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Gender-political situation in Italy


Legal situation:


Scientific institutions and sources:


Brief description and evaluation
In Italy, the family is regarded as a “community of mutual solidarity”, the cornerstone of society which takes care of the individual. From this stems the fact that the government is not very invasive, for example in caring for family members or children. Instead, it is women who (are expected to) take care of these matters, whilst the man is seen as the breadwinner in the family. Consequently, Italy's gender equality policy seeks to break up these antiquated role models and to promote the gainful employment of women.

Source: GenderKompetenzZentrum - Gleichstellungspolitik in Italien (German)

Of fundamental importance to the development of Italy's gender equality policy were the social movements (feminist movement / women's movement, trade unions) and their tense relations with government policy. The inception of all this were the 1970s when the women’s movement mobilised against a gender-blind class struggle policy and demanded employment by promulgating the issues of gender equality and women’s rights in marriage, the family and in relation to reproductive rights/abortion. A second phase, when the women's movement split into two/three different streams, was crucial for the development of gender equality policy. Whilst the ‘difference feminists’ emphasised the particular role of the woman and thus followed on from the more traditional gender role concepts, in particular women affiliated with trade unions and social movements emphasised the participation of women on the labour market and the issue of the work-life balance with gender-equitable time structures, and the empowerment of women to play an equal role in politics and the business sector. Those representing this stream were of importance to the development of a gender equality policy geared to the EU directives.

Roughly speaking, three stages of Italy's gender equality policy can be identified:

  1. 1960/70s: gender equality as a constitutional principle, protection of women as mothers and workers
  2. 1980s: equal opportunities on the labour market and political representation (promotion of women)
  3. Since the 1990s: a broader socio-political and cultural understanding of gender equality policy.

The elements of importance to the “modernisation” of Italy's gender equality policy were: the transformation of EU directives into national laws; international obligations which Italy entered into within the bounds of gender equality policy; plus the establishment of a ministry of gender equality in 1996 and, with that, the national implementation of the 4th EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality (1996-2000) in the shape of a National Action Plan for Gender Mainstreaming. GM was perceived as the operationalisation of gender equality policy, which made it possible for such a policy to become more closely geared towards structural changes within every policy area and thus to bring about a renunciation of the traditional form of gender equality policy focused on the role of the mother (maternity leave, labour protection, social security).

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Legal situation

Gender equality law
EU directives on labour law were implemented to a satisfactory degree by virtue of various legislative measures. In certain areas, national legal provisions exceeded EU regulations, for example the regulations protecting working mothers and fathers and/or governing maternity and paternity leave or relating to the promotion of the self-employment of women. Yet, certain gaps remain in terms of the implementation of EU directives. One serious shortcoming is, for example, the lack of explicit equality of treatment in cases where mothers are discriminated against due to pregnancy or maternity and where maternity rights are violated, or in the case of termination of employment during pregnancy/maternity due to gender-based discrimination. Another gap can be found in the functions of institutions vested with the task of promoting compliance with the principles of equal treatment where their conformity is founded on the concept of independence applicable at EU level.

Generally speaking, with respect to the national regulations that are passed in implementing EU legislation, there is a tendency for these to verbatim implementations of the EU directive. This approach means, however, that there is no safeguard that the requisite coordination with other regulations takes place.

In terms of legislation on social security, it can be said that, overall, national legislation and EU law largely concur, even though the directives have never been implemented concretely.

With regard to social security schemes (statutory and company-based), it is worth mentioning that employee benefits packages are fraught with risk in atypical employment relationships. The reason for this can be found in the fact that requirements for entitlements, the accumulation of insurance contributions and the size of the benefits depend on being employed on a regular basis. Many women are affected by this as they tend to be in atypical employment relationships (part-time jobs, loss of income, etc.).


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Anti-discrimination law
As can be seen from the statements outlined above, no such thing as a uniform anti-discrimination law exists. EU directives have been transformed into national law, in direct relation to individual discrimination-based characteristics.

In March 2007, the EU Commission instigated treaty violation proceedings against Italy as it was of the opinion that Italy had failed to correctly implement Council Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation, in particular the provisions governing bodies at national level with responsibility for promoting equal treatment.

