Public jobs and capabilities: the case of the Italian waste sector

In Italy, employment in waste collection has been widely used to reduce unemployment and create political consensus (especially in the South). Having secure jobs allows people to achieve income stability. But, income is just a means to an end and the goods and services or ‘commodities’ it buys are simply particular ways of achieving the freedom or valuable opportunities (capabilities) to lead the kind of lives the people want to lead, to do what they want to do and be the person they want to be. The aim of this paper is evaluate employment in waste collection as policy able to expand the quality and the quantity of people’s opportunities (capabilities). We present qualitative empirical evidence that public jobs in waste collection lead to the expansion of the capability sets improving people well-being. On the other hand, health problems related to physically demanding jobs can limit the capability sets. Moreover, workers experience limitations in the quality and the quantity of opportunities they face; but, they do not perceive such limitations since their aspirations are also limited and, therefore, they do not have stimulus to improve the negative aspects of their life.