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Portrait of a Nation (PART TWO) PDF Print E-mail
Mar 21, 2010 at 06:58 PM

Image The Italian national statistics agency, ISTAT, recently published a document called Noi Italia , which provides a snapshot of Italy as it was at the end of 2008. I have aleady published Part One of this portrait of a nation. Here, now, are some other interesting dacts about Italy that can help the visitor have a better idea of what the lives of ordinary Italians are like.

EDUCATION: In education, as in other fields, Italy again lags behind much of Europe. It spends less per capita than the EU average and in 2008 almost half the Italian population, 47.2%, had not gone beyond junior high school. That compares to an average of 28.5 percent in the EU with Italy way down on the list together with Spain, Portugal and Malta. (Food for thought: what is it about these southern European countries that makes them such laggards. The sun? Catholicism? One cannot but wonder).

Statistics from 2008 also showed that the percentage of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 with only a junior high school diploma stood at 19.7%, compared to 14.9% in the 27 country European Union (EU). However, on the bright side, in 2008, 76% of young people between 20 and 24 had gotten a high-school degree, showing that the situation is, at last, improving.

In addition, the number of those enrolled in University has been rising steadily and in 2008 had reached 41% of people between the ages of 19 and 25. The region with the highest number of university enrolments is Lazio, followed by Emilia Romagna, Umbria and Abruzzi. At present - after a series of changes - there are two types of university degrees in this country. The first level is a degree (laurea) awarded after three years which can stand alone but which is a requirement for a laurea specialistica or magistrale, which requires an additional two years of study. This system, however, does not apply to Medicine, Pharmaeutical studies, Orthodontia, Vetinarian studies, Engineering and Architecture, all of which require a full five-year cycle. Interestingly enough, the education level of resident foreigners in Italy is more or less identical to that of native-born Italians. Slightly more than half have not gone beyond junior high school, 38.4% have high school degrees and ten percent have university degrees.


     BOOKS: Every year, some 60,000 books are published in Italy, but it is not clear who is reading them. Amazingly, only 45.1% of the population admits to having read only one book over the preceding 12 month period. This makes Italy 20th in Europe and in a position that is way below the European average (along with, guess who?). And only 63% of people over 15 years have read at least one book - this time including textbooks or professional materials - over the preceding 12 months, compared to a European average of 71%. The percentage of people who have read more than five books in a year (and this is the definition here of an "assiduous reader") is a meagre 20%, compared to a a European average of 37%. The countries with the most readers are the UK and other northern countries, where the percentage of people who have read over five books in a year soars to over 50%.

By the way, in Italy , the areas with the most readers are the autonomous provinces of Bolzano e Trento (60.6 e 59.6 % respectively) and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (56.7%. In the south, only one out of three people admit to having read a book within the preceding year. Italian women read far more than Italian men (who while the women are reading may be watching soccer games on TV).

     NEWSPAPERS.  Italians also do not read many newspapers and it is likely that most people therefore get their news from TV and radio. In 2009, in fact, one out of two Italians said they never read newspapers or did so only occasionally. The percentage of people who can be considered real newspaper readers (because they said they read a daily at least once a week) stands at 56.2% of the population over six years of age. Those who read newspapers at least five days a week constitute only 40% of the population.

As far as newspaper circulation in general goes, the most recent comparative figures go back to 2004 when 137 newspapers were distributed per every 1000 inhabitants. Here, too, Italy is again on the low end of the yardstick. Of the 23 countries included in the survey, only Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania had a lower circulation than Italy. On the bright side, per capita newspaper circulation in Italy was on the rise since in 2000 it was even lower;123 copies per 1000 people. In any event, more people in Italy's northern and central regions read newspapers than those in the south and, in general, more men than women read newspapers although for all we know those may be the sports pages.

WORK:  According to ISTAT's statistics, 58.7% of Italians between the ages of 15 and 64 were employed in 2008. This is, again, far below the European average of 70.9% . It is unlikely, however, that this means that the remainder of the working-age population is unemployed. Although it is hard to produce firm statistics - one estimate regarding 2007 was 11.7 or, in the South, one out of every five workers, but that may be on the low side - many Italians are still employed off the books, which means they have jobs but that social security payments and charges, which are extremely high in Italy and consequently a great burden on companies, are not being accumulated in their names.
Still, as of 2008, official unemployment among the young (those 15 to 24 years of age) was as high as 21.3%, a point higher than the year before that.

WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE:  Even more striking is the difference between men and women, for whereas 70.3% of men in that age group are employed, only 47.2% of Italian women have jobs and of these, 27% leave their jobs after the birth of their first child and another 15% after the birth of their second, a situation which according to ManagerItalia has no equal in the rest f Europe. Conversely, 66% of women without children hold down jobs.

The situation of Italian women with children brings down the Italian average significantly, making it a far cry from the objectives for female employment set for Europe by the Council of Lisbon in 2000: 60% of the active population. But it is also paradoxical since Italian legislation offers Italian women sweeping job protection in the event of pregnancy and in the first months following childbirth. One explanation could be that Italian women now have children quite late in life - the average age for the first child is 31. Another could have something to do with the shortages of childcare facilities. Statistics for 2006 show that the average percentage of pre-school age taking advantage of child care stood at 11% although it should be remembered that this service is rarely totally free of charge. So cultural factors are clearly part of the equation. In Italy, in fact, only 13% of managers are women, who also constitute only six percent of the country's company boards of administration. This is particularly startling since in Italy today, 60% of university degrees are awarded to women, which is a proportion even higher than in the US or the UK.






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