Linda Laura Sabbadini: “The female employment rate in Italy is the lowest in Europe”

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Central Director of Istat, one of the 100 Italian excellences, Grand Official of the Republic from 2 June 2021, Linda Laura Sabbadini, 64, has managed to revolutionize social and gender statistics, committing to give visibility in official statistics even to the invisible: women, young people, children, the disabled, migrants, the poor, the homeless, the elderly, LGBT people, highlighting their discrimination and needs. One of the founders of “Women for Salvation-Half of It”, the movement that calls for women’s employment to be at the center of the Recovery Plan, is fighting for women to be considered as a resource for social and economic rebirth of the country. And this is why, for the tenth edition of the Mestre / Venice Politics Festival (organized, from 9 to 12 September 2021, in partnership by the Pellicani Foundation, the Venice Foundation, M9 – Museo del ‘900 and the Municipality of Venice) that has as its theme “The Power of Women», She was chosen as curator guest. “It has become an urgent issue”, Linda Laura Sabbadini insists, “It is no longer possible to address the gender issue with the policy of small steps: we must realize that, although they have their own value, petitions of principle or words. We need to go from proclaiming the need for women’s rights to be respected to implementing adequate strategies for this to really happen ”.

And how could this shift from good intentions to practice take place?
«It is still difficult to be consistent: there is a problem of discrepancy between the growth of collective consciousness and the allocation of funds for social policies. So, for example, I think of nursery schools: in Italy they cover 25% of needs, while the rest of Europe has set itself the target of 33% for 2010. We will reach that figure no earlier than 2027, or seventeen years after the European target. There is no doubt that in Italy there is an imbalance in care work, we are the European country that is in the most critical situation and we will not move forward if we do not put our hand to all the social superstructures: whether they are nursery schools, services for non self-sufficient people, for the elderly or the disabled. Only in this way would the load on the shoulders of women be lightened, but this thing has never been done seriously. Let’s look at parental leave, which is paid at 30%. Do you know what happens? It happens that then, more often than not, in order to impact the family budget as little as possible, it is women, who usually earn less, who take these leave, get away from work, shoulder heavy emotional burdens. Some say that there are grandmothers who can take care of grandchildren or emergencies, but the truth is that today grandmothers, fortunately, are better educated and healthier and have no intention of dedicating themselves fully to their grandchildren and thus make up for the shortcomings of the walfare. There is a need for a paradigm shift. Companies also need to understand that having women on work teams is a huge enriching element, which would increase production and productivity. Companies should commit themselves to this, they should set themselves growth objectives and monitor… ».

Speaking of companies, how is the professional situation of women today in Italy?
“Suffice it to say that the female employment rate is very very low, under 50%. Germany, to get an idea, stands at 75%. And when it comes to the employment of young girls, aged 25 to 34, we are in last place in Europe. We also have a training problem: despite the fact that women are more educated than men, although there are numerically more women graduates, we are still more than ten points below the other European countries. One critical issue concerns the STEM subjects, the scientific ones, on which we have never equipped ourselves with an adequate strategy: we must start from when the girls are small, putting in place a way of approaching scientific subjects that can also involve girls and maybe at the same time, instead, bring the children closer to care tasks. 90% of teachers are women: which male child will dream of becoming a teacher? It has no examples. A cultural revolution is needed, which must also pass through elementary school textbooks, still anchored to absurd stereotypes, with the mother ironing and the father who is the head of the family. We need a paradigm shift that puts people at the center of their freedom. We have to break the cages, which are built from ancient role models. It is a complex path, but it is a path that must be accelerated. It takes more women employed, more quality of female work, more women in decision-making places, to make the most of resources “.

But would we need new laws?
“In reality, our country has many good laws, the problem is that they are not applied. I don’t like to think in terms of “pink quotas”, which I know as an Indian reservation, but certainly the male monopoly of power must be opposed, just as in the economy, in the face of monopoly, anti-monopoly measures are taken, the same should be done for social policies. All monopoly situations are bad for a company, make it less dynamic and more unfair. Less participatory and more exclusionary. And above all less creative and democratic. To get closer to citizens, political power needs to be based on some fundamental values, care and recognition of others, solidarity, cultural change, care for the planet, the common good, concreteness, collective interest, abandonment of ideological approaches. Unfortunately today the most important offices are in the hands of men and it is always men who choose and direct the funds, which are never allocated in the social sector as much as it should and how much it would take to relieve women. It takes shared power, not with a male monopoly, a true cultural revolution against gender stereotypes, focusing on investments in welfare policies of care for the reconstruction of meaning and community life. Women will be at the head of this epochal change ».

You are at the helm of Women20, one of the G20 engagement groups, which aims to develop proposals to world leaders on gender equality. What are you doing now?
“In this moment we are very committed to supporting Afghan women. We asked for the continuation of the humanitarian corridors and the blocking of the forced repatriation of Afghans to Afghanistan. It is necessary to set up an independent body, which controls the permanence of human rights: women who have remained there must be able to continue to be educated, must be able to access decent jobs, must be able to participate in political life, must be able to have access to the Internet , all things that instead risk being banned. We call on G20 leaders to actively contribute to establishing peace and stability, to strengthen Afghanistan’s commitment to keeping Afghan women and girls free from all forms of violence as signatories to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW). The time has come to back up words with deeds ».

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