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.

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“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).

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How is Denmark’s economy handling inflation and rate rises?

Denmark's economy is now expected to avoid a recession in the coming years, with fewer people losing their jobs than expected, despite high levels of inflation and rising interest rates, The Danish Economic Council has said in a new report.

How is Denmark's economy handling inflation and rate rises?

The council, led by four university economics professors commonly referred to as “the wise men” or vismænd in Denmark, gave a much rosier picture of Denmark’s economy in its spring report, published on Tuesday, than it did in its autumn report last year. 

“We, like many others, are surprised by how employment continues to rise despite inflation and higher interest rates,” the chair or ‘chief wise man’,  Carl-Johan Dalgaard, said in a press release.

“A significant drop in energy prices and a very positive development in exports mean that things have gone better than feared, and as it looks now, the slowdown will therefore be more subdued than we estimated in the autumn.”

In the English summary of its report, the council noted that in the autumn, market expectations were that energy prices would remain at a high level, with “a real concern for energy supply shortages in the winter of 2022/23”.

That the slowdown has been more subdued, it continued was largely due to a significant drop in energy prices compared to the levels seen in late summer 2022, and compared to the market expectations for 2023.  

The council now expects Denmark’s GDP growth to slow to 1 percent in 2023 rather than for the economy to shrink by 0.2 percent, as it predicted in the autumn. 

In 2024, it expects the growth rate to remain the same as in 2003, with another year of 1 percent GDP growth. In its autumn report it expected weaker growth of 0.6 percent in 2024.

What is the outlook for employment? 

In the autumn, the expert group estimated that employment in Denmark would decrease by 100,000 people towards the end of the 2023, with employment in 2024  about 1 percent below the estimated structural level. 

Now, instead, it expects employment will fall by just 50,000 people by 2025.

What does the expert group’s outlook mean for interest rates and government spending? 

Denmark’s finance minister Nikolai Wammen came in for some gentle criticism, with the experts judging that “the 2023 Finance Act, which was adopted in May, should have been tighter”.  The current government’s fiscal policy, it concludes “has not contributed to countering domestic inflationary pressures”. 

The experts expect inflation to stay above 2 percent in 2023 and 2024 and not to fall below 2 percent until 2025. 

If the government decides to follow the council’s advice, the budget in 2024 will have to be at least as tight, if not tighter than that of 2023. 

“Fiscal policy in 2024 should not contribute to increasing demand pressure, rather the opposite,” they write. 

The council also questioned the evidence justifying abolishing the Great Prayer Day holiday, which Denmark’s government has claimed will permanently increase the labour supply by 8,500 full time workers. 

“The council assumes that the abolition of Great Prayer Day will have a short-term positive effect on the labour supply, while there is no evidence of a long-term effect.”