ITALY – Italian workers value company cars and health insurance more than pension plans, according to data from Watson Wyatt and Hewitt Associates.

Watson Wyatt’s study on benefits in the workplace found that the most popular company benefits are health, life and invalidity insurance.

Pension plans were ranked last, despite changes Italy’s pension regime which will lower the first pillar’s provision in the next 50 years.

“A young Italian worker would not enquire after the pension deal offered by a prospective employer,“ said Livio Mocenigo, senior consultant at Watson Wyatt Italia. “In a young worker’s list of priorities, it is simply not the top. This could be due to a false perception of the size of first pillar provisions.”

The pension issue is more likely to interest workers aged over 40 and senior management keen on changing job, Mocenigo added.

Data from a Hewitt Associates study on corporate perks based on a sample of about 100 employers polled in 2004, found that “visible and useful” perks were the most popular.

“A short-term mentality” is behind placing of a company car or mobile phone at the top of the corporate perk list, explained Guido Blasco, a senior consultant at Hewitt.

“In Italy a very short-term approach prevails,” said Blasco. “A young worker is not likely to hang its pension fund statement around his neck for everyone to see. So he is likely to prefer a company car because it’s visible and confers status.”

Hewitt will launch its 2005 corporate perk study in the autumn.

Blasco conceded that as Italians are entering the labour market later than previously the first pillar pensions rate is likely to fall. He suggested that employers, the trade unions and the state invest in education for the workforce.

Last month welfare under-secretary Alberto Brambilla pledged that in October the government would launch an awareness campaign to inform the public about the changes introduced by the pension reform passed last July and is expected to be fully implemented by 2008.