Workers' Rights in a Global Economy

Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Italy: an Unsolved Problem.

  1. A brief overview of the Italian situation Despite being one of the former countries of the European Union and a consolidated democracy, Italy scores pretty bad in the gender equality index, falling far behind in the ranking in the 69th position with Bangladesh. By looking at the World EConomic Forum data the reason for such a positioning shows itself quite immediately. While in education and health the italian women reach an average or even above average level, the same cannot be said about the economic and political sectors. If in the global ladder Italy does not perform too badly, it reaches the 69th position out of 142 countries, in the specific field of wage gap the position is unacceptably low: 129th . In spite of the ratification of the C100 - Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) women´s earnings are substantially lower than their male coworkers.

Furthermore another problem emerges from the analysis of the data: the very low empowerment of women, their exclusion from the decision making processes both in the public and private sectors: the 74% of the seats is being hold by men. This picture is made even worse by considering that the enrollment in the tertiary education is extremely high among women, 74% while the men score only 56%. Why worse? Because it means the gender segregation affects highly skilled and prepared women, a human capital which is not being used at all.
Although Italy ratified the Convention N0. 111 on the 12th of August 1963 and it is considered in force, as it was shown by the data earlier presented, the reality is far from being consistent with the obligations taken.

  1. (Un)equal opportunity in the public and administrative sector
    In order to correct the situation in 2007 was issued the national Directive for implementing the Measures for Equality and Equal Opportunities between Women and Men. Nevertheless in the National Parliament there are no prescribed quotas for women, thus the matter has been left the single Parties to regulate. Although some of them may have introduced quotas, these have been adopted on a voluntary base thus it is not a right, nor the breach of such quotas has any legal repercussions. The last elections were celebrated as a milestone for women participation, scoring the highest level ever: a tiny 31%. Apparently the current Cabinet achieved a remarkable result considering that half of the Ministers are women. Nevertheless we are those who celebrated were looking at the finger and not at the moon: out of 44 members of the Cabinet and relative apparatus, only 9 are women. In 2013 the Presidenza del Consiglio published a report on gender equality in the national public administration. The survey involved 104 administrations and over 400.000 individuals and showed quite predictable results: in the middle management sector gender gaps were observed, although with significant differences among branches of the public administration: women managers were only 35% in Universities, 41% in social security institutes, 42% in Research Centres, 31% in other agencies, 43% in Central administration offices; in other public institutions they are the 34%. However, if only top positions were considered, the percentage of female top managers is substantially smaller.

    In the private sector the situation was not better, with the majority of top managers among males. To tackle the problem an interesting law was passed in August 2011, the Law 120/201138. It stated that any Board of Directors of listed companies on the stock market had to be composed by the less represented gender at least for the 35%. The Control Body of the listed companies, the CONSOB, is also the supervisory authority for the implementation of the law. The CONSOB has been provided with two tools it can independently decide to use in order to change the illegal Boards when the gender quota is not respected. Firstly, the dismission of the unlawful board; secondly, the infliction of financial penalties: from €100 thousand to one million if the law is not respected in the board of directors and from €20 thousand to 200 thousand if the breach regards the audit committee's composition. From 2011 to 2013 the number of women in had more than doubled going from 7.4% to 17.1%.

  2. The “dimissioni in bianco” or blank resignation
    Another practice which has been reported quite often is the so called “dimissione in bianco” a resignation letter undersigned by the woman but with the date in blank. This way the employer in case of pregnancy of the employee can send her home without the duty to reassume her after the pregnancy and the maternal leave. Such behaviours are hard to identify and prove. Furthermore as employee these women are put in an even weaker position due to the asymmetry of powers.
    As reported by the ISTAT, the national Agency for statistics there is a strong correlation between maternity and work-loss.
    This is a violation of the Art. 8 C183, where three principles are established: firstly; a woman cannot be fired due to her pregnancy; secondly the burden of the proof is upon the employer; thirdly, the woman as the right to be reassigned the same position and economic treatment.
    In order to fulfill the duties derived from the Art. 9 C183 Italy has to “adopt appropriate measures to ensure that maternity does not constitute a source of discrimination in employment, including - notwithstanding Article 2, paragraph 1 - access to employment.” And it did it. Lately the problem has been taken in consideration by the Government. The Law Fornero, named after the Minister for the Work, has indirectly benefited and helped women providing a stronger welfare, in order to lighten them from the family-care duties which have been traditionally assigned to the woman. Furthermore a duty to paternity leave has been introduced. Nevertheless, if the wage gap persists it is only obvious that between the two parents the one who earns the least will be chosen to provide childcare.

  3. Final remarks
    Despite having ratified all the ILO conventions which should prevent gender discrimination - C183 Maternity Protection Convention, 2000; C100 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951; C111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 - there is a remarkable difference in economic treatment between men and women. According to the ILO convention No. 111 the state should take action and implement the regulations. A positive trend has been reported, especially after the fornero Law, but the way is still long.

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