Debora Spini (Confronti Study Center)
The day after March 8 marks an important anniversary in Italy: two years from the moment in which the then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the first lockdown.
What happened in the last 24 months? ISTAT in its February newsletter points out that “in Italy, the under-employment of women and the effects of COVID are more devastating than in the rest of Europe.” In fact, the report states that in the last year alone, half a million women have lost their jobs, a percentage point more than men. This happened – ISTAT continues to remind us – in the context of a country that comes in third-to-last place in Europe in terms of female employment: more than one in two women does not work; 48.5% are employed, while the European average is 66%.
The pandemic has brought many women home. Home is often a very dangerous place; ISTAT in the report published on 25 November last recalled how “in the first nine months of 2020 there was, in fact, an increase in reports of violence in which the victim felt in danger of life for himself or for his loved ones (3,583 vs. 2,663 in 2019). On the contrary, the reduction of restrictions in the same months of 2021 led to a decrease in reports of violence in which the victim perceived imminent danger (2,457 in 2021).”
The pandemic has brought people home. At home, fundamental activities take place – feeding, washing, comforting, healing, medicating, educating, entertaining – activities normally summarized by the term “caretaking.” Already in 1990 Joan Tronto and Berenice Fisher defined care as “a kind of activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in the best possible way.” Historically, the maintenance of the world had been contracted out to the family; given the equally historically consolidated redistribution of gender roles, the responsibility for this work fell mainly to women.
The entry of women into the sphere of paid work meant that the state took on at least part of the care functions; but this “outsourcing” has been seriously questioned by the crisis of the welfare state.
A further transformation has thus taken place: long “global chains of care” – as the economist Amaia Pérez Orozco calls them – move millions of migrant women around the globe to take care of what is still defined as “women’s work.” Furthermore, female work continues to cost less: the data for 2018 indicate that the average gender gap is 6.2 percentage points, and grows with skills. The work of a man with a degree costs 18% more than a woman with a degree, and a male executive costs 27% more (ISTAT 2021 data).
The house has become an office, classroom, gym. The pandemic has further upset an already fragile balance between working outside the home and caring duties. The 2020 Gender Report, drawn up by the government, highlights how “the employment rate of women with children under the age of 5 is more than 25% lower than that of childless peers and has undergone a further deterioration following the pandemic crisis.”
For 8 March, everything always happens. Initiatives, debates, concerts. There will be promotions in beauty centers, spas and hairdressers. There are also special menus in restaurants and pizzerias, happy hours in bars. Cooking blogs that recommend recipes for a “dinner with friends.” Also, as always, there will also be women in the streets, giving voice to the many souls of Italian feminism. There will also be mimosas, or at least we hope so, since with climate change they now bloom in January.
The day after 8 March 2022 we will continue to discuss the restart of the country, recovery and resilience. The day after March 8, the work will continue to “repair the world” – a world where women can feel at home without having to stay at home.