This led Italy to pass a new law amending its legal provisions in June 2008 to bring these into line with the items in the directive which had been cited by the Commission. The proceedings were discontinued.


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Laws on quotas, above all in the political and economic fields
1993 saw the introduction of two laws on quotas (30% quotas), though these were declared unconstitutional in 1995. Italy did, however, introduce a statutory quota regulation for the European Parliament elections in 2004. Under the quota, neither gender was allowed to account for more than 2/3 of the candidates. Failure to observe this law results in the parties concerned receiving reduced compensation. This statutory quota regulation was passed for a period of ten years.


Three bills to initiate a quota system for appointing executive members of the managing board in listed companies have also been introduced. Currently, only 2.1% of all positions in management and supervisory bodies are held by women. The aim of the draft bills is to ensure balanced gender relations; as such, women should account for no less than one-third of all members of boards. It will come as no surprise to learn that this compulsory measure has been the subject of harsh criticism. If nothing else, however, the subject is being debated and this has put gender equality back on the political agenda.

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Other laws/statutory regulations and government programmes

Implementation of the recast directive
The government passed Decree no. 5 on 25 January 2010 which enabled the recast Directive 2006/54/EC to be implemented. Art. 1 of Decree no. 5/2010 contains numerous amendments to the Equal Opportunities Act. The heading of Art. 1 of the law no longer refers only to banning discrimination but also mentions equal opportunities for men and women and gender mainstreaming. Under this Article, the general goal of achieving gender equality when formulating and implementing laws, ordinances, administrative regulations, strategies as well as measures must be given consideration at all levels and by all concerned and all actors. The Decree also includes a few minor amendments designed to enhance the effectiveness of the measures undertaken by gender equality agencies, even though these must occur within the current budgetary restrictions.

The gender equality representative will be charged with new tasks. He/She is to conduct independent surveys, publish independent reports and submit recommendations for achieving gender equality.

The tasks of the National Commission for Equal Opportunities (NCEO) have been incorporated and specified. In terms of the NCEO evaluating the action plans, which is an important step in achieving gender equality, the Decree contains a method which enables an objective and qualified evaluation. The Decree furthermore charges the NCEO with the task of fostering social dialogue on gender issues; the NCEO is to exchange information with the EU agencies and organisations which deal with gender equality matters and to advance the dialogue with non-governmental organisations.

Additionally, the Decree takes on board, among other things, a more concrete definition of the term ‘direct discrimination’ (e.g. pregnancy, parental leave and pension benefits discrimination, sexual harassment). Minor changes can also be found to the ban on employment-related discrimination (vocational training, career development, etc.) based on family status, with respect to company pensions.

A further step towards full implementation of the gender equality directive has also been taken inasmuch that organisations and associations committed to the gender equality cause now have the possibility to bring individual lawsuits on behalf of the complainant.

With regard to gender mainstreaming, it should be said that the national gender equality representative has instigated an initiative: a task force for equal opportunities where trade unions, the network of gender equality representatives, federations of employers, secular and religious associations as well as the incumbent ministry and the municipal authorities can bundle their efforts. The task force calls on all concerned to sign the Charter for Equal Opportunities and Equality in the Workplace which was developed in 2009. The Charter is a declaration of intent which has been signed by organisations of differing sizes with the aim of developing and disseminating human capital policies which are free from all forms of discrimination and seek to make the best of each talent. Although the task force is still an insecure project, accomplishing the idea of bundling the forces of all the actors in the various areas, focusing attention on equal opportunities issues and debating on pending neutral or specific legislative interventions would mark an important step towards implementing political strategies aimed at promoting equal opportunities.

