The South is one open-air construction site: open to opportunities, open to work, and opening new horizons to millions of young people through large-scale infrastructure works. Today, reviving Italy’s underdeveloped South means getting back to work on forward-thinking, modern projects. Sustainable mobility is one of the chief priorities.
According to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility, €34.7 billion ($44 billion) of the PNRR (Italian Recovery Plan) funds will be allocated toward transport and infrastructure works in Southern Italy. Among the projects to be financed are the high-speed/high-capacity Salerno-Reggio Calabria line (€11.2 billion, or $13.3 billion), the Palermo-Messina-Catania section (€1.4 billion, or $1.6 billion), the Naples-Bari high-speed line (€1.4 billion), as well as upgrades to Intercity trains traveling to the South and new sustainable mobility initiatives on the smaller islands.
The impact on employment and wealth will be significant. Between 2024 and 2026, as a result of the PNRR (Italian Recovery Plan), national GDP is projected to gain 3.1% above its baseline. The South will contribute 1% to this growth, which is much more than the average Southern Italian share of national economic growth.
In addition, both youth employment and women’s employment are expected to grow more in the South than in the wealthier Center-North. Between 2024 and 2026, the growth rate for women’s employment in the South is projected to reach 5.5%, while for young people in general, the expected rate is 4.9% (compared with a national average of 3.2%). The PNRR is aiming to bridge the employment gap brought on by previous crises to the detriment of younger generations.
In an interview with the Naples-based daily “Il Mattino”, the President of the Young Entrepreneurs of Confindustria Riccardo Di Stefano said: “The risk of seeing the already enormous national public debt snowball and not being able to repay it over the years is a real concern for our generation of young entrepreneurs – those who have decided to invest not only their resources, but also their hopes, in this country’s system.”
Providing job opportunities to young people is, then, a key starting point for reviving the South of Italy, while also simultaneously promoting construction of modern works, which can help guide the South forward into the future.
Webuild in the South
Webuild Group has been operating in Southern Italy since the 1930s and since then has completed 280 major works.
Today, the group has 10 open sites with another three soon slated to become operational. These construction sites employ over 2,000 people, between direct employees and indirect collaborators. An additional 1,700 suppliers total €950 million ($1.1 billion) in contracts.
Large-scale works in the South, therefore, directly impact work and well-being. Projects like the Naples-Bari high-speed railway line and the Palermo-Catania high-capacity railway line bring development opportunities and help create community and jobs. This is where young people come into play, taking part in a national renaissance fueled by infrastructure.
Young people and the South in Webuild’s construction sites
Large-scale works can help the South, putting it on the path toward stable development and helping create employment. Webuild has historically been committed to the region, embarking on one-of-a-kind works in the past like the Salerno-Reggio Calabria freeway, as well as major projects like the Ponte sullo Stretto linking Sicily to the mainland that could shift the course of its future.
“Southern Italy is very important to us,” commented Pietro Salini, CEO of Webuild. “It is a region with a pronounced lack of jobs, infrastructure, and vision, in immediate need of a plan for growth. We want to be available to and supportive of these regions, carrying out work in an honest and transparent way so that children and families can have a future.”
Young people’s futures are also going to be shaped by projects that are currently underway, such as the expansion of the high-speed Naples-Bari line, the new Statale Jonica (SS 106 highway), and the high-capacity railway connecting Palermo to Catania. These works, as well as those that are part of the Italian Recovery Plan, will greatly need the contributions of young people in the South.
Salini noted, “For this reason, we are launching a program for 100 young engineers from the South who we want to employ throughout the world, but especially here in the South, so they can contribute to bettering their own region.”
The search for young talent is indeed one of the Group’s main development strategies. Currently 43% of Webuild’s employees are under 35 years old, while 38 is the average age of the Group’s workers. Webuild has provided training and inclusion initiatives for them so that they can get up and running in the complex dynamics of construction sites within the shortest time frame possible.
Once again encouraging the inclusion of young people, the Group has developed partnerships with various universities in Italy, such as the Politecnico in Milan and the University of Genoa.
University and work go hand in hand to create a new managerial class ready to rebuild Italy.