Immigrants: Rome course for enterprise literacy

'Foreigners more dynamic than Italians',Lazio cooperatives chief

21 January, 17:05

(ANSAmed) - ROME, JANUARY 21 - Love for ''The Divine Comedy'' was behind Oui Suk Choi's decision to leave South Korea and move to Italy. Now this Korean woman with a soft spot for Dante Alighieri has become an entrepreneur of a one-of-a-kind coin-operated laundry, where regulars can while away the time with snacks and books in a variety of languages. Oui Suk Choi was one of the students of the ''enterprise literacy'' course held by the Rome Chamber of Commerce and the Lazio-region Italian Cooperatives Association (AGCI). The initiative kicked off a year ago, and on January 28 the seventh and last course of the project will be start. The training course is five days long and teaches those who have come to Italy to seek their fortune how to set up and manage an enterprise, as well as what sort of public funding is available.

''In the past,'' AGCI Lazio training division chief Gabriele Nardini told ANSAmed, ''we used to hold similar courses that were open to all. Then, in February 2013, we launched this initiative specifically for immigrants. It was a choice based not only on their lack of understanding of the situation but also due to the fact that they are more dynamic in starting businesses.'' The crisis does not seem to have had an effect on this attitude.

According to the 2012 Immigrant Labour Market Report (sponsored by the Labour Ministry), between 2010 and 2011 about 20,000 new individual businesses run by non-European immigrants were started. The largest increase occurred in the Lazio region (+10.8%), followed by Puglia, Campania, Liguria and Lombardy.

Nardini claims that these figures are due to cultural reasons. ''Italians are accustomed to a more protected life and hesitate to take risks. There is the widespread belief that work can be found only through knowing the right person. Immigrants instead know they have to stand on their own two feet. They come to Italy with their 'teeth sharpened', ready to get down to work''.

The ''vagueness of contracts'' also plays a part in foreigners opting to set up their own businesses. Tax rules are often a nightmare for immigrants, who are ''often underpaid''. This psychological predisposition to ''do it on one's own'' comes up against a number of obstacles, first and foremost language and bureaucracy. But there are success stories, Nardini notes. ''Students who took part in the courses over the past few months have set up their own businesses: a cleaning agency, a flower shop, an organic products retail outlet....'' and, of course, Oui Suk Choi's laundry. (ANSAmed).

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