Saturday, January 06, 2007

Quality of Life of Researchers in Italy

Not so long ago, I wrote a post on research in Italy. In that post, I criticized the lack of sensibility of Italian politicians towards science and basic research, and praised Italian researchers for being very active in my field and in TCS as a whole despite the lack of support they are faced with.

I just read an article in La Repubblica that adds fuel to the fire. (The article is in Italian.) According to a report commissioned by the trade union Nidil Cgil, Italian researchers earn on average between 800 and 1.200 euro per month before taxes. Moreover 31% of the people interviewed by the report writers earns less than 800 euro per month after taxes. It is not surprising to read that those who do not have permanent positions yet are not optimistic about their futures. About 25% of the people who do not have a permanent position are over 35 years old, and half of those are over 40. (At this age, in most other countries other you have a tenured position of some sort or you have found a different type of job altogether.) This uncertainty about the future has obvious repercussions on the quality of life, and on family planning. It turns out that 82% of the interviewees do not have children.

How can this be at all good for my own country? And why doesn't Italian society see that it is undermining its own future by not supporting the researchers who work in Italy? Can Italy ever attract foreign researchers by offering those wages? Of course, money is not everything, but it does help, and is necessary to lead a decent life. Surprise, surprise: researchers are fully fledged human beings, with human needs and desires!

Post Scriptum: The article I am refererring to also has statistics regarding the long working hours of researchers. I chose not to focus on those statistics at all here because, in my modest experience, this is the norm, rather than the exception, throughout. My present dean often tells me that "academic freedom is not the freedom of doing nothing", to which I always reply that academics have often much longer working hours than many other people.

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