Milan – city of glamour, or city of shocking inequality?

Milan – the centre of Europe’s fashion, the city of fame, glitter and high heels. While walking through Via Montenapoleone you will feel surrounded by luxury – Giorgio Armani, Luis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Michael Kors… The amazing architecture combines old art with a Swarovski crystal shininess… But then you take a look to the ground, and there is a man, rolled up into a blanket: blue nose, blue hand holding a cup… Some people trying to sell you cheap plastic souvenirs lied out on a carpet, people from Africa trading bracelets made of thin colourful strings with text “Greetings from Africa” for a couple of euros… And all the people walking past, ignoring what is happening around.

So what is the real Milan? Is it a city of sparkles, or is it the city of the poor?

Located in Italy, South – Central Europe, Capital of the Lombardy region, Milan is the most populous metropolitan and the second most populous commune in Italy. It is named as a capital of design, fashion and football, with amazing architecture – from historical Duomo (Milan Cathedral) to modern wonder – glass edifice Palazzo Lombardia, city pulses with glamour.

However, Poverty Gap ratio in Italy is the highest between European countries, by the data provided in data.oecd.org. Poverty Gap shows the ratio of the poverty level and it is defined as half the median household income in the total population.

4.81 million or 8 percent of Italy’s population live in absolute poverty. The figure has risen 99 percent since 2007. The study by Coldiretti showed, that in southern Italy there are fewer people in poverty than in traditionally more wealthy central and northern regions, where Milan is (thelocal.it).

Breitbart publication released an article about ‘invasion’ of thousands of immigrants to Milan. Could it be a reason? According to them, when the routes to other European countries have closed because of the new border controls, migrants have chosen Italy and Milan as their final destination, even though before it was just a point before entering France or Germany. These migrants are not refugees; they are people who are searching for better living, higher earning and other benefits they could get in European countries. However, this kind of sudden rise of immigration is hard to handle – there is a necessity to build new houses, create new workplaces. So people, who have no way back to their country and can’t find a place to live and a job, have no other option, just to live on the streets. Some of them try to become ‘street sellers’ some just fall into poverty.

However, this is just one of the reasons why Milan has a rise in poverty during recent years.

Philip Obeng has lived in Milan for 15 years before moving to the UK. He says that he saw poverty in daily life basis, for example in elementary school: “I used to have a classmate when I was about 8/9 which lived in a family with low income. He would never come to school outings, because his family couldn’t afford them, however, teachers sometimes paid for him.

“When we were about 11 we sometimes used to go to the mall after school to eat something and socialise, but he never had money to buy food for himself, so we often paid for him.” He also says, that he used to work in a church, where part of his volunteering work was to help refugees to make a simple CV’s, so they would be able to find a job. In addition, he says that government of Italy tries to help refugees to get an initial place to stay and get documents that they need.

 

“I think poverty is caused by the bad distribution of income. Some get paid an astronomical amount of money, whereas others don’t even get minimum wage, as they work cash in hand. Unless they have connections, in which case it would not be too hard to get a contract. For example, Italian politicians are the highest paid ones in the world, yet they manage to cut funds from schools and tax citizens more heavily. Also, some employers ask students with no skills to work voluntarily to gain experience to put down on their CVs, but these employers get away with hiring people to work for free.” – says Lajika Elpitiya, who lived in Milan since childhood. “There’s a very high competition since it is one of the biggest cities in Italy.

The government gives benefits and provides housing projects for people who have lower income. However, many who find themselves without a job, for example, due to a drastic change in the market (eg. Blockbuster being substituted with Netflix), they become homeless and sleep in the Metros (Italian subways) and are fed through the help of charitable organisations.” – he adds after asking is it hard to find a job in Milan.

The inside look into the life of The Capital Of Fashion reveals, that not only immigrants/refugees causes poverty. There is still a huge differentiation between classes, as the government is corrupted. People, who have money, can earn more and more through the connections, however for the ones that have nothing is extremely hard to get up.

The case of poverty in Milan ones more reveals that modern society sometimes blinded by glamour and fame forgets about the ones in need. Perhaps tourists, models and other visitors of the city should pay attention not only to shopping malls but also to the people of the streets.

Viktorija Getneryte

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