Italians: Now we're often just in a survivalist mentality

Italians are going to the polls in a election which will set Italy's future economic path. It's a vote that has implications for the whole of the euro zone. WSJ's Christopher Emsden reports from Rome. Photo: Getty Images
ROME—Forty-something Italians are facing austerity for the rest of their working lives—just as they have since becoming adults.
"We are the lost generation," says Andrea Bolla, the 46-year-old chief executive of energy provider Vivigas and the Valdo Prosecco winery near the northern city of Verona. He says he pays more taxes and receives fewer services while navigating more red tape than his father did while running the family businesses.
WSJ's Giada Zampano in Rome feels the pulse of Italian disaffected voters as they head to the polls for Italy's most-watched elections in decades. Photo: EPA
"He always felt difficulties could be overcome," says Mr. Bolla, who has three daughters. "Now we're often just in a survivalist mentality."
Two days of voting in Italy's national elections come to a close Monday, paving the way for a likely coalition government that will have to take on the country's most urgent economic problems. What won't be high on the agenda is whether to lighten the heavy tax burden that a swath of the Italian population has borne for the past two decades: Enforcing austerity will be the main task of whatever government emerges from the vote.
Since 1992, when Mr. Bolla and his cohort began working, public debt has climbed to 127% of gross domestic product in 2012 from 102% in 1992, despite two decades of tight budgets that crimped investment and led to lower wages and salaries.