would be, according to many entrepreneurs – a great many of those in sectors with seasonal offerings, which is why the summer has been an obvious telltale sign of discomfort – the first impediment to finding personnel. As proof of this, especially the media often report cases of hundreds of “dole dodgers” who collect or have collected citizenship income without having any of the characteristics required to obtain it, but rather several contraindications for it to reach their pockets.


But to comprehensively address the topic, and understand which side is wrong or right, it is good to get an idea of how citizenship income “works” on the ground in Italy, and this can only be done with an analysis of the numbers. And here is what comes out. A clear minority of the beneficiaries of the so-called “single measure to combat poverty, inequality and social exclusion” receive more than 800 euros each month, a figure that is still far from the salaries commonly considered as acceptable. In addition, the majority of those on the benefit with this amount are most often not easily placed in the labor market. This would break a lance in favor of those who consider it a fair measure.

But let’s move on with precision: from Inps data, updated on the beneficiaries of the citizenship income until ‘last April, it shows that there were about 1.1 million families getting the benefit, for an average amount of 588 euros per month (since 2019, the year it was introduced, every month the citizenship income has been received by about one million families, for an average amount of 566 euros).


It should also be pointed out that Citizenship Income is much more in demand in southern Italian regions than in central ones, and less so in what are considered the wealthy northern regions. In fact, leading the ranking we find Campania in first place, followed by Calabria, Apulia, Sicily, Basilicata, Molise, and on and on with the others.  At this point one would be forgiven for thinking that the Citizenship Income works for what it was designed for, and that is economic support to supplement family incomes combined with a pathway to re-employment and social inclusion.  Unfortunately, however, the reality is quite different from what was expected and hoped for. The citizenship income, in fact, linked to navigators and the supposed reform of employment centers, has utterly failed to meet its objectives, given the truly mighty sums that have been handed out in the face of only a few thousand jobs created or even identified. Not to mention the very sad phenomenon of scams. Only yesterday, just to give an example, various newspapers were headlining various scams about citizenship incomes bestowed against a total lack of requirements.

In Trieste, a few days ago, Ansa headlined on its website, “In 141 received citizenship income not due.” Other headlines read, “Citizenship income shock: ‘ATM gas station attendant’ caught.” Where “ATM” in this case means someone willing to change the value of the Citizenship Income card-which is supposed to be used for basic necessities-into cash to spend at will. The issue of “scofflaws” has also come to the fore in local news outlets. An example of this is the Canale10 report, “Rome, Citizenship Income: 111 more people found to lack the requirements for economic support. Massive fiscal damage.”


If one were limited to scams, however, still one could look at the “single measure to combat poverty, inequality and social exclusion” in a different light, perhaps with the necessary adjustments that would secure it from scoundrels and delinquents of all kinds. Instead and unfortunately, it has also created considerable damage on people-especially the young and very young-who have been cornered by the state for pocket money. Psychologically it was like being told, “You’re not needed, we can’t do anything for you except keep you in your anonymous poverty. So here is a small amount to survive.” At the same time, however, for a young man on a budget, with few aspirations and expectations, that small gratuity that fell from the sky represented a kind of small miracle that allows him to sit at home, perhaps all day chatting on social media. So, a social disruption, which in addition to not solving the problem of poverty as former Minister Luigi Di Maio had announced years ago, takes resources away from the state.  Money that could be invested so that wealth and jobs are created for anyone who really wants to get busy.

One does not respond with charity to the sacrosanct demands of young people, but by creating wealth and jobs, and thus giving everyone a chance to evolve and improve, and not to be useless ballasts.