Employment among Italian women lags behind their male counterparts and remains at the bottom of the EU rankings, highlighting the challenges facing the country’s first female leader.
The employment rate for men edged up 1.7 percentage points over the year to 69.5 per cent in October but for women it rose at a slower pace of 1.4 percentage points to 51.4 per cent.
“The lack of family-friendly policies, low career expectations, subdued growth and high pay gaps drag heavily on female participation,” said Nicola Nobile, economist at the consultancy Oxford Economics.
He added that reforms could have a significant impact on long-term growth. Italy’s economic output has been largely stagnant for more than two decades.
The jobless figures, released on Thursday, nonetheless surprised investors. The rate in the eurozone’s third-biggest economy extended its decline to 7.8 per cent in October from 7.9 per cent in the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday. Economists had forecast an increase to 8 per cent.
Italy’s female employment rate is the lowest of any other EU country and is more than 20 percentage points below that of Germany. An even larger gap has opened against the rates in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. It is the lowest of any other advanced economy.
The difference between men and women participating in the labour force is about double the eurozone average.
The rightwing Giorgia Meloni took office in October but she has failed to lift hopes of a change of direction.
Carlo Bonomi, the leader of the confederation of Italian industry, has hit out at the annual national budget for lacking “vision”, including adding measures to boost women’s participation in the labour force.