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Italy is number one (wine-wise!) PDF Print E-mail
Jun 15, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Image Last year's statistics are in and it is now no longer only a dream. In 2010, Italy surpassed France as the world's biggest winemaker, producing 49.6 million hectolitres of wine compared to "only" 46.2 million hectolitres in its northern neighbour. Furthermore, the Italian farmers' association, Coldiretti, announced, the data for the first quarter of 2011 testify to a surge in Italian wine exports, with a 31% increase in exports to the US alone.

"It is with great pride that we can say we are the world's leading wine producer, having surpassed France not only in value but also in volume," Italian Agriculture Minister Saverio Romano said. "We are also first for quality, with over 60% of the wine we produce bottled with recognised denomination of origin labels. But we can even do better, we must do even better," Romano said.

The first two months of 2011 also saw Italy boost exports to the EU by 6% while those towards China, while relatively low in volume, soared 146%.

Italy and Fance together clearly dominate wine production in the EU (with Spain running third) Total EU wine production in 2010 was 157.2 billion hectolitres, down 3.7% from the previous year, Coldiretti pointed out.

This is not the first time that Italy surpassed France in some areas of wine production. For example, it has often taken the lead for "vino sfuso", unbottled wine, much of which was exported to France where it was used to blend table wines. Now, Italy is also ahead in sparkling wines such as prosecco and spumante with French champagnes lagging somewhat behind..

The new figures showed that in 2010 the value of Italian wine exports - at 3.93 billion euros - overtaking the domestic market for the first time.

Automotive workers vote – by tiny margin – to accept Fiat deal PDF Print E-mail
Jan 16, 2011 at 09:13 PM
The Fiat Mirafiori plant
After several weeks of bitter discussion, a narrow majority of Italian automotive workers at the giant Fiat Mirafiori plant in Turin this weekend to accept the harsher terms of a new labor contract that will almost certainly make working conditions a but tougher than before.

Only 54.5% of those who voted said "yes" on their ballots and insiders said that only the votes of several hundred clerks white collar workers saved the day for those in favour of accepting the terms
offered by Fiat CEO, Sergio Marchionne.

But the positive vote means that Marchionne will now go ahead with some 20 billion euros of investments which, had the contract been turned down, he said he would invest in Fiat plants elsewhere. Many workers said the victory was the result of economic pressure that they said was akin to blackmail. Others hailed the referendum results as the possible beginning of a new chapter in Italy's industrial relations.


Italian youth going jobless. But whose fault is it? PDF Print E-mail
Jan 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Image Italan unemplyment figures (8.7%) are currently not that bad (somewhat less than in the U.S., which in recent years has rarely been the case). But when you start to break them down it becomes apparent that the people who are really in trouble are young Italians between 16 and 30. The figures compiled in November show that currently almost 29% of young Italians are without steady jobs, a level that was has not been reached since 2004.

Indeed, this is not a new problem for Italy and other European countries a well. But it is now getting worse. The fact is that young Italians, spoiled by their families and given unrealistic expectations by relatives and policy-makers as well, have priced themselves out of the market. Or rather, they are unwilling to do many jobs that are now being filled by immigrants from Europe or from other parts of the world.

Regular household help, which is something that families consider essential (much, much more so than in the U.S.) are now almost exclusively foreign-born people - from Asia, the Caribbean and South America - at least in big Italian cities; in the smaller towns or villages there are still Italian women willing to do this kind of work (but not Italian men).

Restaurants increasingly staff their kitchens with people from Egypt and some Asian countries. More and more, the pumps at gas stations (yes, most Italian gas stations are still manned by human beings!!!) are manned by immigrants. And in construction, a growing number of workers are from Eastern Europe.

Here are some examples from my own daily life:

The garage where I park my car is run by an Italian but the two attendants are a Colombian and a Sri Lankan.

In the pizzeria across the street from my apartment, the pizzas are made either by an Italian or an Egyptian.

The fish stall at my favorite supermarket is manned by a terribly competent young Sri Lankan named Gayan.

My apartment in Rome is cleaned by a young Filipino man (cleans better than any woman I know).

The waiters at the tourist-oriented restaurant around the corner are all Asian, either Bangladeshi o Sri Lankans.

At the gym, one of the two locker room attendants is a Filipina woman. The cafeteria cleaners are from Eastern Europe.

A neighbour is doing extensive renovations and the two workers are an Albanian and a Rumanian.

Again at the supermarket, one of the four women running the checkout counters in Asian.

The waiters where I have my morning coffee are two Italians, on Croatian and one Spaniard.

At the boutique down the street where I just splurged on some new clothes, the person who refolds tried-on clothing and packs purchases is a 20 year old from Sri Lanka.

Get the idea? Many young Italians don't want to do these jobs because they believed their country had better things to offer them and, unfortunately, it doesn't.
Not, at least, at the moment.

Fiat's Sergio Marchionne; a man with a mission PDF Print E-mail
Jan 13, 2011 at 10:25 PM

Sergio Marchionne
Sergio Marchionne may be the second most controversial man in Italy (after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, naturally). But in the minds of many (me included) he is a man with a mission, an important one, that of getting the Fiat car company back on solid economic ground, something the 58-year old, sweater-wearing CEO believes can only be done by scaling back the power of Italy's unions and reducing the acquired rights of the country's metalworkers.

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