Legislative and policy framework

The general principle of equality between women and men has been enshrined in Article 3 of the Italian Constitution: ‘All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions.’

Italy’s progress in gender equality stemmed primarily from the need to adopt European Union (EU) directives and use European funds, which had the goal of ensuring equal opportunities for all as a crosscutting theme.[1]

Legislative Decree No. 198 of 2006 established the National Code of Equal Opportunities between Women and Men and is considered the Italian legal framework for gender equality and women’s empowerment.[2] The Code assembles 11 laws on equal opportunities in a single text, intending to rationalise and harmonise the current legislative provisions on gender equality and regulating the promotion of equal opportunities between women and men in the areas of ethical, social and economic relations, and civil and political rights. It also introduced the principle of gender mainstreaming, obliging the government to consider a gender perspective.

Before adopting an overall national strategy on gender mainstreaming in July 2021, Italy relied on regional or sector-specific good practices.

In July 2021, Italy adopted an overall strategy focused on gender equality, ‘the National Strategy for Gender Equality’ (Strategia nazionale per la parità di genere).[3] Covering the period 2021-2026, it focuses on the following areas: work, salaries/income, competences, time, power, and the impact of COVID-19. Further, the National Strategy is a de facto government commitment encompassing gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting. Specifically, it promotes measures for the integration of a gender perspective in all areas of social and economic life, and policy, and for the dissemination of suitable tools to allow for the assessment of the impacts of public policies from a gender perspective (gender budget). To date, there is no national action plan for gender equality. Going forward, a national action plan implementing ‘the National Strategy for gender equality for 2021-2025’ will likely be adopted.

In addition to the National Strategy, there are sectoral laws on specific aspects of gender equality in place.


Governmental equality bodies

The Ministry for Rights and Equal Opportunities was created in 1996, in line with the UN’s Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) and EU guidelines on gender mainstreaming. Its functions were established in 1997 (Decree of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers No. 405 of 28 October 1997)[4] and modified through subsequent ministerial decrees. Its broad mandate includes representing the Italian position on gender issues at the EU level, preparing the government’s gender equality policies and implementing the EU Equality Directives, as well as engaging in gender mainstreaming.

Italy’s main government equality body is the Department for Equal Opportunities (Dipartimento per le pari opportunità, DEO) of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers (since 1996). It has supported the Office of the Minister for Equal Opportunities since 1997, now Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family (Decree of the Presidency of the Council of 12 February 2021). The Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family holds the highest level of governmental responsibility for gender equality. According to the Ministerial Decree (D.P.C.M) of 26 September 2019 (published in the Official Gazette of 18 October 2019, No. 245), the Department for Equal Opportunities is delegated to perform the following functions:

The Department for Equal Opportunities Functions

  • Promote and coordinate government actions aimed at ensuring the implementation of policies concerning gender rights and equal opportunities with reference to the critical areas and objectives identified by the Beijing Platform, and the related Declaration, particularly concerning health, research, school, training, environment, family, work and gender representation in economic and political decision-making bodies
  • Promote the culture of rights and equal opportunities in the sector of information/communication, with reference to women’s right to health care
  • Promote and coordinate government actions aimed at ensuring the full implementation of policies on equal opportunities between men and women about entrepreneurship, self-employment, and public and private work, with particular reference to the matters of reconciliation of life, work and careers
  • Adopt initiatives necessary for the planning, direction, coordination and monitoring of the European structural and investment funds and the corresponding national resources in the field of equal opportunities and non-discrimination
  • Coordinate, at European and international levels, government policies related to the promotion of gender equal opportunities, the protection of women's human rights, and the prevention and protection against any discrimination, with particular reference to the commitments undertaken by Italy

As of December 2021, the personnel resources of the DEO consisted of 62 employees who spent approximately three-quarters of their time on projects focused on gender equality issues.

The reporting system on gender equality has recently been modified, with particular regard to Article 20 of Legislative Decree 2006/198. Passed in 2021, Law No. 162 obliges the Counsellor or National Equality Counsellor to biennially report to the parliament (based on a report specified in Art. 5 §7, as well as the information provided by the committee according to Art. 8). The report covers, firstly, the status of the application of gender equality legislation in place and, secondly, the effects of the provisions of Legislative Decree 2006/198. At the time of writing, the reports are not publicly available.

