A woman working in a field in Italy | Photo: ANSA/Oxfam
A woman working in a field in Italy | Photo: ANSA/Oxfam

Roughly 370,000 foreign workers are legally employed in the agriculture sector in Italy. That's more than one fourth of all farmworkers. The government has announced a new plan to counter labor exploitation in agriculture.

Some 370,000 workers from 155 countries account for 27% of the legally employed workforce in Italy's agricultural sector. These figures were presented by officials at a presentation of a project entitled Seasonal Work: Dignity and Legality in the offices of Italian farmers association Coldiretti in Rome on Tuesday. 

At the event, Labor Minister Nunzia Catalfo announced a plan that the government had drawn up to counter exploitative labor practices and that will begin to be implemented on Thursday. Catalfo noted that her ministry would be contributing 85 million euros to the project. 

Also present were Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova, and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese.

Undocumented migrants often exploited

The exploitation of migrant workers -- especially those who are undocumented -- is a serious problem in Italy's agriculture. Firms that comply with regulations and provide fair working conditions often struggle to compete with those who don't. 

The underground economy linked to labor exploitation is currently worth an estimated 5 billion euros and the annual turnover for mafias active in the agricultural sector has risen to 24.5 billion euros, according to the figures cited during the presentation. 

New law against exploitation

"In the next cabinet meeting, a decree law against mafias active in the agricultural sector will be discussed," minister Bonafede said. 

Minister Di Maio said that the foreign ministry would "make sure that the legal entrance of foreign citizens into Italy will not foster labor exploitation."  

"With the arrival of more legal migrants," minister Lamorgese said, "we will be able to fight better against labor exploitation, which is intertwined with organised crime."      

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