A European Perspective
Edited by Dominique Anxo, Gerhard Bosch and Jill Rubery
Chapter 8: ‘La Grande Illusion’: How Italy’s ‘American Dream’ Turned Sour
* Annamaria Simonazzi and Paola Villa† INTRODUCTION During the years of post-war growth the ‘American dream’ that each generation will do better than their parents had increasingly also become the expected norm in Italian society. Moreover, when major changes in the economy and in society at large called for an overhaul of the economic and welfare system, the answer was increasingly sought for in the ‘American model’, particularly by economists. Declining growth, demographic ageing and stricter fiscal orthodoxy deriving from EU membership challenged the completion of the construction of the Italian welfare regime. Wide-ranging flexibility, unaccompanied by adequate reforms in income support, left an increasing number of groups at risk of exclusion. Changes and reforms affected the timing and the pattern of the key life stages differently, depending on the individual’s place in the social structure as well as on institutional arrangements. In the dualist system of income maintenance characterising the Italian model of welfare, solidly rooted in the family (first section), the economic and institutional changes have produced increased inequality, economic insecurity and exclusion, and even real problems of social emergency in certain areas. Social policies have been slow to respond to these new challenges, doing little to assuage households’ anxiety. The failure of the Italian welfare regime to respond to the new needs and cover the new risks has resulted in families maintaining the predominant role in shaping the life chances of individuals. Families are expected to take care of children, unmarried young people, children’s new families and elderly...
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