Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said yesterday he would force through changes to Italy's labour laws with special emergency measures if parliament dragged its feet, and rejected criticism that his government was moving too slowly with its reform agenda.
Mr Renzi, under growing pressure to back his promises with action, said that reforms to an unjust labour system that divided Italian workers into "first division" and "second division" categories would be at the heart of the programme.
He said the government would work with parliament to cut through the thicket of regulations covering employment as long as the reforms could be passed soon enough but indicated it could also push through a special decree of its own.
"Otherwise, we are ready to intervene with emergency measures, because when it comes to jobs, we can't waste another second," he said in parliament.
With youth unemployment running close to its highest level since the 1970s at around 43pc and the economy in its third recession since 2008, stimulating job creation is an urgent priority for Mr Renzi, who has promised a sweeping "Jobs Act" in the coming months.
The grim climate he faces was underlined yesterday by forecasts from employers' lobby group Confindustria, which forecast the economy would contract by 0.4pc this year, matching a forecast on Monday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Italy's huge public debt would climb to 137pc of economic output this year.