Workers hampered by limited welfare regime

The welfare regime in Italy relies largely on the family, and in particular, women, to act as the main provider of care for children, the sick and the elderly. The high cost of childcare and services for the elderly has meant women who would like to get back into the labour market are forced to either work part time or not work at all. The problems are exacerbated by the reluctance of many companies and organisations to allow carers to work flexible hours or to take time off in an emergency.

Introduction

The number of women in paid employment in Italy remains low, particularly in the more traditional southern regions of the country. The other main factor is a welfare regime which relies largely on the family – and especially women – to act as the main care provider. This has been discussed by a number of researchers, including Ferrera (1966) and Danish sociologist Gosta Esping-Andersen (1999) who labelled it the Mediterranean welfare regime.

Employment rates by main socio-demographic variables

According to the 2010 ad hoc module on Conciliation between work and family (in Italian, 666Kb PDF) of the Labour Force Survey, the participation of both women and men in the labour force is restricted when welfare and care services are limited, and where there is little flexibility in working time. The report adds that such problems also prevent 14.4% of women working part time from seeking a full-time position.

Table 1 summarises both the geographic differences and the effects of the welfare system on the numbers of women in paid work. It shows that employment rates among men are higher when they live with their children who are aged 15 and under – what is known as the ‘male breadwinner’ pattern – while employment rates among women in the same category are lower.

Women aged between 45 and 54 with children are the only group in which the employment rate is higher than among women who have no children. This could be due to higher qualification levels among the women in this group, and delayed parenthood may also be a factor.

The data show the employment gap due to parenthood and related care is stable across geographic areas at between 6% and 7%. They also show that the gap is far lower among better qualified women at 3.7%, compared with 9.4% for workers with low qualifications, and 8.3% for those with medium qualifications.

Table 1: Employment rates by gender, age, geographic area and education, %
 

Parents living with children aged 15 and under

Others

 

men

women

total

men

women

total

25–34

87.0

45.0

59.5

73.1

63.2

68.9

35–44

91.7

59.1

84.5

82.6

69.0

76.4

45–54

90.5

61.5

79.4

84.8

57.6

69.8

Geographic area

           

North

95.0

68.8

81.3

87.9

74.8

81.7

Centre

95.5

62.4

78.0

83.8

69.3

76.7

South

82.4

34.6

57.5

65.3

40.8

53.1

Education            

Compulsory

85.0

36.5

62.0

75.2

45.9

61.5

Secondary

94.6

62.1

76.8

83.7

70.4

77.4

Tertiary

97.3

79.7

86.9

80.7

76.0

78.1

Total

90.6

55.5

72.2

79.8

62.0

71.2

Note: 2nd quarter, 2010

Source: Istat, 2011

Why carers do not work full time

Excessive cost and lack of available services are the main reasons given by people with care duties for why they do not want to spend more time at work. Findings show 6.3% of men and 11.6% of women who have some care duties say they cannot work because of a lack of, or inadequate, care services in the areas where they live.

More than half the women questioned said the excessive cost of childcare was the main reason for limiting the amount of time they worked (Table 2). About 27% said there was a lack of, or poor supply of childcare services. Being unable to reconcile working times with caring responsibilities was given as the reason for not working more by 15.9% of part-timers, while 8.3% of those not working gave the same reason.

When considering care services for the sick and elderly, almost half of the non-working women gave excessive cost as their first reason for choosing not to have a job. Poor services or a lack of services was given as a reason by about one in three.

When it came to women working part time, 42% reported poor supply of services as their main reason for not increasing their hours, with 31.2% putting it down to the excessive cost of care services.

Table 2: Reasons for working part time or not working given by women caring for children under 15 or elderly relatives, %

Responsibility

Care of children

Care of elderly or sick relatives

 

Not working

Working part time

Not working

Working part time

Opening hours of care service do not fit

8.3

15.9

4.6

15.6

Too expensive

55.5

52.6

49.7

31.2

Low quality

7.4

3.4

10.6

11.2

Limited supply

10.3

6.6

8.6

8.5

Lack of service

17.3

20.6

25.2

33.5

Other

1.3

0.9

1.3

0.1

Note: women aged 15–64, 2nd quarter 2010.

