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Italian Supreme Court Rules Nepotism Illegal

I keep re-reading this article, and I still can’t stop shaking my head in disbelief:

Italy’s Supreme Court has ruled that nepotism is an offence, despite the almost universally held belief that it is impossible to get a job in the country without a “raccomandazione” or friendly word, from a relative.

That’s right, the Supreme Court in Italy has actually decided that nepotism is illegal. They even sentenced the offenders in the case to 14-21 months in prison.

The husband tells the story of a guy he met here in Milan who said that on a form he was filling out to join an Italian business organization there were three – and only three – boxes you could check to indicate your status with your company. They were: (a) Business Owner, (b) Manager, or (c) Son of the Business Owner. There is no apology for this, it’s just the way things are done here.

So how will this new ruling actually change day-to-day life and business practice in Italy? I doubt anything will change at all, frankly. Things may change slowly, so that eventually the idea of hiring someone is based only 50% on who they know rather than the current 90%+ (or so it seems), but I don’t think nepotism is going away in Italy anytime soon.

What’s interesting is that the Telegraph, which ran the original story about the Italian Supreme Court ruling, also ran an opinion piece which said:

While it is of course wrong to divert public contracts or places on the state payroll to family members, we cannot help feeling that nepotism makes Italy more Italian.

It is as if France were to proscribe strikes or Spain to ban the siesta. Italy is the most clannish nation in Europe.

While this is true to an extent, there’s a difference between hiring your cousin’s kid to work in your corner bar and arranging for a government position for the wife of a city mayor. Nepotism isn’t just black or white, it’s a matter of degrees. The question for me is where Italy will eventually land on the grand scale.