Italy’s Non-Working Women Are a $99 Billion Opportunity

(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s women are lagging the rest of Europe when it comes to economic activity, leaving the nation missing out on billions of euros each year.

The proportion of working-age women participating in the labor market is the lowest in the region. Less than half of Italian women are in employment and raising that level to match the euro-area average of 62.3 percent could boost gross domestic product by 88 billion euros ($99 billion) each year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Eurostat data.

Italy’s Non-Working Women Are a $99 Billion Opportunity

According to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, encouraging women into the workplace requires the “endorsement of both men and women to make sure choices are available, and cultural changes.” Impediments to female participation still exist in the constitution or legal system of 80 percent of IMF member countries, she told an audience in London last week.

In Italy, the government is currently enacting measures to promote permanent jobs over temporary ones -- a policy that potentially favors the hiring of men over women because maternity leave rights are more of a burden for permanent contracts. That risk seems to be backed up by the most recent data, which show in January male employment rose by 27,000, while that of females fell.

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