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Italy’s employment rate reaches record high as fixed-term jobs soar

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Italy’s employment rate reaches record high as fixed-term jobs soar
Employment is on the rise in Italy, especially for female workers. But so too is youth unemployment and precarious fixed-term contracts. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

Employment is on the rise in Italy – especially for female workers – but the job market is still in difficulty as youth unemployment and temporary roles are increasing too.

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Italy’s employment rate reached a record 59.9 percent in March, according to Italy's National statistics bureau ISTAT.

With over 23 million people currently in employment, that marks the highest figure since 2004, when the agency's records began.

In March, the number of employed Italians increased by 804,000 compared to the same month last year. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent (a 0.2 percent decrease from March 2021) - a figure not seen since 2010.

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Such growth in national employment was largely driven by female workers, whose number increased by 85,000 compared to March last year. That brings the number of employed women in Italy to a total of 9,776,000.

READ ALSO: 11 statistics that show the state of gender equality in Italy

The data follow a hard-hit economy due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When Italy's first nationwide lockdown began in early March 2020, some 11.5 million people lost work or had their incomes slashed, and had to apply for government aid.

Before the coronavirus crisis, Italy was still feeling the impact of the 2008 financial crash. The national unemployment rate had been hovering at around nine percent, which was still observed in the country’s job market in the late 2010s. 

Given the state of Italy’s finances at the end of 2020, a number of early reports had indicated that Italy’s economy would only set out on its path to recovery by the beginning of 2023. However, the latest ISTAT figures point towards the country getting ahead of schedule.

READ ALSO: Italy to cut income tax for lower earners

Other data in the ISTAT report hint towards some caution too, though. The unemployment rate for people aged between 15 and 24 rose to 24.5 percent (up by 0.3 percent on the previous year).

The number of people on fixed-term employment contracts is also soaring and now stands at 3,150,000 workers (about 13.7 percent of all employed people).

Tania Sacchetti, a regional secretary for Italian trade union CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro), said, "In spite of a considerable drop in the national unemployment rate, the most striking aspect is that the rise in employment numbers largely stemmed from the boom of fixed-term contracts."

"This is a sign that these [fixed-term contracts] are no longer an instrument to solve temporary or surrounding problems but they are now a structural feature [of the job market].”

Andrea Garnero, a labour economist at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), attributes the cause of this to the nature of Italy's economy.

While the manufacturing industry is struggling, secondary and tertiary sectors such as the provision of services are in relatively good health. Such sectors produce "precarious and low-added-value employment", creating the imbalance between permanent contracts and short-term ones.

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