Migration from certain regions: a threat to equal opportunities - part 2

The EFAL MCL seminar was held in Bari from 13 to 15 June in collaboration with EZA and co-financed by the European Union with the theme "Migration from certain regions: a threat to equal opportunities". The seminar was based on a joint idea with the Sanish trade union USO – CCFAS (Unión Sindical Obrera – Centro Confederal de Formación y Acción Social) with which we shared this path. Participants were 42 delegates from workers’ organisations from Spain, Portugal, Albania, and Italy.

In the seminar sessions, a problem that affects Europe was widely discussed, namely most young people who move from the southern regions to the northern countries mainly for work reasons.

The seminar touched on various issues also making a series of comparisons thanks to the presence of delegates from countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Albania. Representatives of national and local politics also spoke, contributing their experience of field work and what interventions they have activated to find a solution to the emigration of young people to northern regions.

Very interesting was the multi-voiced Round Table during which hypothetical solutions for the Italian South also emerged and specifically here we report.

Try to redevelop the depressed areas, which are many and often concentrated in the South. We have been talking about it for years, but the trend has remained negative. Increase the birth rate and rejuvenate the population, promote work policies that allow the repopulation of depressed areas, making these territories attractive. The South is attractive from a tourist point of view, but tourism cannot be the solution for the entire South.

One of the main topics addressed during the seminar was the depopulation of the areas. Inland areas have suffered from progressive depopulation in recent decades. We are talking about the areas further away from the cities, where job opportunities are less frequent, and services are also in short supply in many cases.

They are often found in mountain or island contexts which make it more difficult to organise a network of infrastructure, connections and services. Including social, educational, cultural, and scholastic one.

We need to invest a lot in the territories of origin. Prevent young people from making the decision to abandon the place where they were born and studied, to go and spend this human capital elsewhere. This depends on regional policies as well as on national policies but also on the intervention of the European Union to guarantee young people the possibility of a job in their own territory without going in search of fortune. The communication of the speaker Professor Roberta Caragnano focused precisely on this topic, focusing her speech on the possible resources of the PNRR and digitalisation as an opportunity for job creation in the southern regions. Clearly all this can only be done through social dialogue between the parties and the role of organisations like ours are fundamental because thanks to these seminars it is possible to discuss and create support networks.

The basic idea of the Seminar started from a comparison between countries and specifically between Italy and Spain and in fact this project was the result of a seminar organised by Uso and EFAL in two different moments to try to understand how the issue of rural realities and which interventions have given the greatest success. The real issue that had ample space for discussion in the second part of the seminar was the question of how to make rural areas more attractive thanks also to interventions by representatives of local institutions. Rural areas represent the largest share (341 million hectares, equal to 83% of the total surface area). More than half of rural areas are classified as remote, meaning they are located far from cities. We therefore try to go beyond the production aspects, to encourage a new dimension of hospitality and opportunities and to maintain the value generated in the territory. Rural areas can - if we take renewable energy - transform themselves into energy communities, producing energy and using it on and for the territory. Improve infrastructural networks, from roads to immaterial networks (starting from broadband and, perhaps, supporting digital literacy) and focus on efficient assistance for inhabitants: from nurseries to clinics, from social farms to the possibilities of promoting intergenerational support. This is a first operational input.

Promote the spread of commerce, retail, and retail shops for lively and thriving rural communities. If we stay in the field of services, rural areas can offer solutions that go beyond so-called green tourism. Better socialisation opens up new possibilities that go far beyond profitability and improve the quality of life and social relationships. The list of possibilities to protect and revive rural areas is long. Let's not forget that in the future the relationship between city and countryside will be even more interconnected.

We must therefore start from the so-called "citizenship" services, guaranteeing those services that are indispensable in the fight against depopulation: health, education and mobility represent the starting point of an effective local development plan. Today, in the era of the “Capitalocene” in which the fight against the climate crisis must be fought on all fronts, these objectives must be integrated into a broader strategy that puts sustainable development and environmental protection at the centre of everything. In this regard, the local development projects mentioned above must fall into five main areas defined by the Strategy:

1. active protection of the territory/environmental sustainability;

2. valorisation of natural/cultural capital and tourism;

3. valorisation of agri-food systems;

4. activation of renewable energy supply chains:

5. craftsmanship.

Economic development must inevitably pass through sustainable development. Local administrations are called to abandon that sense of communitarianism and that fear of a possible political rivalry deriving from the action of individual or associated citizens, which is precisely the reason why subjects with innovative ideas for the development of territories are very often ignored.

The good practices carried out both in Spain and in southern Italy demonstrate that an excellent strategy against the marginalisation of these areas is of little use without excellent governance capabilities of the local communities. This concept is clearly expressed in the Strategy: «…the natural, cultural, and cognitive capital, the social energy of the local population and potential residents […] is today largely untapped. In a local development strategy, unused capital must be considered as a measure of development potential. The presence of innovative subjects who also exist in the internal areas can represent the trigger. Local development policies are, first and foremost, policies for activating latent capital."

Workers' organisations play a fundamental role in all these aspects.