Italian school leavers may face the dismal prospect of 40 per cent youth unemployment, but at least they have one thing to look forward to – a €500 “culture bonus”, courtesy of the government.
From next month, every 18-year-old will be entitled to claim the money and spend it on culturally enriching pursuits such as going to theatres, concerts and museums, visiting archaeological sites, and buying books.
The scheme, which starts on Sept 15, will benefit 575,000 teenagers, at a cost to the government of €290 million (£250 million).
Young people who turn 18 this year will be able to register online and then spend the money through a special app, called 18app.it, which can be downloaded on a smart phone, tablet or computer.
They will have until the end of next year to spend all the credit. They will be spoilt for choice – the country that gave the world Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Fellini has a galaxy of museums and galleries, as well as more World Heritage sites than any other nation.
The scheme is available to other EU citizens living in Italy, including Britons – assuming that Brexit will not happen before the end of 2017.
The initiative was originally announced by Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, in the days following last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
He said the government would increase defence and security spending by a billion euros, but match the sum with another billion euros to be spent on culture.
Mr Renzi’s rationale was that terrorism and extremism needs to be fought not only with extra police, border guards and intelligence, but also by a strong affirmation of Europe’s cultural values.
“This is a bonus for kids coming of age, to give them the symbolic awareness of what it means to be an adult in Italy – a main protagonist and heir of the greatest cultural heritage in the world,” the prime minister said when the scheme was first announced nine months ago, 10 days after the Paris attacks. “We will not give in to terror … we have centuries of history that proclaim the fact that culture will beat ignorance, that beauty is more tenacious than barbarism.”
Tommaso Nannicini, the junior minister in charge of the scheme, said this week: “It sends a clear message – a welcome for those who reach the age of 18 and a reminder of how crucial culture is, both for personal enrichment and for strengthening the social fabric of the country.”
The initiative has been criticised by some opposition MPs, who said it was a crude attempt by Mr Renzi’s centre-Left Democratic Party to buy the goodwill of future voters.
But it has been welcomed by 18-year-olds, who face a difficult economic landscape when they leave school – high unemployment, a lack of secure, long-term contracts and an economy that has performed dismally for a decade.
“Of course we’re happy. Giving each of us 500 euros to spend on culture means investing in our future. And it won’t be imposed from on high, but instead will allow us to participate directly,” said Angelica Magazzino, a teenager from the southern region of Puglia who turns 18 in November.
She attends a dance school and plans to spend her bonus on going to the ballet.
Source: The Telegraph