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19 Aug, 2022 12:19

All Italian museums could be forced to close

Staff shortages may cause mass shutdowns, the Uffizi Gallery director warns
All Italian museums could be forced to close

As visitor numbers return to pre-pandemic levels, Italian museums may not be able to handle the demand and be forced to shut down, Uffizi Gallery Director Eike Schmidt warned on Thursday in an interview with Italy’s ANSA news agency. 

Schmidt said staffing levels in Italian museums are in continual decline, and warned that “without a solution we’re all going to close, even the biggest ones.” He insisted that the next government, to be decided after the September 25 general election, will have to “address and immediately resolve the staffing problems of museums and other places of culture” in Italy.

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is under particular pressure, after drawing international attention last month, when Italian eco-activists managed to slip past security guards and glue themselves to Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ painting to demand the country abandon fossil fuels.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of sectors of the Italian economy have been experiencing staff shortages. The problem has affected tourism, where not enough workers have been signing up for seasonal jobs to meet growing demand.

According to estimates made by Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia, Italy is expected to lack between 70,000 and 350,000 workers this season.

Garavaglia suggested that the shortage stems from the “citizen’s income” social security scheme introduced by the ruling Five Star Movement in 2019, which makes it more profitable to be unemployed than to engage in insecure, underpaid seasonal work.

However, Five Star MPs have argued that the real issue is job insecurity and irregular contracts. Additionally, a survey of 1,650 seasonal workers found that “Covid uncertainty” was the main reason people opted out of work in the 2021 season.

In order to counteract staff shortages in the tourism industry, Garavaglia has suggested increasing the number of visas available for seasonal workers traveling from abroad, and allowing people to retain 50% of their citizen’s income while working summer jobs.