A More Dynamic Labor Market May Be the Answer to Italy's "Quo Vado?"
(p. A19) ROME -- A balding government clerk in his late 30s has one true love: "il posto fisso," a job for life. He doesn't want to compete in the labor market; he has no urge to move on. He doesn't even want to earn more. Give him a desk, a chair and a 9-to-5 job in the "pubblica amministrazione," and he's happy. Clocking in late, chatting with colleagues, accepting small bribes from taxpayers (most favored: quail), a regular salary -- that's life!
And, of course, there are rubber stamps. The clerk loves them. Slam! Slam! Slam! When his boss, who wants to get rid of him, asks angrily: "What have you contributed to this department?" he shows her his stamping prowess, and almost demolishes her glass table.
This is, more or less, the story of "Quo Vado?" a new comedy that has smashed Italian box office records. It had its premiere on Jan. 1, and in its first week made $39 million; "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," in three weeks, reached just $23 million. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Quo Vado?" -- or "Where Am I Going?" a modern spin on the Latin question "Quo vadis?" ("Where are you going?") -- is on course to beat the box-office record for an Italian film in the country, currently at $56 million, set by 2013's "Sole a catinelle."
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Italians aren't afraid of a more dynamic labor market. There is still the dream of making it in the private sector, even if it is less secure than the public-sector jobs that have long been the backbone of the Italian work force. Two out of three workers, according to a recent survey in the Turin newspaper La Stampa, wouldn't mind taking a risk, as long as it meant the prospect of career advancement.
To foster this more proactive mood, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi -- who has seen "Quo Vado?" with his family -- last year introduced labor-market legislation known as the Jobs Act (in English, mysteriously). It makes hiring and firing easier, but only in the private sector. For state jobs, like Checco's, things stay the same. Once you're in, you're in.
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(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JAN. 14, 2016, and has the title "The Secret Behind Italy's Favorite New Film." Where there are minor differences between the print and online versions, the version above follows the online version.)