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Comeback kids' hope fades

Italy

This year marks the comeback of one of the most unpopular groups of teachers in the century; the baby pensionati ("baby pensioners").

In the mid-Eighties an extraordinary vote-catching piece of legislation brought in by the ruling Christian Democrat coalition made it possible for teachers and other public-service employees to retire after just 20 years' service.

With a further four years knocked off for a university degree, and Italy's generous system of maternity leave, it became possible for teachers to retire in their thirties after less than 15 years at the chalkface, and on more than 60 per cent of their salary.

Ten years on, the baby pensionati - many of whom left to start a family, or to start a new job - are seen as a major factor behind the huge deficit afflicting the state pensions institute. With the arrival of Romano Prodi's centre-left government the gates to early retirement were closed. For those left in the profession, resentment against the baby pensionati set in.

But they are creeping back to the classrooms. This year hundreds have applied to make a fresh start. Some of them have been finding it hard to make ends meet on 1.4 million lire (Pounds 480) a month. Others, probably the majority, are anxious to get back to teaching now their own children have grown up.

But most of them will be disappointed. In the province of Vicenza, where 30 applications have been made, education chief Giuseppe Vivona reckons that only about 10 per cent will be offered jobs. Times have changed, and after the heady days of massive teacher recruitment in the 80s, the 90s have seen swingeing cuts in the number of teacher appointments.

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