Growth in feeling of job insecurity among workers

The third survey on quality of work in the province of Bolzano/Bozen, a bilingual province in the northeast of Italy, reveals that most employees are required to carry out increasingly complex tasks, apart from manual and part-time workers. However, in a comparison with the findings from previous surveys, wages are still low and the feeling of job insecurity is significantly on the increase, despite low unemployment rates and high levels of financial support from the local government.

Each year, the research institute Arbeitsförderungsinstitut – Istituto per la Promozione dei Lavoratori (AFI-IPL), supported by the trade unions, carries out a quality of work survey in the province of Bolzano/Bozen, a bilingual Italian and German province with a special regional status. This survey offers a unique example of regular investigation into the quality of work in Italy. In 2005, some 1,000 employees were interviewed according to the CATI (computer-assisted telephone interviewing) method. The main findings of the 2005 survey are summarised in four newsletters in Italian and German.

Better quality jobs for men

According to the 2005 survey, men generally have better quality jobs than women, although men claim more frequently that they endure more arduous working conditions. Men also show a greater level of involvement in their organisation. This is mainly because a much larger proportion of women work part time, accounting for about 33% of women, compared with just 3.6% of men.

Moreover, part-time jobs are at a greater risk of marginalisation because of the lower responsibility and reduced work prospects than are experienced by workers in full-time jobs. Manual workers suffer poorer working conditions for all indicators, particularly arduous working conditions: 54.1% of manual workers complain of physically heavy workloads, compared with an average of 29.1% of all workers (Table 1).

Table 1: Organisational features and complexity of tasks performed by employees (%)
Organisational features and complexity of tasks performed by employees (%)
  Problem solving Learning new things Deadlines and work pressure Organisational and technological changes Monotonous tasks Arduous working conditions
Men 84.9 80.3 67.9 67.7 29.9 29.1
Women 74.9 75.5 62.1 56.1 33.3 26.2
20–29 years 83.6 85.0 62.5 69.7 32.5 32.1
30–39 years 81.4 80.2 67.8 61.8 32.1 29.5
40–49 years 80.1 69.4 65.3 59.3 29.9 27.7
50 years 73.3 74.8 64.7 57.8 25.9 25.2
Managers/technicians 97.3 90.0 80.0 84.5 18.9 10.0
White-collar workers 82.1 78.8 63.7 62.7 30.4 24.6
Blue-collar workers 66.8 67.3 62.8 52.3 40.3 54.1
Others 78.8 86.5 63.5 57.7 26.9 30.8
Full-time workers 83.7 81.4 66.5 66.1 30.5 29.1
Part-time workers 70.3 66.5 60.2 49.8 32.1 27.4
Total 80.6 78.3 65.4 62.7 30.8 29.1

Source: Survey of employees, AFI-IPL, 2005

Changes in working conditions

Figure 1 shows how working conditions have changed over the last three years. Looking at the organisational factors that workers experience very frequently, there is clearly an overall increase for all indicators, except for work pressure in relation to deadlines and pace of work. This reflects both an increase of participation in the work organisation, partly supported by training, and a gap between standard and non-standard workers. The former group, having a permanent full-time labour contract, enjoy functional flexibilities, while the latter group, having a part-time or non-permanent labour contract, more frequently carry out repetitive and monotonous jobs requiring little responsibility.

Figure 1: Very frequent organisational features, as reported by employees, 2003–2005 (%)


Source: Survey of employees, AFI-IPL, 2003–2005

Differences in earnings

There are significant differences in earnings according to sex and type of contract. Just under 11% of men and of full-time workers earn less than €1,000 per month, compared with 47.7% of women (Table 2). Conversely, more than 35% of men and only 10.3% of women earn more than €1,500 per month. About three out of four employees earning less than €1,000 per month work part time, which applies mainly to women, or have non-standard labour contracts.