A variety of departments and ministries regularly consult the DEO about new and/or existing policies, laws, or programmes (in fields other than gender equality), although there is no legal obligation to do so. Typically, the DEO is invited to an inter-ministerial collaboration on specific areas, such as family issues or smart working. Requests are submitted, for example, by the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Ecological transition. If the DEO is consulted, its advice and recommendations lead to relevant adjustments in 50-75% of cases.

Independent equality body

The independent gender equality body in Italy is the National Equality Counsellor (Consigliera nazionale di parità).

Law No. 125, Legislative Degree 2006/198 (Article 12-20)[5], and subsequent amendments define the National Equality Counsellor’s profile and competences which are exclusively focused on gender equality. The National Equality Counsellor monitors the conditions under which women are employed in the labour market and the equal treatment of women and men in the workplace. Amongst others, its working areas include access to employment, career progression, professional training, remuneration, dismissal, resignation, and pensions. The Counsellor also promotes the principle of equal opportunities in policies, projects and other initiatives. Further, counsellors have the power to intervene in cases of discrimination relating to employment, as set out in Article 36-28 of the Degree 2006/198.

The National Equality Counsellor is a member of the National Equality Committee and coordinates the National Conference of Equality Counsellors. The Committee includes all counsellors at the regional and city levels and aims to increase the effectiveness of their action in this area through the exchange of information and good practices.[6]

The Counsellor’s monitoring function, as outlined in Articles 46 and 48 of Legislative Decree 2006/198, has recently been expanded through Article 3 of Law No. 162/2021[7]. The law requires public and private entities with more than 50 employees to submit a report on the gender balance of their personnel. Based on the analysis of these submitted reports, the public administration prepares a report on the status of gender balance at work every two years.

The resources for the National Equality Counsellor are embedded within the Ministry of Labour. Moreover, three National Equality Counsellors can request support from civil servants working at the Ministry of Labour when carrying out their professional functions if required. The resources are set annually and cover the expenses for the allowance and missions of the National Equality Counsellor.

The independent gender equality body is consulted on the majority of new or existing policies, laws, or programmes at both the governmental and parliamentary levels (in fields other than gender equality). When consulted, the independent body’s involvement leads to an adjustment in 50-75 % of cases.

Although intersectionality is included in Italian legislation (albeit in the simplified form of multiple (double) discrimination), Italy lacks an independent body to protect human rights and combat discrimination, including multiple incidents of discrimination. The intersection of race with gender, religion and culture is explicitly mentioned in Article 1 of Decree No. 215/2003, which aims to achieve equal treatment by taking into account ‘both the differential impact that similar forms of discrimination can have on women and men and the existence of forms of racism with a cultural and religious character.’ The Italian National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) was established in 2003 within the Department for Equal Opportunities (Legislative Decree No. 215 of 9 July 2003) to transpose the Race Equality Directive (2000/43/EC).[8] UNAR’s activities and report do not mention specific gender equality legislation or mechanisms, implying a division of competence with the DEO and a lack of explicit procedures of institutional coordination.

Parliamentary body

In 2015, the Parliamentary Intergroup for Women’s Rights was created. It was chaired by the President of the Chamber and comprised 96 members of parliament from every parliamentary group sitting in the chamber. It disbanded in 2018, following the general election and the subsequent change of government.

At the start of a new parliament, 14 Standing Committees are established in the Chamber of Deputies, none of which have gender as a named part of their scope of competence.[9]

Regional structures

Italy is characterised by significant heterogeneity in its regional territories. Article 117 of the Italian Constitution states: ‘(…) regional laws shall remove all obstacles which prevent the full equality of men and women in social, cultural and economic life, and shall promote equal access of men and women to elective office.’ The regions can thus legislate on substantive equality and gender equality issues.

According to Law No. 53/2000, Italian local authorities are responsible for the quality of life and have a specific mandate to design positive action plans to reduce gender inequality.[10] Unfortunately, no comparative results are available on methodologies, timing and responsibilities established by local administrations in respect of gender policy initiatives, except for gender budgeting. Based on sex-disaggregated statistics, several Italian municipalities and provinces have developed ‘gender audits’ (gender budget documents) to support the implementation of local and regional gender equality policies. Although the Decree Law No. 150 and Law No. 196 of 2009 require all public administrations to carry out gender budgets for their annual performance review, this practice has been implemented to varying degrees across Italian regions.[11]

Most regional, provincial and municipal gender equality institutions are similar to those at the national level. Regional Advisors assist in the analysis of reports on the gender balance within public and private entities. Further, they can act directly in the case of collective discrimination with local significance. Regional and Provincial Advisors can also represent the individual employee or intervene in an employee-led process, depending on their respective territorial mandate. Advisors are tasked with safeguarding anti-discriminatory access to rights in the labour market. Resources for the Regional and Provincial Counsellors are embedded within the budget of the local authority.

