Istat (the Italian Institute of Statistics) has published its Italian labour force survey for the second quarter of 2012. The youth unemployment rate currently sits at around 33%. However, the most remarkable statistic concerns young women in Southern Italy.
Only 20.7% of women between the ages of 18 and 29 living in the South are employed, compared with 45.7% in the North. It is the worst statistic to come out since Istat began this survey in 2004. It clearly shows that the damage caused by the economic crisis has not spread evenly across the population but rather follows lines of inequality.
In Italy, the employment rate among women is the lowest in all Europe, with the exception of Malta. Fewer than one woman in two has a job. And Italy also holds another disturbing European record: the largest gap between the male and female employment rate, which is around 22%, while the European average is less than 14%.
Another study in 2010 showed that the average day of an Italian employed woman involves 7.12 hours of paid work and 8.35 hours of house and family work. The home is still the most important workplace, even for women who work outside the home. In making women redundant, the economic crisis has just pushed them back to the place they had never really left. The same study showed that women brought up in a family where the mother did not work outside the home are more vulnerable to unemployment. This does not simply demonstrate that a strong backward culture permeates Italian society – although this is obviously true – but most of all it shows the nature of the Italian economy, particularly in the South, where the chronic lack of jobs has forced the majority of women to stay at home, within family boundaries. This has not changed, even after the enormous increase in the levels of female education in recent decades and it shows that discrimination is at its worst during periods of crisis.