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Life Stages: Work and Professional Life

Standard Practices

Italians usually begin working during their late-20s. Italians are free to choose their profession and career path, although educational qualifications play a big role in any employment decision.

Banks in Italy work Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a break until 3 p.m. and closing at 4 p.m. In most offices, the work schedule is from 8 or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3 or 4 p.m. to 7 or 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. Businesses usually remain closed on Sunday, the weekly holiday.

Italy’s unemployment rate fluctuates, and is about eight percent, although it can be as high as 20 percent in economically underdeveloped regions of southern Italy. Unemployment rates are significantly higher for women and youth.

Working Women

Italian women are entitled to the same access to jobs and employment opportunities as men. They are joining the workforce in increasing numbers, and their participation rate has more than doubled in the past decade to its current rate of about 40 percent. This rapid increase in the number of working women is mostly because the income earned by the father or husband is often insufficient to meet the family’s needs.

Discrimination against working women in Italy persists on many levels. For instance, a man with 10 years of experience is more likely to be promoted than a woman with the same experience and qualifications. Women are rarely found in the upper levels of management and decision-making. Italian women are also forced to work inflexible hours, and their workloads are, on an average, at least 25 percent more than that of men.

Discrimination against women is also prevalent in the area of salaries, with pay differences between men and women ranging from 8 percent among senior managers to 11 percent among white-collar workers. Southern Italian women are even worse off, with those in white- and blue-collar jobs earning 20 percent less than men in equivalent positions. A blue-collar female worker from northern Italy earns, on an average, 26 percent more than her southern counterpart. However, in certain professions, such as secretarial work, the difference in salaries is tilted in favor of women.  

Marriage or childbirth does not affect a woman’s professional life adversely, although it often forces her to take on the twin burdens of household duties and childcare in addition to earning income for the family. Working mothers are entitled to generous maternity packages on childbirth, and the government provides all mothers with a 1,000 euro payment and access to free daycare facilities. Private nurseries are also available, although they are very expensive, and many working mothers also use their parents for help with childcare.

The statutory retirement age for men and women is 65 and 60 respectively.