Desperate Housewives in Italy

Old advertisement for Italian Pasta "Vampa". It reads "The tue pasta made in home by the housewife with fresh eggs and flour."

I have written extensively about the Italian women I know being talented, able to do their jobs and then go home and run the household, cooking up fantastic meals, washing and ironing for their husbands and children while managing to still look glamorous. See my posts Non e’ la Dolce Vita and The Italian Super-Mamma.

The problem in Italy is that women are being suffocated by a system that keeps them back in the 1950s, a combination of societal traditions (deep-seated chauvinism) and lack of services (insufficient day-care). New statistics from ISTAT, Italy’s national statistic agency show that Italy is becoming a nation of desperate housewives. In 2011 there were 5 million housewives in Italy between the ages of 15 and 64. Of that number 800,000 are under 35. The situation in Southern Italy is much worse then the north, in the south the number of housewives in on the rise.

Now one might say what’s wrong with being a housewife, maybe these women are happy to stay at home and cook wonderful meals and care for their children.

First, they are not having many children to care off. Italy, with a birthrate of 1.4 children/woman, is among the lowest in the world. Second, they are also not sitting around at home with their feet up, statistics show that Italian women do 71,3 % of the housework.

A report by the “Center for Studies on Women and Quality of Life” discovered that 76 % of Italian women are dissatisfied compared to 51 % in Britain, 57 % in France and 47 % in Germany.

The bottom line is that this is a massive waste of talent. Italy is in the middle of a major economic crisis. Looking at figures for 2010 unemployment is at 8,4%, and breaking that down to men and women it is 7,6 for men and 9,7 % for Italian women. But perhaps more disconcerting than the unemployment figures are the employment figures. In Italy in 2010, 49,5 of women were employed compared to 73 % employment for men. That compares to Sweden where 75% of the women were employed in the same period. And when they do work, Italian women get paid 20 % less.

Last October the Director-General of the Bank of Italy published a report where he calculated that if in Italy the number of women working were equal to the average in Europe, 60 %, the Italian Gross Domestic Product would rise by 7 %.

Enough said, Italian women need to do something to change this situation.

2 thoughts on “Desperate Housewives in Italy”

  1. Dear Trish, it’s sad.. Italian men (luckily not mine) really believe that women belong in the kitchen, and why should we not be happy and fullfilled there? If anything- grateful??
    On my first job here in London for an Italian company the boss of my boss used to take me to all big meetings “you will look pretty around the board table”, he used to say. I was so naive to be happy about it!!! Big X

    1. Trisha Thomas

      Allegra– what a story about being taken into the boardroom because you would “look pretty”. That is depressing. Overall I think men in Italy are improving but I think the combination of old habits dying hard together with the economic crisis means that many women are forced into being “casalinghe” when they don’t want to be. That said, I have nothing against women choosing to stay at home and raise their children, as long as it is their choice. Baci, Trisha

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