When Roberto Brazzale talks about the new people in his large dairy business, he has a big smile on his face. He describes the slightly different team Brazzeil has assembled as a goldmine. The Italian, who runs one of the country’s oldest dairy farms with his two brothers, is now causing a stir with an unusual staffing decision: he only hires people over 60 at a certain branch of the company. He was simply disappointed in the boys.

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Older people scored points with their drive and energy – unlike younger people

Some time ago, Brazzale was looking for employees for a new project. In addition to traditional products such as classic butter and the cheeses Mozzarella, Grana Padano and Scamorza, he wanted to sell specialty gourmet butter products.

Roberto Brazzale, managing director of dairy company Brazzale AG, has made international headlines.

© dpa / Robert Messer/dpa

In fact, he also had several people in their 30s try out the job. However, with a disappointing result: they lacked drive and energy, he says. That’s why only eight men and women aged 60 or older ultimately got jobs.

“To me, they’re all young in some way, because age means nothing compared to the enthusiasm and energy that you can still have when you’re over 60,” says Brazzeil. He runs a traditional company in Zana in the northern Italian region of Veneto, famous for its butter and cheese.

“They realized how important this work is. When you’re young, you don’t understand it—you only understand it later.”

Roberto Brazzale, dairy plant manager, about his employees

He never regretted his decision. On the contrary: his new employees bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and, above all, experience. “They have a completely different experience than younger people. They understand how important work is. When you’re young, you don’t understand that – you don’t understand it until later,” said Brazzale, who is himself in his early 60s.

The newcomers are mostly old acquaintances and friends who have known each other either from school or, in typical Italian style, from the central square of the 6,000-population village of Zane in Veneto. After their youth they went their separate ways. Sandro, for example, worked as a gold dealer, Sonya and her husband ran a restaurant for a long time.

“We are all friends and know each other well,” Brazzale emphasizes. “That’s why there’s a stronger team spirit here.” Today, a team of over 60 years old at the main plant in Zahn markets special types of butter. Hugo, for example, drives a food truck, and Sonia, with whom Brazzeil skipped school, takes care of the administration.

Lots of bambini? It’s all over in Italy

However, what seems strange at first glance has a serious background. Demographic changes are putting pressure on Italy and the population is shrinking. Current figures from statistics agency Istat are quite impressive: the number of births has fallen below the 400,000 threshold for the first time since records began in the 19th century and now stands at almost 393,000 in 2022. There are simply fewer and fewer “bambini” in Italy – and on top of that, the population is aging. The ideal of a large family in Italy is already outdated.

Even Pope Francis was concerned about the low birth rate in Italy and throughout Europe. Some time ago he deplored a culture that valued pets over human children. Francis reported a woman who wanted him to bless her dog—her “child.” “I didn’t have enough patience and scolded the woman,” the pontiff said. In fact, Italy is considered the country of pets. Italy’s right-wing government also wants to solve this problem. There has even been a “minister of birth” for more than a year now.

How the number of Italians is declining – and what consequences this has

  • 393,000 births in 2022, which specifically means: seven newborns but more than twelve deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. This trend will weigh heavily on the economy in the long term. Overall, Italy’s population has been declining steadily since 2014. Italy can no longer even break the 60 million mark. The first consequences can be felt in schools and kindergartens, where there are fewer and fewer children. The Education Secretary has warned that the number of students will fall by a million over the next decade.

This development worries Brazzale as an entrepreneur. Much has also changed in the way older people see themselves, he said. “There is a prejudice that at 60 you no longer have anything to say. Or even that at this age you just want to retire. It is not true”. “Today’s 60s are the new 40s,” is one of his pithy statements.

Brazzeil is enthusiastic about his colleagues. And he never tires of emphasizing that he hardly knows any young people who have achieved the same success as his team over 60 years old. But Brazzeil doesn’t know what will happen next in a few years when some of his employees retire. In any case, things are going well for now. He says: His employees are simply “bravissimi.” (Robert Messer, dpa/af)

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Teaser image: © dpa / Robert Messer/dpa