Undeclared workers in Italy are having to turn to food banks to survive after jobs dried up during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It’s left them unable to earn any money or — owing to their avoidance of taxes — claim help from the state.
Despite being illegal, undeclared work is common in Italy, with over three million people trapped in this form of precarious employment.
It also plays a strong role in the country’s economic growth.
In Quarticciolo, located on the eastern periphery of Rome, some 70% of residents are in undeclared work, defined as activities that are lawful with regards to their nature but not declared to public authorities.
One of them, Stefano Belmonte, has been left without hardly any work for the last three months.
“I worked a total of three days in three months,” he said. “Undeclared work is completely blocked. That’s what I do, unfortunately. At my age, I won’t get the chance of being offered a job.”
Providing for his family is a struggle but he says he has been given just enough food to survive.
“I have a few vegetables, tomatoes, spaghetti, fruit, eggs. That’s enough to eat for lunch and for dinner.
“It’s not much, but I’ll do my best to make it last for the three of us.”
Gian Maria Fara, the president of Eurispes, an institute focusing on political, economic and social studies, said the underground economy is a natural response to the country’s malfunctioning bureaucracy, as well as high income tax rates.
“Thanks to undeclared income, entire families can buy groceries and move around, they can live a normal life and even though we are talking about illegal income, it’s still part of the entire economy, in the same way, income from criminal activity also plays its part in the economic growth of the country.”
There are concerns that increased social tensions could rise as the crisis continues. Many Italians feel like they have no option but to accept the support of criminal organisations to get them through this difficult time.