Italy vs gender equality – Part one

In one of my past post I’ve analyzed women’s situation among European countries. I’ve also highlighted  differences in terms of equality between men and women within member states. The following post describes the situation in my country, Italy. It’s sad to say that what emerges from the report (*) doesn’t surprise me at all. I can personally feel this difference every day, though now something is starting to change and the discrimination of women begins to end.

According to the European Gender Equality Index, Italy is ranked amongst the countries in the EU with the lowest gender equality. Only in the health area, thanks to Italian women’s long life-expectancy, its performance is above the european average. However, in any other respect the situation is not satisfactory. Furthermore, the legal framework has developed mainly with the help of European Directives or as a consequence of pressures of the civil society.

All in all, what is missing is a proper central based level gender infrastructure able to canalize, promote and monitor gender equality initiatives.

Employment reconciliation of work and family life

Female employment rates remain low, especially in Southern Italy and in general for women with low education.

Despite several Anti-discrimination laws adopted, gender gaps are still large. This is due to the lack of services for children and to the rigid work arrangements, which make it hard to reconcile work and family life. Unemployment rates are higher for women than male rates. Furthermore, it is difficult for women to experience a career advancement.

Gender equality in the labour market is proclaimed in article 37 of the Italian Constitution. The last barrier regarding access to a profession for women fell in 1999, when military careers were opened up to both sexes. Discrimination, both direct and indirect as defined in 2006, is condemned by Law 198 and a network of Equality Advisors, at the national, regional and provincial levels, deals with complaints by women who feel they have been discriminated against. Moreover, women are over-represented in atypical and precarious jobs.

A cause of this is the fact that Italy has never elaborated an effective strategy to include women into the labour market, based on the integration of different policy areas (including education, taxation, etc.). Two kinds of measures to improve women’s employment have been mainly promoted. These are provision of childcare services and incentives (of various amount and length) for employers who hire women.

There has been some improvement in childcare supply for children, although with large differences among regions and towns. However, the share of school-age children in full-time care is very low.

Moreover, the gender pay gap is one of the lowest in the EU due the prevalence of highly educated women in the female labour force and a strong system of collective bargaining. A huge gender gap exists in terms of income between retired men and women and no provision is envisaged for re-balancing it.

(* “The policy of gender equality in Italy”,  published by the European Policy department – citizens’ rights and constitutional affairs in 2014)

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