Italian court rules children should take both parents’ surnames

Italy's highest court ruled on Wednesday that babies should be given both parents’ surnames - not just the father’s - in a move hailed as a step forward for women's rights.

Italian court rules children should take both parents' surnames
Mothers and fathers in Italy will for the first time have equal rights when naming children under changes ordered by the country's highest court. Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP

Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled that automatically assigning a child just the surname of their father was unconstitutional, “discriminatory and detrimental to the identity of the child”, and called on parliament to change the law.

The court emphasised that both parents should be involved in choosing their child’s surname, which “constitutes a fundamental element of personal identity”.

READ ALSO: How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

Under the changes, “the child takes the surname of both parents in the order agreed by them, unless they decide jointly to attribute only the surname of one of the two”, it said in a press statement.

In case of disagreement, a judge will decide.

The rule should apply to children born to married and unmarried parents, as well as adopted children, the court said.

This would theoretically make it possible for the first time for children born in Italy to carry only their mother’s last name.

In Italy, it is standard practice for women to keep their last names after marriage. As a result, it’s usual for mothers to have different surnames from their children.

READ ALSO: How families can claim Italy’s new universal single allowance

The ruling means Italian naming practices now look set to become similar to those in Spain, where children’s surnames are usually composed of the father’s followed by the mother’s.

“Italian women have won a historic right,” newspaper La Repubblica said.

The Italian government is now tasked with passing laws detailing how the court’s ruling will be implemented.

The minister for families and equal opportunities, Elena Bonetti, said in a statement that the government supports the ruling, and described it as “another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between the women and men of our country.”

Among those hailing the ruling was Alessandra Mussolini, the grand-daughter of former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was able to give her three children her last name only after a tortuous process.

“To be able to pass on one’s surname… is an act of civilisation,” she told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

Member comments

  1. And after getting 2 surnames, what happens to that childs children, they get 4 surnames…..? Did they think it through?

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Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Working parents in Italy face some of the highest rates of taxation among developed countries, according to a new international report.

Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Italian employees pay one of the highest rates of tax relative to income of all countries included in a new study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), coming only behind Belgium, Germany, Austria and France.

The OECD report measured the ‘tax wedge’ or tax burden faced by both the employee and the employer in each country last year.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

The figure includes income tax paid by workers, and social security contributions, which in Italy are paid by both the employee and employer.

According to the findings, Italy’s tax wedge is especially high for families with children, compared to a single worker with no dependents, ranking fourth-highest in this case among the 38 OECD member countries.

Only France, Finland and Turkey came higher.

In most of the countries studied, there are tax benefits for families with children. That’s because “most OECD countries provide benefits to families with children through cash transfers and preferential tax provisions,” reads the report.


But Italy recorded lower than average reductions, with a decrease of just 8.6 percentage points for family benefits – less than the OECD average of 10 percentage points.

That meant Italy ranked as having the fourth-highest tax wedge for an average married worker with two children, amounting to 37.9 percent in 2021, while the OECD average is 24.6 percent.

The Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help families with the cost of living, including by introducing the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale).

However, this payment replaces various so-called ‘baby bonuses’, meaning the government is scrapping lump sums of hundreds of euros previously paid to help new parents cover the cost of starting a family.

Looking solely at the net tax that a worker pays on income, the same category of employee paid an average tax rate of 18.3 percent in 2021, compared with the 13.1 percent OECD average.

In other words, the take-home pay of an average married worker with two children in Italy, after tax and family benefits, is 81.7 percent of their gross wage, compared to 86.9 percent for the OECD average.

The discouraging figures come after a recent report estimated the total cost of raising a child in Italy up to the age of 18 at €321,617.

For a single employed person with no children, Italy had the fifth-highest tax wedge, slipping slightly from fourth place in 2020.

The tax wedge came to 46.5 percent in 2021 for single workers, while the OECD average tax wedge was 34.6 percent.

READ ALSO: How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

The OECD also reports that, in Italy, contributions and income tax account for 84 percent of the tax wedge, compared to 77 percent on average.

Employment taxation has bounced back for most countries in 2021 following the Covid-19 pandemic, the findings showed.

“Increases to the tax wedge in 2021 have more than offset the sharp declines recorded in 2020 and have seen the tax wedge rebound to higher levels than in 2019, before the pandemic,” the report stated.

Taxation rates for Italian workers remain relatively high despite employment taxation reforms in 2021 that included cutting income tax for lower earners.