The epidemic is setting back a long struggle by Italian women for jobs


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Rome (Associated Press) – One of the hundreds of thousands of women in Italy who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, Laura Tadeo has a master’s degree in tourism, speaks fluent English and Spanish and some Arabic as well.

Her contract as a tour operator with an upscale Italian hotel company expired in May, just as travel restrictions for COVID-19 were hampering tourism, and have not been renewed. But as tourism booms, Tadeo, who breaks down a confident figure, will prepare for job interview questions.

“Not,” What have you studied? What languages ​​do you speak?’ But do you have a family? Do you intend to have children? Tadeo, 33, said every man who gave her an interview asked her this right away.

Around the world, women workers have paid an excruciatingly high price during the pandemic, leaving many childcare jobs when schools closed or saw employment evaporate in hard-hit retail and hospitality businesses. But the Italian woman has plunged into the COVID-19 crisis and has already been struggling for decades to expand her presence in the workforce.

Out of 27 countries in the European Union, Italy ranks next to last, right above Greece, in terms of women’s participation in the workforce. In 2020, while the European economy was suffering from epidemic restrictions, 49.4% of women between the ages of 15 and 64 worked in Italy, compared to the European Union average of 67.3%. In comparison, 67.3% of men had jobs, compared to 79% in the European Union.

The deeply rooted Italian societal attitudes that bear the main profession of a woman at home help explain this backwardness.

Sociologist Chiara Saraceno said of mainstream trends, “Women should not work much, but they should not neglect the family. This is a women’s responsibility.” Affordable daycare is chronically scarce, in both the public and private sectors. .

Of the 456,000 jobs lost in 2020 in Italy, where the epidemic first appeared in the West, 249,000 jobs were held by women, and many of them worked as waitresses, store clerks, nannies and educators for the elderly. According to the National Statistical Office, ISTAT, between November and December, when Italy was battling a devastating resurgence of infection, a staggering 99,000 of the 101,000 jobs that disappeared were women, most of them self-employed.

Even before the pandemic, the Italian economy had not fully recovered from the economic crisis of more than a decade. The Bank of Italy estimated that GDP would improve by 7 percentage points if the proportion of women in the workforce rose to 60%.

“We are talking about women who are more educated than men, but our country has not succeeded in recruiting,” said Linda Laura Sapbadini, ISTAT’s central director, in an interview last month with the weekly newspaper Io Donna. . “The important point is that as long as women are sufficiently exploited with regard to their potential, Italy will not grow.”

If anyone was fully aware of this problem it would be Mario Draghi, who headed both the Bank of Italy and the European Central Bank and last month became the country’s prime minister.

A large part of the 209 billion euros ($ 250 billion) in EU aid to tackle pandemics will be allocated to Italy for digital innovation and the transformation of the economy into environmentally friendly technologies. Presenting his priorities to Parliament last month, Draghi said Italy should invest “economically, but above all, culturally” so that young women can train for jobs in sectors that will receive the new investment.

About 37% of Italian men have degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), compared to 16% for women.

This has raised some concerns that EU funding could widen the gender gap.

“There is a great risk that men will end up with more jobs,” said Turin-based sociologist Saraceno. “I was saying some time ago that you have to prepare both genders for this kind of work.”

Daniela Magnanti, 42, says the pressure on technology and engineering jobs for women is too late for her. I wrote computer code for years until my business owner went bankrupt. In a phone interview from her home in a suburb of Rome, Magnanti recounted how, when she tried to return to work after the birth of her second daughter, parenthood had damaged her prospects.

For recruits, the question of whether or not she had a child was “a routine one. (And) it was always a man (the recruiter) who called.”

Magnanti now works part-time at the check-in counter of a hotel in a nearby beach town and does administrative work for her brother’s plumbing.

“In the beginning, in the 1960s and 1970s, (the lack of women workers) was justified by saying that they were not prepared, and had no competence. But even after the women got up,” said Liliana Okin, who coordinates the efforts of the CISL Workers Union group for women. Italian women, arming themselves with university degrees and skills, have remained lagging behind in the workforce.

ISTAT’s Sabbadini indicated last year that daycare availability across the country was scarce at 25%. In southern Calabria, it was only 9%.

Draghi seems to understand the message. In remarks to the nation on Monday, International Women’s Day, he said Italy needed “profound reforms” to narrow the gender gap, including more equal access to day care.

Meanwhile, Italian cultural attitudes toward working women seem to be stuck in a chronological drift of Carmen Basso, 63.

One of her daughters is a lawyer, the other a psychiatrist. But when she meets people, the first question many ask about her daughters is, “Are they married?”

Basso, who lives near Venice, said, “If they were men, they would ask, ‘What do your children do? “

Among those struggling economically from the pandemic is Anita Galavit, who started the wedding project 15 years ago, when she was 23 and newly married.

Before her 3-year-old twins were born, she was handling 25 weddings a year, then the number shrank to 15. During the pandemic, she got two reservations.

“As far as my children go, I don’t want them to see a woman who stays at home. I want them to think that when they have a wife or companion in the future, it is okay for them to work.” “Even if the epidemic cost me this job, I will find another job.” . “


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