Source: Renga, Simonetta: Italy, in: European Gender Equality Law Review 2010, p.89-94

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Current political discourse
In terms of its intervention in general labour legislation, the present centre-right government is highly intrusive; very much to the detriment of fundamental employee rights and equality policy. Italian politics appears to be pursuing a form of bartering logic: trade off an increase in the rate of employment against a reduction of employee rights. These changes above all affect the weaker segment of the labour market, which includes many women. Reductions of the rights of the average employee, coupled with the grave economic crisis in Europe and the resulting further rise in unemployment, are marginalising all the issues relating to the fundamental rights of the individual in favour of one main issue: the job search. Consequently, measures designed to promote equal opportunities are running the risk of being viewed by employees as a luxury.

Source: Renga, Simonetta: Italy, in: European Gender Equality Law Review 2010, p.89-94

It therefore also comes as no surprise that the equality policies of the Italian government are heavily focused on the labour market, entrepreneurship/self-employment, women in management, work-life balance matters. 

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NGOs: political parties, civil society organisations

Coordinamento Italiano Della Lobby Europea Delle Donne

This is the national liaison office of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL).

Ms Ludovica Botarelli Tranquilli-Leali
Via Mentana, 2b
I - 00185 Roma
Tel: +39 06 494 14 91

The Marisa Bellisario Foundation
The aim of this foundation is to enhance the professionalism of women in the public and private sectors. The Marisa Bellisario Foundation nurtures the culture of equal opportunities and gender equality through dialogue which is open to the various instances of society.

Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, 8
00198 Rome - Italy
Tel + 39 06 85357628
Fax + 39 06 874599041

AIDOS - Associazione Italiana Donne per lo Sviluppo
The foundation began its work in 1981 as a women’s group and non-governmental organisation in the field of development cooperation. Since its establishment, AIDOS has worked in developing countries, in Italy and with international organisations to build, promote and defend the rights, dignity, well-being and progress of women. AIDOS works in partnership with local organisations and institutions to provide women and their organisations with instruments from the women’s movement in Italy that have been most successful.

Via dei Giubbonari 30
00186 Roma
Tel +39 06 687 3214
Fax +39 06 687 2549

Comitato Impresa Donna (Business Woman’s Committee)
This association helps women to become entrepreneurs and helps them on their way by offering training courses. The website contains information and advice from experts as well as publications and useful links.

This is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote equal opportunities for working women. The focus here lies on personal development and career advancement. The services offered to women include training courses and a helpdesk. Together with other regional and national actors, the organisation carries out seminars, conferences, studies and research work on the subject of working women.

AIDDA, Associazione Imprenditrici e Donne Dirigenti d'Azienda
This is a women's entrepreneur network of global corporations.

Via degli Scialoja, 18
00196 Roma

Donne Democratiche (Blog on political culture and women's studies)

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Other institutions and initiatives dealing with the equality of women can be found on this page on equality in the Abruzzi: Reti di donne in Italia

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Government and Ministries

“As regards the functions required by EU law, a central role is played by the Net of Equality Advisors and the Equal Opportunities National Committee set up by the Labour Ministry Central Office. The law states that they shall be independent, but it is up to the Minister of Labour to set the conditions for the organisation and the functioning of the Equality Advisors’ staff. The lack of independency of the National Equality Advisor was shown by the Decree of 30 October 2008 of the Labour Minister, in agreement with the Minister for Equal Opportunities, which removed the advisor from office, arguing that she was not “in line” with the Government’s policies.

The Commission for Equal Opportunities between Men and Women, which deals with all sectors, the Committee for the promotion of female entrepreneurship, and the General Division, which deals with equality in the field of access to and the supply of goods and services, all established by the Prime Minister’s Offices  (Equal Opportunities Department), cannot be deemed to be independent.”

 Source: Renga, Simonetta: Italy, in: Gender Equality Law in 30 European Countries. 2009

Dipartimento per le Pari Opportunità (Ministry of Equality)
has been in existence since 1996; goals/tasks: gender mainstreaming (monitoring, implementing, coordination), greater political participation, normative orientation/proposals, nomination of representatives on advisory boards, cooperation with women's NGOs; veto right for the incumbent minister, Maria Rosaria Carfagna.

Largo Chigi, 19 - 00187 ROMA Largo Chigi, von 19 bis 00187 ROMA
Tel: (+39) 06.67791, +39 06.67792435 Tel.: (+39) 06.67791, +39 06.67792435

The ministry underwent a fundamental overhaul and was assigned tasks and committees from other ministries, among them the Committee for Entrepreneurship which had previously been under the remit of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and also the Equality Committee (see below).

