Italy: Latest working life developments – Q1 2018

Results of the general elections and progress on forming a government are the main topics of this article, in addition to industry-wide changes in the area of collective bargaining and a new national report on low-skilled adults. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Italy in the first quarter of 2018.

General election aftermath

Work-related issues featured heavily in campaigning as Italy went to the polls on 4 March 2018. Successive centre-left governments’ reforms came under attack from the centre-right coalition parties (the largest being Forza Italia and the League) and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S). Former opposition figures claimed they would change, if not abolish, the 2011 pension reform and the 2015 labour market reforms (the Jobs Act). In turn, the outgoing centre-left Democratic Party and its coalition partners defended their reforms’ impact on state finances, the economy and employment. In the social policy field, the Five Star Movement claimed it would introduce a citizen’s income, offering all Italians a regular, unconditional sum of money from the state.

The Democratic Party conceded defeat with only 19% of the vote, down from 25% in 2013. Meanwhile the Five Star Movement and the far-right League party saw big increases in support. Even so, neither the largest group, the centre-right (with 37% vote-share), nor the largest party, the Five Star Movement (33%), nor the centre-left parties (23%) won enough seats to govern, opening the door for a minority government or a coalition. Talks to form the new government started at the beginning of April and by the middle of May the Five Star Movement and the League  were within striking distance of forming a new government. 

Cross-industry agreement on collective bargaining 

On 28 February 2018, the employer confederation, Confindustria, and Italy’s three main trade union confederations (Cgil, Cisl and Uil) reached an industry-wide agreement on the collective bargaining system, covering:

  • The certification of representativeness. The deal confirmed the objectives and system established in 2014 by the single text on representation for trade unions. It underlined the need to extend representativeness certification to employer associations and aims to stop the proliferation of sectoral agreements among groups lacking representativeness.
  • The collective bargaining system. The parties agreed to a two-tier bargaining system structure, with a main sectoral pillar, and a secondary-level company or territorial pillar. Sectoral agreements will set the terms for employment relations and ensure common standards for workers in the same industry.
  • Bargaining issues. The parties identified a number of issues to be covered during future negotiations, such as contractual welfare, training, and safety at work.

Other agreements signed

The December 2017 renewal of the national collective bargaining agreement (NCBA) covering employees in central government and national public institutions triggered further public sector agreements, marking the end of a collective bargaining freeze dating back to 2010. The February renewals cover the education and research sectors (1.2 million workers), local governments and bodies (467,000 workers), and health (543,400 workers).

In the private sector, the first ever collective bargaining agreement for bars, restaurants, catering and tourism was signed on 8 February 2018 [Italian] by employer associations and sectoral unions. The agreement establishes an independent bargaining unit for some 300,000 enterprises and more than 1 million employees.

High share of low-skilled adults

In January 2018, the National Institute for the Analysis of Public Policies (INAPP) published a report on low-skilled adults in Italy. Using results from the OECD Survey of Adult skills (PIAAC), the results show that 28% of Italian 16-65 year-olds  have very low literacy skills. In fact, almost 11 million Italian adults lack the key information processing skills needed to participate fully in social and working life. Italy recorded the highest share of low-skilled adults out of 24 countries surveyed.


The composition of the new government will decide the direction of future legislative initiatives in the field of industrial relations. If the Five Star Movement and the League succeed in forming a new government, measures on pensions and a citizen’s income are likely to be pushed forward.

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