The key indicators of the labour market allow measuring important phenomena, such as the employment status of the working population and their participation in the income-generating activities. In addition, they allow measuring the economic growth trends of different areas in the European Union, useful to implement appropriate intervention policies. Finally, these indicators are crucial nowadays, since the economic crisis has had negative effects on employment, constraining the individuals’ freedom of choice and realization.
The European policy strategy includes among its objectives the increase in the employment rate and recommends fostering a wide participation of women and over-50s in the labour market.
In 2020, in Italy, the employment rate for the 20-64 age group dropped to 62.6% (-1.0 percentage points compared to 2019) and a strong gender gap was again registered (52.7% for women against 72.6% for peers). The employment rate for the 55-64 age group slightly decreased (54.2%; -0.1 points compared to 2019). The decline in the employment rate affected both self-employed and dependent employees, but especially workers with fixed-term contracts (15.1%; -1.9 points compared to 2019). In addition, the incidence of part-time employees decreased, falling overall to 18.5%, but with strong differences between men (8.6%) and women (32.1%).
In 2018, in Italy, the phenomenon of undeclared work, although decreasing, was still significant and involved 12.9% of the employed. This phenomenon was observed mainly in some production sectors: almost a quarter of the employment was not regular in the agriculture sector, while in the construction sector the average irregularity rate was equal to 16.3%. Finally, the industry sector in the strict sense showed the lowest rate of irregularity (6.5%).
In 2020, compared to 2019, the unemployment rate fell by 0.8 points, reaching the value of 9.2%, but it showed differences between females and males (10.2% and 8.4%, respectively). On the other hand, the rate increased slightly in the age group between 15 and 24 years (+0.2 points). The gender gap was observed among young people (31.8% for females against 27.9% for males) and the differential was growing, compared to 2019. The share of unemployed people, looking for a job for at least a year, showed a sharp decline (-4.4 percentage points) and dropped to 51.5%, for both genders.
The non-participation rate (for the 15-74 age group) measures how many people are available to work but are not actively looking for a job. In 2020, after having been decreasing for five consecutive years, the indicator rose slightly (+0.1 points) to 19.0%, but it was almost 7 percentage points higher for women.
Most of the labour market indicators showed strong disparities across regions, slightly influenced by the economic crisis generated by the health emergency. In 2020, more than 7 out of 10 people in the 20-64 age group were employed in the Northern regions, while in the South and the Islands 5 out of 10 were employed. The share of employed varied from 44.4% in Calabria to 77.2% in the Province of Bolzano/Bozen. The regional gap in the employment rate for people aged between 55 and 64 years was less sharp: in the Centre-North it reached the value of 58.6%, while in the South and Islands, it was equal to 45.6% (42.5% in Sicilia). The incidence of part-time employment was evenly distributed across regions, although for females it was slightly higher in the Northeast, while for males in the South and the Islands. The share of temporary employees, instead, was higher in the South and the Islands: almost 6 percentage points higher than in the Centre-North, and slightly higher for women. The share of temporary employees varied from 11.5% in Lombardia to 27.0% in Calabria.
Between 2017 and 2018, almost all the regions showed a decrease in the incidence of irregular work (irregularity rate): except for Calabria, Sardegna, Valle d'Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste and Umbria, where the irregularity rate grew, and Marche where it remained stable. The South and the Islands showed the highest incidence (17.9%; 22.1% in Calabria). In the Centre, Lazio showed the highest rate (15.5%). The North continued to show the lowest average incidence and in particular the Province of Bolzano/Bozen (8.9%). Undeclared work was more widespread among the smallest production units and strongly characterized specific sectors. In the construction sector, the rate of irregular employment, in the South and the Islands, was more than 8 percentage points higher than the national average.
In 2020, the regional disparities in the unemployment rate narrowed, although they were still significant, due to the sharpest decline recorded in the Southern regions. The indicator in the South and the Islands (15.9%), however, was three times higher than in the North-East and two times higher than in the Centre. The highest value was registered in Calabria (20.1%), while the lowest in Basilicata (8.6%). Compared to 2019, gender gap decreased in all the geographic areas, remaining however relatively high in the South and the Islands.
In 2020, the youth unemployment rate grew in the Centre-North (+1.8 points) and decreased in the South and the Islands (-2.1 points). The greatest increase was recorded in Liguria and Marche, above 5 points, while Puglia, Abruzzo and Molise reported the most consistent reductions (from 5 to 6 percentage points). The decline in long-term unemployment, although affecting all the geographical areas and almost all the regions (except for Calabria), was more intense in the Centre-North than in the South and the Islands (-5.8 points and -2.5 points respectively). The territorial gap continued to be high: in the North-East 3.5 out of 10 people had been looking for a job for at least a year, in the Centre less than 5 out of 10 and in the South and the Islands 6 out of 10 (65.4% in Sicily). The slight increase in the non-participation rate was the result of an offset of the growth in the Center-North against the reduction in the South and the Islands (-0.6 percentage points). However, the value registered in the South and the Islands (33.5%) was three times higher than in the Northeast and more than two times higher than in the Centre. Sicilia showed the highest level (38.4%). The gender gap to the detriment of females ranged from -4.4 points, in the North-West, to -12.9 points in the South and the Islands.
In 2019, the European Union labour market continued to recover: an increase of 0.8 percentage points in the employment rate for the 20-64 age group was registered (73.9%) as well as a decline in the unemployment rate, which dropped to 6.3%. In Italy the growth of the employment rate continued, reaching the value of 63.5%, but Italy ranked second to last in Europe, followed only by Greece. The gap between Italy and EU countries continued to increase, reaching 10.4 percentage points. The gap was higher for women belonging to the same age group (14.4 percentage points). For the 55-64 age group, the difference between the EU employment rate and the Italian was less wide - although growing: in general, the Italian rate (54.3%) was 5.7% points lower than the European average, but the gap was lower for men than for women (-2.0 and -9.1 points respectively).In 2019, the incidence of temporary employees in EU showed a decline, falling to 13.6%, but the Italian value (17.0%) remained stable and higher than the European average. Spain recorded the highest value, exceeding 26%. The incidence of part-time employees in Italy was close to the European average (18.9% and 20.0% respectively); in Netherlands this share reached 51.0%. Both in Europe and in Italy, part-time work continued to be far more prevalent among women: the European average amounted to 31.9% for women and 9.7% for men (32.9% for women and 8.7% for men, in Italy).In 2019, the unemployment rate continued to drop both in the EU and Italy (-0.5 points -0.6 respectively). The level of the indicator continued to be higher in Italy (10.0% against 6.3% EU average); it was lower only than in Greece and Spain. Germany and Poland recorded values just over 3%. Despite the general reduction in EU, the unemployment rate of young people aged between 15 and 24 remained particularly critical in Greece (35.2%) and Spain (32.5%) which, along with Italy (29.2%), showed over double values compared to the EU average (14.4%).The incidence of long-term unemployment decreased in both the EU and Italy, which, after Greece, showed the highest value among the European countries (57.0%). The distance from the EU average (40.7%) rose to 16.3 percentage points. Sweden, Denmark and Finland recorded values below 20%.
Compared to 2018, at EU level, the non-participation rate for the 15-74 age group decreased by 0.7 percentage points, while in Italy by 0.8 points. Compared to the EU average, the gap continued to be substantially unchanged: about 10 percentage points for the population as a whole, and almost 13 percentage points for women.