In addition, many local authorities have appointed a specific political mandate (assessorato) on equal opportunities, while a smaller number have a diversity manager. Most local authorities have appointed equality boards or commissions (with primarily consultative powers) to encourage the implementation of gender strategies.

Consultation with civil society

Consultation with civil society actors takes place through various formats and throughout the policy development cycle. NGOs, social partners, and women’s organisations regularly participate in consultations related to reforms and policy proposals on gender equality. Other examples include participation in committees, commissions, conferences, seminars, and working groups. For instance, the Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Family, with technical support of the DEO, has drawn on civil society actors concerning initiatives designed to foster female empowerment, women in business, violence against women, and gender inequality.[12]

Social partners and women’s associations are also consulted through their membership in the Equal Opportunities National Committee (EONC).[13] Law No. 125 of 10 April 1991[14] provides the tasks and functions aimed at eliminating sexually discriminatory behaviours and any barriers that may hinder the equality of women in the workplace, as well as their professional advancement and careers. However, the EONC’s consultative powers on labour policies and the struggle against discrimination were substantially reduced under the reform enacted by Legislative Decree No. 151 of 14 September 2015.[15] The last Committee’s term ended in 2017 and was only renewed at the end of July 2019.

Methods and tools

Note: the methods and tools listed under this section were the focus of EIGE's 2021 assessment. If certain methods and tools are not mentioned in this section, this does not necessarily mean that they are not used at all by Italy.

Gender impact assessment

Italy has a legal obligation to undertake an ex-ante gender impact assessment when drafting laws and/or policies. In 2018, the parliament adopted Legislative Decree No. 166 on the initiative of the Vice-President of the Chamber of the Parliament. Article 8 sets out the process for setting up a Studies Service of the parliament in charge of conducting ex-ante gender impact assessments for initiatives on gender equality. However, the initiative was adopted on an experimental bases and still must be consolidated.

Gender budgeting

Further, there is a legal obligation to carry out gender budgeting under Article 8 of Legislative Decree 2018/116 and Article 38 of Law 2009/196. This obligation aims to highlight the different impacts of the policies on women and men in terms of budget, money spent, services and time. Decree 196/2009 states that the exercise should be carried out on the State’s final accounts, with an analysis of both revenue and expenditure, and ‘equitable and sustainable well-being’ (BES) indicators used to highlight the existing gender gaps. Article 10 of Legislative Decree No. 150 of 27 October 2009 also stipulates that the Annual Performance Report should highlight the organisational and individual results achieved with respect to the individual planned objectives and resources, with an indication of any deviations, and the gender balance achieved.

A gender budget analysis was piloted for the 2016 state budget, in order to assess the different impacts of budgetary policies on women and men in terms of money, services, time and unpaid work. The methodology and groups involved were established through a Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (DM of 16 June 2017), acting together with the Minister of Economy and Finance. Following that pilot programme in 2016, the activities were repeated for 2017 to allow for the examination of a more complete set of indicators on gender gaps in areas fundamental to the community and to carry out a more precise examination of the relevant expenditure and activities of each administration from a gender perspective. The National Institute of Social Security created the Visit INPS Scholars program to implement a set of new indicators, which saw 146 indicators used in 2017, compared to only 39 in 2016.[16] The State budget expenditure was reclassified in the light of an assessment of its different impacts on women and men.[17]

At the time of writing, gender budgeting is used by some ministries, but not all, including the Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Training and awareness-raising

In terms of training, DEO employees regularly undergo training modules (at least once a year), albeit their participation is not mandatory. Other government employees are typically not involved in gender equality training, including those at the highest political level (ministers, vice-ministers, and senior cabinet members).

Some state administrations which report carrying out specific training initiatives include the PCM, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the Ministry of Justice (for the Penitentiary Administration), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry of the Interior (State Police) and the Ministry of Defence (Air Force and Carabinieri). Together with the DEO, in 2017, the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) began to develop relevant initiatives and measures to ensure gender mainstreaming in gender-sensitive pedagogy, as well as education on gender differences.

