Italy’s chronic unemployment problem has been thrown into sharp relief after 85,000 people applied for 30 jobs at a bank – nearly 3,000 candidates for each post.
But even the managers at the Bank of Italy were astounded by the huge number of people who contacted them.
Up for grabs were 30 deputy assistant jobs in the state bank, a junior position with a modest annual salary of just 28,000 euros.
Nor will the work be very glamorous – one of the duties will be feeding cash into machines that can distinguish bank notes that are either counterfeit or so worn out that they should no longer be in circulation.
The high level of interest was a reflection of the sorry state of the economy but also of the Italian obsession with securing “un posto fisso” – a permanent job.
Securing a steady job-for-life with ample benefits and a generous pension, usually in the public sector, has been the ambition of millions of Italians for decades. Rigid labour laws mean that once an employee is taken on, it is very hard for a company to get rid of them, no matter how lazy or incompetent they might be.
The longing for a cushy job was lampooned by a recent film, Quo Vado?, which became one of the country’s biggest hits at the cinema.
In the movie, a middle-aged slacker goes to any lengths to hold onto his “posto fisso” – a safe, comfortable job in the public administration – even ending up in Africa and north of the Arctic Circle.
Overwhelmed by the deluge of interest, the Bank of Italy in the end whittled down the applicants to a short-list of 8,000, all of them first-class graduates with a solid academic record behind them.
They will have to sit a gruelling examination in which they will be tested on statistics, mathematics, economics and English, as well as an oral exam. The lucky few will take up their new jobs next year.
It is not the first time that huge numbers of young Italians have applied for a small number of posts.
When the region of Umbria advertised 94 public administration jobs in 2015, more than 32,000 people applied. A hospital in Milan that needed to recruit 10 nurses was inundated with more than 7,000 candidates.
Nearly a decade on from the start of the global financial crisis, Italy’s economy continues to perform sluggishly. Since the fall of Silvio Berlusconi in 2011, a succession of governments have tried to kick-start the economy, so far with little success.