Even workers who are in the system can fall through the cracks. Lucia Vitale works at the Naples airport for about half the year, catering to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who arrive from March onward. For the other half of the year, she and seasonal workers like her can claim unemployment benefits. But those benefits have now run out. And they can’t get help from the government because, Ms. Vitale said, “we don’t fit into the right categories.”
The government has granted a one-time payment of 600 euros, around $650, to the self-employed and to seasonal workers in the tourist sector. But Ms. Vitale technically works in the transport sector, so she can’t apply for the support. For now, she too is getting by with handouts from volunteer organizations.
The situation for many is bleak. “Everyone here is having problems now,” Mr. Gallinari, the florist, said. “There are lots of people who are going hungry. You can see that their behavior is beginning to change.” Reports of social unrest across the region — shopkeepers forced to give away food, even some thefts — have ruffled a usually close-knit community. “The other night I caught some kids trying to break into my garage,” Mr. Gallinari said. “This is new for us.”
Even so, such incidents are rare. More striking — and representative of neighborhood life in Naples — has been a groundswell of community initiatives, to fill the void of absent state support. Some have set up a mutual aid help line so that volunteers can deliver food and assistance. And certain shops have begun encouraging customers to cover a shopping bill for someone unable to pay, in the Neapolitan tradition of the “caffè sospeso,” or suspended coffee.
The vulnerable workers of Naples, and the south more generally, need more help. The 400 million euros, close to $432 million, the government has set aside for food stamps is not enough. Now there is talk that the government’s next budget might include an “emergency income,” covering those so far overlooked.
But the budget isn’t due until later in the month. For workers locked out of state support, dependent on community assistance and increasingly desperate, that isn’t soon enough.
And for insecure workers across the world, the siren is ringing.
Bethan Jones and Fabio Montale are translators in Naples, Italy.
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