ROME - A business owner has sparked a heated row in Italy over the paradox of record youth unemployment and thousands of unfilled vacancies, claiming that young Italians are too laid-back for the job market.
Plastics manufacturer Giovanni Pagotto has said he is only hiring immigrants and complained Italian applicants were not "hungry" enough, comparing this to his own humble beginnings working on the factory floor.
Pagotto, from the region near Venice, said one applicant wanted a three-month delay before starting the job to take a driving test, while another turned up to the interview with his mother for moral support.
His comments have caused widespread anger -- from trade union leaders to the many young people who say their job searches are constantly frustrated -- but some experts point out he might have a point.
The unemployment rate is over 12 per cent and the proportion is much higher at 39.1 per cent for active 15-24-year-olds who are not in school or university.
But some sectors -- from pizza makers to engineering, from craftsmen to sales -- complain they are unable to find enough applicants to fill their many vacancies.
"It is true that younger generations have excessively high expectations about their professional future," said Daniele Marini, director of the Nord Est Foundation, a social and economic think tank.
But he also said there should be "no generalisations" and pointed out that businesses were not offering enough apprenticeships and training, and that the education system was failing to prepare young people.