Southerners queue for non-existent ‘citizenship wage’

A poster outside one centre warning that no "citizenship wage" was on offer.

ROME – People have been queuing up in some southern Italian cities at centres for fiscal assistance (CAF) to demand the forms for the “citizenship wage” promised by the Five Star Movement, with the party’s spectacular electoral gains raising expectations of a near-instantaneous implementation of the policy.

 La Stampa reported that in Bari and some towns in Puglia, people have been presenting themselves to CAFs and other employment service centres asking to be given the forms for the wage.

 The “citizenship wage” is one of the Five Star Movement’s headline manifesto promises, that offered every citizen a basic state-funded income of 780 euros a month in an attempt to alleviate the effects of poverty in many regions.

 It was particularly well received in the south were unemployment runs well above the national average and wages are lower.  

 Franco Lacarra, the manager of one such centre, told La Stampa that he had seen “about fifty people who yesterday and today have asked for forms to obtain the citizenship income, above all amongst the young.”

 Nonetheless, one of the two coordinators of CAF, Massimo Bagnoli, played down the news, calling the lines “isolated cases.” Bagnoli did note, however, that there had been increasing demand for other types of support and ISEE requests (the calculation the government uses to assess the true wealth of Italians).

 Bagnoli added that such requests had already been on the rise prior to the elections. “In Jan,” he stated, “the increase was 30 percent.”

 The news has worried political figures in the region who are concerned that electoral promises may not have been properly understood by some of Italy’s most vulnerable citizens.

 The mayor of Giovinazzo in Puglia said that “us mayors would love to be able to communicate to our citizens that the problem of unemployment is resolved and that for all those that don’t have work there is a citizenship wage.”

 “But,” he added, “I believe that citizens have been bewitched by electoral adverts.”