Illegal working (lavaro in nero) thrives in Italy particularly in the south of the country (the Mezzogiorno) and among sections of the expatriate community and immigrants. It has been conservatively estimated that the black economy (economia sommersa/nera) is equal to as much as 30 per cent of the country’s GDP – it’s estimated that 30 per cent of all incomes are hidden from the taxman and up to 50 per cent in the south of the country! An employer may even ask you whether you want to be paid officially, with tax and social security deducted(in regola) or unofficially, e.g. cash in hand! It’s most common in industries that employ itinerant workers such as the catering (bars and restaurants), construction, farming, tourism and textile industries, and in jobs such as domestic work and language teaching. Another aspect of illegal working is avoiding the payment of value added tax (IVA).
In many areas officials turn a blind eye, as the black economy keeps many small businesses alive and the unemployed in ‘pocket money’. The government doesn’t pay unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and any other benefits paid are usually too low to live on. Moonlighting by employees with second or third jobs is also widespread, particularly among those employed in the public sector, who are generally low paid. However, unscrupulous employers also use illegal labour in order to pay low wages (below the minimum wage) for long hours and poor working conditions.
It’s strictly illegal for non-EU nationals to work in Italy without a work permit. If you use illegal labour or avoid paying VAT, you have no official redress if goods or services are substandard. If you work illegally, you have no entitlement to social security benefits such as insurance against work injuries, public health care, unemployment pay and a state pension. A foreigner who works illegally in Italy is liable to a heavy fine and deportation, while businesses can be fined, closed down and the owners imprisoned.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.