A working group established at the Ministry in 2017 also developed ‘Guidelines for the use of gender-sensitive language in administrative documentation’. However, following the change of government in 2018,[18] measures on gender-sensitive education, guidelines and recommendations have yet to be applied. To date, there has been no central initiative undertaken to raise awareness of the importance of gender-sensitive language among ministries and other governmental bodies between 2018 and 2021.

In terms of general awareness-raising, under Law 2010/183, ministries and public administrators are obliged to set up a Single Guarantee Committee (Comitato Unico di Garanzia) that promotes and supervises the application of gender equality principles in the workplace, including carrying out various awareness-raising measures aimed at enhancing the well-being of workers and preventing discrimination.

Gender statistics

The legal obligations regarding sex-disaggregated data in Italy are strong. The Prodi-Finocchiaro Directive of 27 March 1997, and the Nicolais-Pollastrini Directive of 23 May 2007 called for the collection of gender-sensitive statistics within public administrations. Further, there are legal obligations for the National Statistical Institute (ISTAT) to collect data disaggregated by sex. For example, in 2000, Law No. 53 (Article 16) specified that ISTAT shall collect data on Italians’ time use over five years, and shall disaggregate this data by sex and age.[19] Within the Comstat (Steering Committee and Coordination of statistical information), which comprises public authorities and is coordinated by ISTAT, there is an agreement to collect data disaggregated by sex.[20] As such, all demographic-social statistics produced annually provide for a gender analysis.

Although there is no website or separate section devoted to gender statistics, reports and publications specifically focused on gender statistics are produced on an ad-hoc basis.[21] Gender-disaggregated data is included in releases, reports or books produced by ISTAT and published on their website.

The process of gender mainstreaming has been applied to all stages of statistical activities, with integrating a gender perspective throughout the statistical system seen as the responsibility of every member of staff and part of ISTAT’s commitment to data quality and relevance. Further, ISTAT has appointed a director responsible for enhancing gender statistics. The director is regularly consulted by the parliament, ministries, and civil society on gender issues (e.g., femicide).

Monitoring progress

Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action

This section analyses the scores achieved by Italy for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies and assesses the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.

For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality, and taking into account only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Italy scored 5.5 out of a possible 12, below the EU average of 7.2. It scored particularly low on sub-indicator H1e on accountability of the governmental gender equality body, where it lost 4.0 points out of a maximum possible score of 5 because it has no national action plan on gender equality in place.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Italy scored the maximum number of 3.0 points available because it has an independent gender equality body which focuses exclusively on gender equality and carries out all relevant functions. The overall score for the expanded H1 indicator was 8.5 out of a possible 15, which was still below the EU average of 9.1.

Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Italy scored 1.5 points out of a possible 2, which was higher than the EU average of 1.0, because there were 25-100 employees working on gender equality in the governmental body. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent body, Italy’s score was 0.0 because there are 0-5 employees in the governmental body working on gender equality. The EU average was 0.8. For both sub-indicators, the maximum 2 points was awarded where the number of employees was over 100 as an indication of the body being sufficiently resourced.

Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Italy scored 5.0 out of a possible 12, which was below the EU average of 5.1. Italy lost 3.0 points, out of the maximum possible score of 4, on sub-indicator H3b on governmental gender mainstreaming structures and consultation processes, because there are no structures in place to coordinate gender mainstreaming across government ministries/departments.

Under an expanded measurement framework which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Italy scored 6.0 out of a possible 14, which was higher than the EU average which increased to 5.4. Under this sub-indicator Italy scored 1.0 point out of the 2 available because the independent gender equality body is only consulted by departments or ministries on the gender impact of new or existing policies in a majority of cases, but not all cases, and those consultations, similarly, only lead to relevant adjustments in a majority of cases.

For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex Italy scored 2.5 points, out of a possible 6, below the EU average of 3.4. It scored the maximum of 2 points for sub-indicator H4a on government commitment to the production of statistics disaggregated by sex because there is a legal obligation for the national statistical office to collect data disaggregated by sex. However, it lost 3.5 points, out of a possible 4, for sub-indicator H4c on the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex, as there is no website or section of a website devoted to gender statistics, which would facilitate dissemination.