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Dressing down for showgirls' course

ONLY the beautiful need apply for a new course in how to be a showgirl on Italian TV.

Outrage has greeted the news that attractiveness is the sole qualification for a place on the European Union-funded course.

Raising the matter in parliament, Gustavo Selva, a member of the right-wing Alleanza Nazional party and president of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, called the course "unconstitutional" and probably in breach of legislation on equal opportunities.

Showgirls, or veline as they are known, are a feature of Italian life.

Almost every TV programme, from breakfast specials to late-night talk shows, seems to have at least half a dozen. Their job is to prance around the studio, wearing little except for a large smile and looking pretty. It makes no difference whether you are watching state-owned RAI television or the rival networks owned by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But on the grounds that you cannot have too much of a good thing, the Naples regional authority has approved a course for 97 more girls, allocating 1.3 million euros (pound;916,000) for a 600-hour course beginning in the autumn, of which 180 hours will be devoted to "theory" and the remaining 420 to "practice".

In Italy, vocational and professional training for over-15s is the responsibility of the regions and Naples is paying for the course with European Social Fund money earmarked for schemes to help young people find work.

Justifying the decision, Adriana Buffardi of the regional authority referred to the professional category as "stage extras" and not veline, a euphemism for "scantily clad".

The EU office in Italy was unable to comment on the funding, but a spokesperson at the ministry of employment told The TES that "a lot of training courses may seem absurd when you see them on paper, but you have to take into account the context".

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