The Italian context is a telling case for the large numbers of Italian households employing a domestic worker or caregiver, due especially to the rapid ageing of Italian society and the crisis of its family-based welfare. The dependency rate of elderly population has tripled today since the 1950s.
Importantly, jobs in this sector are mainly taken by migrant women, especially from Eastern Europe. Foreigner citizens in Italy are more than 5 million and represent the 8.3% of residents in Italy. Also as a consequence of employment opportunities in the care and domestic sector, migrants in Italy are women for more than half. About 800.000 migrants are regularly employed in the care and domestic sector, but some of the estimates are larger than 1.2 million if one accounts for undeclared work. Due to the high percentage of migrant DWs, this category is particularly affected by new regulations on migration issues. Currently, migrants are entitled to a residence permit as domestic workers only if they fit in the (quite small) yearly quotas for on-call recruitment in this sector, at the condition of having found a job with permanent contract, full time and live-in arrangements.
Concerning the specific legislation regulating this labor sector, the first (and still valid) law on domestic labor dates back to 1958, followed by the first collective agreement in 1974 (made possible after a Constitutional Court decision in 1969). During the decades 1950s-1970s, these legislative achievements were possible mainly thanks to the influence of the Catholic based organization Acli on the Italian Parliament. At the same time, such measures found resonance in a sentiment supporting advancements in the conditions of the working class, including women and internal migrants, that both Communist and Catholic interests were converging around, favored by the economic expansion of the post-war times in Italy. Since then, domestic workers are members of the main trade unions – Cgil, Cisl and Uil – whilst the group Acli-Colf continues its political intervention and support to workers as a Catholic organization rather than as a labor union.
Since the 1970s, the context has greatly changed, with this sector becoming a niche for foreign workers and not Italians anymore. This gives a different meaning to the ratification of C189 in 2013, and to the developments thereafter.
Country-expert: Beatrice Busi
Local workshop: 2 December 2017