Source: Istat, 2011

Poor working time flexibility

The opportunity to work flexible hours plays a key role in women’s entry into the labour market, as shown in Table 3.

Data show 30.4% of employees were given some flexibility over the times they arrived at and left work, only 1.1% benefit from time accounts (respectively 21.5% and 1.4% according to the 2004 ad hoc module on atypical labour contracts and working time arrangements (in Italian, 1.45Mb PDF) (IT0603019I)) although the possibility of flexible time accounts is included in most national labour contracts, and 3.5% report no time constraint.

According to the report, the opportunity to work flexible hours is not evenly distributed among sectors. Over 40% of staff in public administration, financial services and business services have the option of flexible working, but the figure is only about 20% in education. Occupational status is also a factor. Among managers, 60% said they could work flexible hours, but the figure was only 30% for blue-collar workers.

Just over 21.7% of employees said they could not take advantage of daily flexibility in starting or finishing work without affecting the length of their working day. This figure dropped by half a percentage point among those having care tasks (Table 3). Carers said they were given slightly more flexibility than other workers. The findings showed 42.8% of people with caring responsibilities said they usually had flexible working hours, compared with 40.6% of the total workforce. The difference by gender was around two percentage points.

A third of employees said they could not take an entire day’s leave other than as a holiday, with a 1.8 percentage point difference evident between the genders. This share slightly declined to 32.6% for employees having care tasks, with the difference between genders remaining at 1.8 percentage points.

The share of those who said they were usually allowed to take a day off was 33.7%, with the difference between men and women amounting to 2.1 percentage points. For those people who had care tasks, the share increased to 35.1%, with the difference between men and women being slightly wider at 2.7 percentage points.

Table 3: Main working time flexibilities by gender and care tasks, %
 

Total employees

Employees having care tasks

Entry/exit flexibility

men

women

total

men

women

total

Yes, usually

40.1

41.3

40.6

41.7

43.7

42.8

Yes, sometimes

37.2

36.4

36.9

36.5

34.7

35.7

No

21.7

21.7

21.7

21.2

21.2

21.2

n.a.

1.0

0.6

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.5

Taking one day leave (no vacation)

men

women

total

men

women

total

Yes, usually

32.7

34.8

33.7

33.9

36.6

35.1

Yes, sometimes

31.8

32.1

31.9

31.8

31.4

31.6

No

34.1

32.3

33.3

33.4

31.6

32.6

n.a.

1.4

0.8

1.1

0.9

0.4

0.7

Note: Source: Istat, 20112nd quarter 2010

Istat, 2011

Inadequate alternative care services and, in particular, poor working time flexibility prevent people joining the labour market or lead to employees reducing their hours. Almost a quarter of people who looked after children or elderly relatives said they would like to work if they could reduce the time they spent on their caring tasks. The figures are similar across genders, with 26.9% of men and 23.4% of women saying they would like to work more. The data also showed 36.5% of women with children aged between three and five would like to work more, while 14.4% of women working part time and having care responsibilities reported being unable to work full time.

Commentary

The report confirms the uneven responsibility of care tasks between partners outlined by the 2002–2003 Istat survey Time use in daily life (5.1Mb PDF) (IT0810069I). It stresses the key role played by care services and working time flexibility in helping people become part of the labour market, especially in the case of working mothers.

Employees who have some care responsibilities say they are only slightly more likely than their colleagues to be allowed to work flexible hours, making part-time work or not working at all the only option. There is a big opportunity for social partners to create more suitable arrangements to help raise employment rates among women, given ever more tightening public budget constraints.

References

Esping-Andersen, G. (1999), Social foundations of postindustrial economies, Oxford University Press, New York.

Ferrera, M. (1996), ‘The “Southern Model” of welfare in social Europe’, Journal of European Social Policy, Vol, 6, No. 1, pp.17–37.

Mario Giaccone, Ires

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