Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mamma mia

The Italian mamma's boy is back in the headlines today. Socially, he is the scourge of Italy. Church and government officials blame him for the declining birth rate and the encroaching pension time bomb. Le donne blame him for stretching out relationships for 10 years or more without commiting. The media mock him as an anachronistic loser. Only mamma loves him.

According to pollsters at IStat, 40 percent of Italian men between the ages of 30 and 34 still live at home. (Perhaps this explains why on Friday night so many aging boys pull up to the bars and night clubs of Testaccio in grandma's Cinquecento). Forty percent is shockingly high. I could see 10-20 percent. But 40 %? These statistics scream that this is not so much a social problem as an economic problem.

The reality is there is a startling lack of decent-paying jobs for this generation. This observation, no doubt, will become a campaign issue in the coming months as Romano Prodi takes on Silvio Berlusconi in national elections next spring. Prodi has added to his platform the ambiguous, but promising, phrase of more opportunity for Italy's young. Berlusconi hasn't told us yet how he intends to address the problem. You can bet that the mamma's boy and mamma herself will be put on public trial here during the campaign season.

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