CASSANO MAGNAGO, Italy (Reuters Life!) - A supermarket chain in the wealthy northern Italian area of Varese is offering the ultimate lottery prize in a time of crisis -- a job for a year.
Grocery chain Tigros, which has more than 50 shops, has been running a lottery for customers spending at least 30 euros ($43.71) in their purchases, putting up 10 jobs as the big prizes.
Shoppers have been casting tickets in boxes in the stores in the past month and the winners will be picked on Thursday.
"It is aimed at everyone. At a time of major crisis, Tigros wanted to do this," Tigros Sales Director Fabio Prandini told Reuters at the company's store in Cassano Magnago. "Tigros this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary ... in light of this we want Tigros to link its activities with the customer."
At a time when Italy's jobless rate climbed 7.4 percent in the second quarter -- its highest level since 2005 -- the scheme is a welcome initiative.
The country's unemployment rate will increase to 8.5 percent this year versus 6.7 percent in 2008, before rising further to 8.8 percent in 2010, the Treasury said in a report last week.
Italians are known for holding on to jobs for life and firing workers is usually more costly than elsewhere.
"For people who are at home at the moment, it is a great possibility for work," shopper Serena Moneta said, as she casted her own tickets into the lottery box.
Prandini said "tens of thousands" of people had so far taken part in the competition. To be eligible, participants must be over 18 and resident in Italy.
The winners will get the news by post.
"Up till today, we have not had any complaint or negative signal," Prandini said of the initiative.
The winners could start working in December. The contract is for 12 months but if everything goes well it can be extended. And if the winners already have jobs, they can onpass the offer to a relative.
An elderly shopper who only gave her name as Luciana said she was casting her tickets for her daughter-in-law.
"She previously has worked as a cashier for six months but only with fixed-term contracts," she said. "There is a need for work so you hope to find a job. We have cast many tickets."
When it comes to lotteries, Italy has scooped the headlines.
An Italian from the small town of Bagnone, in the central region of Tuscany, won Europe's biggest lottery jackpot of more than 147 million euros in August.
Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino, editing by Paul Casciato