BM86: Students should not be forced to rely on  work to study! 

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In Italy, according to data from ISTAT’s ‘Rilevazione sulle Forze di Lavoro’ (Labour Force Survey) for the year 2022, there are approximately 365,000 people studying in HEIs and working at the same time, which is 17% of the total enrolment in Italian faculties. Of these, 36.15% are between 20 and 24 years old and 27.9% are between 25 and 29 years old. These students are active in a wide variety of sectors, with 31% working in the public sales sector as shop assistants or waiters. 

An analysis of the data extracted from the survey on student workers promoted by  Unione degli Universitari (UDU) and CGIL – the main Italian trade union – and carried  out by the Di Vittorio Foundation, shows that the most common motivations for working while studying are to put money aside (90%) and to be economically independent from one’s family (88%). But students often decide to work to support the costs of study (83%) as well as to be able to provide some savings for themselves, in the absence of family economic support (82%). 

Working is not a free choice but often becomes a forced choice due to economic difficulties and shortcomings in the HE financing. Only 40% of respondents stated 18 that they could afford their studies even without having to work. 

The impact on academic life has often terrible effects. The main problems complained of by students are related to socialisation, with 65% of respondents making it clear that socialising with colleagues is very difficult and in some occasions, almost impossible. Even worse is the participation in student associations, where 83% of the sample complain about serious problems related to that. There are further limitations: 61% find it very difficult to attend lectures, 56% to take exams regularly and 54% to actually prepare for them. It is therefore not surprising that half of the working students think they will end up not finishing their studies on time. 

This situation also has a very negative psychological impact. 78% of respondents complain about having high levels of stress, 64% complain about suffering from anxiety-related disorders and 34% claim to suffer from insomnia. Also 20% of the sample declares suffering from depression, 13% from eating disorders and 4% from substance abuse. 

The work performed by students is also characterised by precariousness and difficulty in organising shifts. In fact, 65% of the student workers believe that their profession does not offer any particular career opportunities, 38% complain of inadequate workloads and work rhythms, and 37% complain of inadequate pay. 

We therefore believe that a decisive change is needed and that there is an urgent need for regulatory intervention to eliminate the most precarious and low-wage forms of work. The survey shows how the answers vary according to age group: it is in fact the youngest students who have the worst conditions. Students under take, in most cases, a net salary of less than €750 per month. And this is due to exploitative dynamics; in fact, 46% of employed university students experience job hardship because they are forced to work with a fixed-term or part-time contract. 

This situation is no longer tolerable. As the European Students’ Union (ESU) and Unione degli Universitari (UDU) we call on: the academic world to take charge of the needs of working students who demand support materials for studying, an increase in the number of exam and degree sessions, video material of lectures that can be consulted to deepen their study, and a real recognition of their working-students status; an intervention on state economic measures to support the continuation of studies, such as an increase in student-welfare-oriented programs and provisions; the Government and Parliament to take action to limit employers’ use of fixed term contracts, intensify controls to eliminate undeclared work and forms of evasion of labour regulations and collective agreements; an answer to be given as soon as possible to the questions on the matter proposed by CGIL with the support of UDU recently fled with the Supreme Court of Cassation.


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