Table 2: Monthly pay, by sex and labour contract (%)
Monthly pay, by sex and labour contract (%)
  Less than €800 €800–1,000 €1,000–1,200 €1,200–1,500 €1,500–2,000 More than €2,000
Men 1.5 8.8 23.3 30.6 21.4 14.4
Women 25.6 22.1 21.6 20.4 7.8 2.5
Full-time workers 2.1 8.8 25.9 31.7 19.5 11.9
Part-time workers 44.7 33.7 11.1 6.5 3.0 1.0
Others (apprentices, temporary workers, economically dependent workers) 35.3 29.4 17.6 17.6 0.0 0.0
Total 11.8 14.5 22.6 26.2 15.6 9.3

Source: Survey of employees, AFI-IPL, 2005

Figure 2 illustrates the gender pay gap more clearly, by taking into account only employees working full time. About 7% of men, compared with about 20% of women, earn less than €1,000 per month, while 37.4% of men, compared with 17.4% of women, earn more than €1,500 per month. Thus, both quality of work and pay indicate the ‘glass-ceiling’ effect, whereby women find it difficult to reach the higher occupational levels and equivalent pay rates, and the overall secondary role of women in the labour market.

Figure 2: Monthly pay of full-time employees, by sex (%)


Source: Survey of employees, AFI-IPL, 2005

Employability and job security

Table 3 summarises the answers to the question, ‘If you lose your current job, do you think you would be able to find another one?’, which capture both perceived employability and also feelings of insecurity among workers. The low rate of ‘no’ responses accurately reflects the low levels of unemployment in most parts of northern Italy, except among older workers, 17.1% of whom do not believe that they would be able to find another job if they were to lose their current position.

However, rather surprisingly, a strong decline was recorded in the response ‘yes, easily’, down from an average of 74.2% in 2003 to 65.2% in 2005. Since 2001, employment trends have not been as unfavourable as the overall economic trend, especially in the centre–north of Italy, due to the long-standing low rates of fertility (IT0603NU04). Instead, this growing feeling of job insecurity mainly reflects the increasing practice among companies to hire workers on non-permanent contracts. This is a result of the implementation of the EU Directive 1999/70/EC concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work (IT0107190N) as well as the 2003 labour market reform (IT0307204F), which introduced greater opportunities for employers to hire workers on non-permanent contracts.

Table 3: Ability to find another job (%)
Ability to find another job (%)
  Yes, easily Yes, with some difficulties No
Men 69.4 26.9 3.7
Women 59.6 35.4 4.9
20–29 years 76.6 22.6 0.7
30–39 years 68.3 29.1 2.6
40–49 years 57.5 38.8 3.8
50 years 47.3 35.7 17.1
Low education 62.4 31.2 6.4
Intermediate education 68.7 29.2 2.1
High education 63.7 31.3 5.0
Permanent contract 65.5 28.1 4.6
Non-permanent contract 62.1 37.0 2.9
Average 2005 65.2 30.6 4.2
Average 2004 67.4 27.9 4.9
Average 2003 74.2 21.7 4.1

Source: Survey of employees, AFI-IPL, 2005


Aris Accornero, a prominent Italian labour sociologist stated in his most recent book, San Precario lavora per noi (‘Holy precarious work for us’), that a gap is emerging between official statistics and what is generally perceived in terms of feelings of job insecurity in Italy: ‘attitudes towards job insecurity are more worrying than statistics on temporary jobs’. This means that, although the proportion of temporary workers is lower in Italy than the EU average – 12.3% compared with 14% – feelings of job insecurity increased significantly after the 1997 and 2003 labour market reforms.

The findings of the 2005 AFI-IPL survey on the quality of work in Italy further validate this perspective. This is particularly significant since labour market conditions are generally better in the province of Bolzano/Bozen than in Italy overall, due to supplementary welfare provisions provided by its special regional status. It should be noted, however, that the geographic focus of the survey is rather limited as the province has only 400,000 inhabitants out of 58 million people in the whole of Italy.

Mario Giaccone, Fondazione Regionale Pietro Seveso

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