The World Economic Forum’s October 2010 Global Gender Gap Report paints an appalling picture of Italy under the leadership of Berlusconi. By closing the gender gap in Europe, the WEF maintains that the eurozone’s GDP could be increased by 13 percent. The report examined the issues of wage parity, labor-force participation, as well as career-advancement opportunities for women.
Italy’s world ranking is 87th for labor participation, 121st for wage parity, 97th for women in leadership positions, with an overall ranking of 74th (helped by its position in education), which is behind Columbia, Peru and Vietnam. This is seven places lower than when Berlusconi resurfaced in 2008.
Within the European Union, Italy has the lowest percentage of women working outside of the home – 45%. This compares to 72% in Britain and 80% in Norway. The assumption, therefore, might be that women in Italy have more children as a result.
Ironically, the opposite is true. Italy’s birth rate is the lowest in Europe at 1.3 children. One explanation for this is that women feel they have to choose between work and family due to the lack of support for working mothers and dual career families.
With an ageing population, an underfunded pension system and considerable budget deficits, discouraging women from working has severe economic consequences. If even several hundred of the country’s 6 million women entered the workforce, Italy’s GDP could increase by 1% per the WEF report.
The economic argument for gender equality in Italy is clear. It’s time to leverage the valuable, untapped resource of female capital.