Gender equality advisor
Implementation of gender equality in the fields of employment and vocational training; frequently women trade unionists

Also under the remit of this ministry:

Commissione Nazionale per la Parità e le Pari Opportunità tra Uomo e Donna (italian)
Since 1984, restructured in 1991; advisory body to the prime minister; comprises members of women's organisations, women's representatives from political parties, trade unions and federations of enterprises; function: intermediary between the government, public administration and civil society; tasks: research, public relations, information and advertising campaigns; until 1996 also coordination of government activities

Equality body in the Ministry of Labour
since 1997; administrative institution to support the Minister of Equality;

This institution provides policy guidance, proposes and coordinates legislative and administrative measures for implementing equal opportunities, fosters research, performs monitoring tasks in the field of gender equality, gives central and local authorities guidance on how to implement national legal provisions appropriately.

Under the remit of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

Via Veneto 56 - 00187 ROMA Via Veneto 56-00187 ROMA
Tel: (+39) 06 46831 Tel.: (+39) 06 46 831
Postal address: (+39) 06.48161451-2

The keyword in Italian to type in when running an online search is: Pari Opportunità/equality

A current paper on the genesis of equality and on measures can be found here: L’ottica di genere in materia di salute e sicurezza sui luoghi di lavoro -Chiara Bizzarro (PDF, 7 Seiten, 420 KB, italian)

Also under the remit of this ministry:

Committee for the enforcement of the principles of equal treatment and equal opportunities for working men and women. Comitato per làttuzione dei principi di parità di trattamento e di opportunità equal lavoro tra uomini e donne

since 1991; under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; representatives from trade unions, employer federations and women’s organisations; tasks: proposals for law reforms, information, representation of women in the field of labour market policy, affirmative action, etc.

Consigliera nazionale di parità (National Equality Council)
Point of contact:
Dott.ssa  Bianca M. Pomeranzi     
Tel. 0646832560   
Tel. 0646832562

Comitati per la promozione dell`imprenditoria femminile (Committee for the Promotion and Dissemination of Women’s Entrepreneurship)
since 1997; under the remit of the Ministry of Equality.

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Other gender actors
AFEM - Association des Femmes de l'Europe Méridionale (available in the languages of the participating countries) is a European network comprising individuals, organisations and umbrella organisations from Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Portugal. Project on the subject of work-life balance for women and men (legislation and practice)


Scientific institutions and sources



Società italiana delle storiche (GopherDonna)
Via della Lungara 19 - 00165 Roma
Tel. (+39) 06 6872823
Fax: (+39) 06 6872823

Women’s Studies (Centro interdipartimentale) - Università della Calabria
Centro Interdipartimentale di Women’s Studies “Milly Villa” Università della Calabria
Via P. Bucci
Edificio 1 B - piano 3
Arcavacata di Rende (CS)

Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerche e Studi delle Donne - Università degli Studi di Torino
Il CIRSDe si trova al IV° piano di Palazzo Nuovo, Stanza n. 69
Via S. Ottavio, 20 - 10124 Torino

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Description of state of source material
State of source material not so good, especially with respect to government equality and gender policy (not posted on the Net or only available in Italian). Moreover, there is a lack of a clear or simply structured overview of the equality institutions, which makes researching the websites, which are only available in Italian, more difficult. By contrast, NGOs have a very strong online presence, although usually limited to Italian and often even without any executive summaries in English.

Case studies are likewise virtually non-existent in literature on gender policy in Europe.

Citing of relevant sources

Internet sources: in addition to the above websites, it should also be mentioned that a central Women’sInformationPortal exists: Server Donne   (in Italian)

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Useful keywords when running web searches:

Equality - L'uguaglianza

Gender equality - L'uguaglianza di genere

Gender mainstreaming - Mainstreaming di genere

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This study was conducted by Tanja Berger und Pamela Dorsch and comissioned by the Gunda Werner Institute of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010.

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