On 19 December 2018, Italy’s Chamber of Deputies' Joint Committees XI (Labour) and XIII (Agriculture) began an investigation of the so-called ‘caporalato’ phenomenon, a form of illegal intermediation and exploitation of migrant workers in the agricultural sector, constituting up to one fourth of the total agricultural workforce. This system exploits migrant workers, violates minimum wage requirements and imposes inhumane working conditions.
Two hearings have already taken place. During the first hearing in January 2019, representatives of agricultural enterprises expressed their concerns over Law No. 199 of 2016, which imposes criminal penalties for intermediation and exploitation of irregular labour. The representatives stated that the law risked being overly broad.
During the second hearing in February, trade union representatives asked for new forms of protection for victims who report and denounce exploitation, as well as new resources for site inspections, stabilisation of the rural employment market and new funding for the experimental protocol ‘Cura, legalità e uscita dal ghetto’ (Care, Legality and Move out of the Ghetto), which supported actions against illegal intermediation and labour exploitation.
The main objectives of the investigation are:
- Analysing the caporalato phenomenon
- Identifying new legal and administrative measures to counter the phenomenon
- Assessing the enforcement of Law No. 199 of 2016 and its implementing rules
- Realising site inspections in rural areas where the caporalato system is prevalent
In addition to the investigation, an inter-institutional working group has been created inside the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy involving representatives of government ministries, regions and autonomous provinces, the National Labour Inspectorate, the National Social Security Institution, the National Association of Italian Municipalities, the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza.
Characteristics of the Italian agricultural sector help to explain the development of the caporalato system: high demand for short-term, flexible labour; extensive labour outsourcing, contract operations and leased land and equipment; workplaces that are geographically isolated or present extremely harsh conditions (e.g., greenhouses); inability of producer organisations to effectively represent local producers’ interests; presence of criminal organisations and lack of official recruitment services.