Italy plans ‘housewife bonus’ to get more women into work

The government will allocate €3 million to pay for training opportunities for women, Italy's equality minister has announced.

Italy plans 'housewife bonus' to get more women into work
Italy hopes a training fund for women will help address its gender gap. File photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The measure, dubbed the bonus casalinghe or ‘housewives bonus’ by the Italian press, is aimed especially at women not currently in work, according to Elena Bonetti, minister for equal opportunities and families.

READ ALSO: Face masks remain and cruise ships return: What’s in Italy’s new emergency decree?

“Many women – too many – are still out of the world of work and many have left it against their will in recent months,” she wrote on Facebook. “It’s unacceptable that a woman should find herself forced to stay at home because of a lack of job opportunities. It’s unacceptable that this should lead to her not having access to opportunities to get qualifications or stay up to date, in an endless vortex. 

“On the contrary, we need structural investment in training opportunities and empowerment, which means guaranteeing women the freedom to choose and helping them access job opportunities.”

To that end, Italy’s new 25-billion-euro stimulus package will include a fund to pay for training courses for women, especially in the financial and digital sectors, she said. 

Some €3 million has been allocated to the fund, according to Bonetti – which as many commentators pointed out, is not a great deal. The minister defended the amount by saying it was merely a start and would complement other programmes already in place, such as a separate fund for training women in STEM fields (science, maths, engineering and technology).

It’s not yet clear how women can apply for the opportunity, or who exactly qualifies. The details will be set out in another decree due by the end of 2020.

Working parents in Italy have been juggling jobs with childcare for almost six months already, since schools and nurseries closed in March. Women, who already make up a smaller percentage of the workforce in Italy than in most other developed countries and occupy fewer executive positions, are often the ones to shoulder most of the extra duties.

READ ALSO: 12 statistics that show the state of gender equality in Italy

Fewer than half of working-age Italian women are in employment, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, even though women make up more than half of all Italians getting a bachelor’s degree or PhD.

Equal opportunity activists have long called for policies to tackle the concrete causes of the problem, such as making childcare more widely available and affordable, or obliging both parents to share parental leave.

Mothers are entitled to up to five months of paid maternity leave in Italy, while fathers get just five days (though both parents may share up to 11 months of parental leave at any point until their child is 8).

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Riksbank deputy ‘open to reconsidering raising rates in April’

Martin Flodén, the deputy governor of Sweden's Riksbank, has questioned whether the central bank needs to bring in further rate rises in April, following bank runs on two niche banks in the US and a crisis of confidence at Credit Suisse.

Riksbank deputy 'open to reconsidering raising rates in April'

Uncertainty in the financial market following bank runs in the US and a crisis at Swiss bank Credit Suisse could have changed the playing field, he told TT in an interview. 

“It affects which level the key interest rates need to be in order to have a contractive effect,” he said, referring to the recent days of financial market turbulence. “We can’t just look at key interest rates by themselves. It’s the key interest rate in combination with all of these developments which determines how tight financial policy will be.”

He said it was not yet obvious what decision should be taken. 

“It’s clear that monetary policy needs to stay tight, but what level of interest is that? We need to assess all of the current developments there.” 

‘Could go in different directions’

In theory, there could be such a serious financial crisis, with such a severe effect on lending and banks’ financing costs, that the central bank would be forced to adopt supportive measures, even lowering the key rate.

Flodén doesn’t think Sweden is in that situation, although he thinks there’s a possibility it could happen.

“It’s not something I can see happening right now, at least, although this could go in different directions.” 

He added that he doesn’t see any reason for any “special concern”, toning down the risk that a crisis for two smaller niche banks in the US and at Credit Suisse could affect the Swedish financial system.

“Of course, it could lead to some stress, but there aren’t actually any particular signs in Sweden, which are worrying me,” he said. 

Flodén is one of six members of the Riksbank executive board, led by Riksbank chief Erik Thedéen, responsible for making a decision on whether interest rates will go up again at the end of April.

The Riksbank has indicated that a rate hike of between 0.25 and 0.5 percent from the current 3 percent rate could be necessary.

Flodén described the most recent inflation statistics for February, where inflation unexpectedly rose to 12 percent, as “not good at all”. So-called KPIF inflation, where the effect of mortgage rates is removed, rose from 9.3 percent to 8.7 percent in January. The Riksbank’s goal is 2 percent.

“It’s clear that inflation is still far too high and that monetary policy needs to be focussed on combatting inflation,” he said, adding that inflation statistics for March will be released before the central bank is due to make a decision on whether to raise rates or not in April.