June 4, 2007 / 12:50 PM / 13 years ago

More public holidays please, we're Italian

ROME (Reuters) - Italy has more national holidays than many industrialised countries and most employees get a month’s paid leave on top, but some parliamentarians are demanding more.

To the puzzlement of economists, some lawmakers want as many as seven national holidays added to the current 12, to boost religious fervour in an increasingly secular Italy or spur fading patriotism, according to La Stampa daily on Monday.

They want the re-instatement of holidays suppressed some three decades ago by governments that feared they were an economic drain.

They would include two days commemorating Italian unification in the 19th century (March 17 and September 20), St Joseph’s Day (March 19), Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter), Corpus Domini (usually in June), Feast of St Peter and Paul (June 29), and the end of World War One (Nov 4).

That would bring the total of state holidays to at least 19, depending on the region where one lives. By comparison, Britain has eight and the United States 10, though the gap with some European neighbours is narrower.

Economists were not amused.

“This could have quite a strong bearing on potential growth,” Gilles Moec, a Bank of America analyst based in London, told Reuters.

“If we look at the experience of what has been implemented, there seems to be a consensus that we don’t need to lower the number of working days but on the contrary need to increase them That’s one of the big differences between continental Europe and the Anglo-Saxon countries.”

Italy’s economy grew by almost two percent last year, emerging from five years of near-stagnation, apparently prompting some lawmakers to feel more holidays could be economically justified.

A similar rate of growth is expected this year, but Italy, dogged by low productivity and relatively high labour costs, has been underperforming most European partners for a decade.

In an editorial, La Stampa said that as appetising as the proposal may seem, adding holidays “risks worsening the organisation of labour” and doubted it would help augment religious sentiment or national pride.

Additional reporting by Gavin Jones

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