In the first half of 2021, only a little more than one permanent job position in ten was held by women. In 2020 alone, more than 30,000 mothers resigned, often for family reasons, but also because they were not supported by local social services such as nurseries, which were either non-existent or too expensive. Save the Children Le Equilibriste's latest report, la maternità in Italia 2022 (Motherhood in Italy 2022), highlights the disadvantaged position of women with children in Italy, which has been made even worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to ISTAT data reported in the publication, in 2021 the birth rate hit yet another historical minimum since the Unification of Italy. The number of children born fell below the threshold of 400,000 (399,431), down 1.3% on 2020 and by almost 31% compared to 2008.
The report outlines a very complex picture in which mothers are constantly searching for a balance between family life and work, often without any support and with a significant care load, which has increased in recent years due to the pandemic.
"The situation outlined by the data, which can be read on the Save the Children website, reveals a lack of public support for mothers that has its roots in the deep-rooted attitude of gender inequality in Italy, which doesn't make any allowances for women who decide to have children. For women graduates, for example, salaries are systematically lower and the gender pay gap tends to increase over time".
The modest economic recovery of last year has also been characterised by gender inequality: of the 267,775 permanent contracts signed in the first half of 2021, only 38% were jobs for women. If we look at the total number of jobs (of the total of all work contracts signed) started by women in the first half of the year (just over 1.3 million), the majority of them (38.1%) were for temporary positions, either seasonal work (17.7%) or temporary staff jobs (15.3%), with only 14.5% being permanent positions. On the other hand, of the more than 2 million contracts for men, almost half (44.4%) were temporary, followed by permanent positions (18%).
According to the report, 42.6% of women with children in the 25 - 54 age group are unemployed, a difference of more than 30 percentage points compared to men. The figure fluctuates considerably depending on which part of the country is under consideration, reaching a peak of 62.6% in the south, 35.8% in the centre, and 29.8% in the north of the country. Moreover, while the employment rate of fathers tends to increase as the number of underage children in the family increases, that of mothers tends to decrease. 61% of mothers with a child under 18 are in employment (3 out of 5 women), compared to 88.6% of men in the same position. The gap increases when both genders have two or more children under 18 (54.5% of women compared to 89.1% of men), a difference of 34.6%.
Data on the resignations of working mothers and fathers with children aged between zero and three years of age show that, out of 42,377 cases in 2020, 77.4% were women. Working mothers account for 77.2% (30,911) of all voluntary resignations, compared to 9,110 for fathers. The most frequently reported reason for resignation revealed by the data continues to be the difficulty of reconciling professional life with the needs of childcare.
L’Indice delle Madri (The Index of Mothers), included in the report every year and prepared by ISTAT for Save the Children, identifies the regions that are committed to supporting childcare in Italy, to a greater or lesser degree. Using 11 indicators, the Index assesses the situation of mothers in three different areas: care, work, and services.
Once again this year, the regions in the north were found to be most "mother friendly", in some cases recording values that were much higher than the national average. "The autonomous provinces of Bolzano and Trento have maintained the first and second position for several years. They were followed by Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Tuscany, and the Aosta Valley".
The regions in the south, on the other hand, are all – together with Lazio - below the reference value (of 100), highlighting how it is more difficult for mothers to earn a living in these regions. Basilicata (19th place), Calabria (20th place), Campania (21st place) and Sicily (17th place) have been alternating in the last positions for years. This year, they were joined by Puglia (18th place), although, for all the regions of the south, the global trend seems to be improving significantly, with an increase of four points over the last four years.
The report is available on the Save the Children website in the “Pubblicazioni (Publications)” section.