After Malta, Italy has the lowest rates of employment for women in the European Union. Some 48.9 percent of women in Italy are currently unemployed. Exacerbating the situation, one out of five young people is unemployed. Both groups say they have stopped looking for work. Experts say the economic downturn and slow growth are the main reasons for their jobless state.
The numbers were released by Istat in the 2010 report, Noi Italia, an annual survey of the demographic and economic, cultural and social state of Italy.
More than two million young adults are neither working nor studying. Data from 2009 shows that 21.2 percent are ages 15 to 29, a higher number than elsewhere in the European Union.
Moreover, their prospects are grim: Italy's overall unemployment rate shows not signs of improvement. According to another recent Istat survey, it remained at 8.6 percent in December 2010, almost the highest level since 2004, as slowing growth led companies to put off hiring.
The report suggests that illegal employment is more common in southern Italy, with one in five workers being paid ‘under the table.' Calabria has the highest rate of unemployment (26.6 percent); Emilia Romagna the lowest (8.5 percent).
The report, however, reveals that crime is down across the country. Homicides, thefts and robberies have decreased steadily over the last few years.
The immigrant presence in Italy continues to rise. In early 2010, there were some 4.2 million non-Italians residing in the country, accounting for 7 percent of the overall population. Meanwhile, Italy has Europe's highest rate of aging population (see ‘Elixir of life?' this page): as of January 2010, there were 144 elderly people for every 100 young adults. The ‘oldest' region in the country is Liguria; the youngest is Campania.
Istat notes that the divorce rate has risen slightly, to 44.7 percent, with the number of separations increasing by almost 17 percent since 2000.
Finally, less than 47 percent of Italians say they read a book at least once a year. About one in two Italians reads the newspaper once a week, and one out of five Italians downloads news or magazines from the Internet.