Italy: migrant women most penalized by the pandemic


Being a woman and a foreigner has proven to be a source of heightened vulnerability in Italy during the pandemic. New figures show that there was an unusually large drop in employment in 2020, mostly among foreigners, with women being the most penalized.

The fact of being a woman and a foreigner in Italy is a source of increased vulnerability that presents a double disadvantage with clear reflections in the labor market, according to the findings presented in the IDOS 2021 immigration statistical dossier.

This happened with the onset of the pandemic and the socio-economic crisis that followed, in a general framework in which the gaps between Italians and migrants often widened, the report says.

While the pandemic caused an unusually large drop in employment in 2020 (-456,000, -2.0%), it was mainly among foreigners (-159,000, -6.4%).

Among them, women were the most penalized (-109,000, -10.0%), representing almost a quarter of the overall decline in employment (24%).

The jobs of foreign women workers fell to a greater extent than those of migrant men (-10.0% vs. -3.5%) and Italian women (-1.6%), who lost their jobs at a rapid pace. almost consistent with their male counterparts (-1.3%).

The employment rate of foreign women fell by 4.9%, more than double the drop of 2.2% of foreign men and eight times that of Italian women (-0.6%, in line with that of Italian men).

Increase in the number of underemployed women

The report also showed a sharp increase in the number of underemployed women, those who work less than they would like.

In 2020, 14% of foreign women said they were underemployed, compared to 8.1% in 2019 and 9.1% of Italian women. The percentage of overqualified foreign women also remained high, with 42.3% of foreign workers having a higher level of qualification than required for their job.

This is significantly higher than Italian women (24.8%) and male migrants (27.7%). The marked vulnerability of migrant women’s employment is partly explained by their obvious orientation towards poorly protected jobs where they are particularly exposed to precariousness and restrictions, as well as to the risk of infection with Covid.

More than half of foreign workers only occupy three professions: domestic workers, carers and housekeepers for offices and companies (against 13 professions for foreign men and 20 for Italian women).

A good 39.7% of foreign women are employed in domestic or home care services.

Access to vaccine has been delayed

The high concentration in domestic work has severely limited the ability of foreign workers to benefit from a freeze on layoffs and access to unemployment benefits.

According to data from the Italian statistical institute INPS, women represented only 10.5% of non-EU citizens receiving ordinary unemployment benefits in 2020 and 24.3% of extraordinary benefits.

Family assistants and the many workers in the social and health system have paid a high price in terms of health and exposure to COVID-19 infection. Of the infections reported by foreign workers (14.3% of the total in 2020), eight in ten were women.

Access to the vaccine has also been delayed compared to other “at risk” categories. Priority vaccination access was extended in the March 2021 vaccination plan only to family assistants in charge of care, and only to severely disabled people, to the exclusion of all others (assistants, however, to people with “Fragile”, as well as to servants and babysitters).

Meanwhile, there has been no shortage of cases of those who have been vaccinated during brief visits to their home countries. This is problematic for many workers in Eastern European countries who have been vaccinated with Sputnik, which is not considered valid for a Green Pass in Italy.


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