While Silvio Berlusconi has his hands full with the activities of some youthful women, for an increasing number of Italy’s youth, options such as work and education are disappearing.

More than one in five young Italians are neither working nor studying in school, the highest such proportion of inactive youths in the European Union, according to the country’s national statistics office, ISTAT.

As of 2009, about 21.2 percent of Italians between the ages of 15 to 29 were classified as “NEET” -- Not in Education, Employment or Training -- almost twice the rate of idle youths in Europe’s strongest economy, Germany.

That figure rose from 19.2 percent in 2008, in tandem with growing joblessness amidst the global economic crisis, ISTAT noted.

The “idleness” figures are even higher in the poorer parts of southern Italy and Sicily.

Linda Laura Sabbadini, central director at ISTAT, told Reuters: Eighty percent of job cuts involve young people, they are the segment that has been hit the hardest by the recession. It's alarming because it is a measure of social exclusion. The longer people stay without studying or working, the more difficult it becomes for them to either go back to school or find a job. These people are just hanging out in a limbo.

Overall, youth unemployment in Italy is at 25.4 percent (and climbing), six percentage points above Europe’s average.

ISTAT also indicated that the promise of higher education is slipping away for many Italians – 19 percent of young people quit school, and less than 20 percent of Italians in their thirties have a college degree.

The situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

The Bank of Italy is forecasting GDP growth of a feeble 1 percent this year as the nation’s economy remains hamstrung by weak domestic demand (versus a Eurozone average of 1.5 percent growth).

In this scenario, there won't be a robust recovery in employment, the central bank said.

The consuming behavior of families is tending towards caution, reflecting the weakness of disposable income and the uncertain outlook for labor market conditions.”