Giovannini’s Asvis raises the alarm about Italy’s backward steps in gender equality and the fight against inequalities, but we are also far from the goals set by the European Commission in the fight against poverty, health protection, quality of work and infrastructure.
Italy is taking a step backwards on nine of the 17 global goals of the 2030 Agenda, including the fight against poverty (Goal 1), health protection (Goal 3), quality education (Goal 4), decent work, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 11), partnership (Goal 17) and, with an important warning sign, gender equality (Goal 5) and the fight against inequality (Goal 10).
The 2030 Agenda is at the heart of the European Commission’s programme, which aims to achieve a Green New Deal with the funds of the Next Generation EU (erroneously renamed the “Recovery Fund”). This money will also be a starting point for Italy, which will have to spend it with a gender perspective, abandoning the policy of subsidies to implement instead a plan of investment in women’s work and the digitalisation of the country, especially with regard to family services (from kindergartens to the care of disabled and elderly people).
Clear indications come from the EU: 37% of the funds must be used against the climate crisis, 20% for digitalisation, and the remaining 43% for maintaining the social fabric.
GOAL 10: FIGHT AGAINST INEQUALITIES, BETWEEN SOCIAL AND FISCAL POLICIES
ISTAT has provided a very alarming overview of the situation in Italy, where the probability of social advancement for the younger generation is very low and the improvement in per capita income now concerns an increasingly small segment of the population (from 95% of the generation of the 1940s to 30% of Millennials born between 1980 and 2000). The chapter on inequalities shows that the main labour market indicators for 2019 already highlighted a number of critical elements: the persistent relative disadvantage of young people; the decline in self-employment, which for a long time represented a means of social ascendancy in our country; greater job instability, which is associated with lower-than-average wages and has become an important cause of inequality, especially for women.
In addition, the evident lack of digital skills reduces the speed of adaptation of our labour market, increasing the risk of segmentation and inequality among workers. In the Asvis Report, President Enrico Giovannini has repeatedly stressed the importance of “starting today to build tomorrow’s welfare”, while guaranteeing equal access to fundamental services, starting with education and health. Linked to this last point is the debate on the ESM, especially in the face of the risk of a second wave of contagions similar to that of March, but with the impossibility of a new lockdown.
The ECB is also urging governments to make greater use of fiscal leverage. For Italy, this means the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the system, preceded by a reorganisation of exemptions and deductions to harmonise income and wealth taxes. In other words, social policies on work, education, taxation and environment become an essential combination to fulfill the commitment of reducing inequalities.
GOAL 5, GENDER EQUALITY: A VICTORY WITH WOMEN SQUARED PROJECT
The national Asvis Goal 5 event focused on economic violence, a theme that is very important to me because it is one of the founding aims of Global Thinking Foundation. This goal distinguishes us from other associations that deal with financial education in Italy and clarifies the uniqueness of the model that has characterised GLT since its creation: our goal is to carry out projects to “prevent and fight situations arising from economic isolation for women who are victims of economic violence, by implementing training and educational actions in support of the principles of gender equality and reduction of social damage resulting from this phenomenon, which also exposes younger generations to a lack of active participation in the economic development of the country”.
The proximity with other European realities in which Governments have courageously implemented existing laws (such as in Great Britain) or strengthened widespread family policies (such as in France, Spain and Portugal) fills us with hope and strengthens our commitment so that also in Italy we can understand the phenomenon of economic violence in its economic and social seriousness. When we talk about violence and abuse, we usually focus on physical and emotional abuse, but financial abuse and the control of the ability to acquire, use and keep money by an intimate partner occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases.
Even if this silent form of abuse is not easily identifiable, it cannot be relegated to the last three questions of a cognitive survey. It starts with small gestures, which are in themselves violations of rights and therefore crimes, which slowly become more and more controlling. This may involve one partner insisting on managing finances without the other’s contribution or asking the other to stop working. Limiting the ability to earn money is not the only way in which abusive partners exercise control. They may also restrict access to anything the partner has not paid for, such as a car or other basic necessities, including those for the children.
A person who empties the partner’s credit card or bank account ruins the partner’s credit profile: in this way, a person can prevent the partner from finding housing by taking out a mortgage, but also from buying a vehicle or obtaining loans for children’s studies abroad. Without access to economic resources, survivors often face a new set of challenges to their safety and security.
In the Manual for the Prevention of Economic Violence and the 2020 Report on Economic Violence, published together with Altis of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, we collected the results of the first social impact analysis carried out on national territory, which revealed a tangible increase in financial well-being of the participants in “Women Squared Project” courses. The project is now three years old and has so far involved over two thousand women in 36 municipalities in Italy, acting not only on knowledge, for which, according to the OECD, we are lagging behind in the EU, but also on behaviour and attitudes.
We have shown that economic violence can be fought through prevention and that financial literacy is the starting point for women to achieve full economic independence.
Domestic violence remains a systemic and cultural problem and the lack of equal opportunities between men and women, together with deeply rooted stereotypes, only exacerbates the situation, with an annual cost measured by We World at €17 billion globally (a sum that combines social and economic costs).
The acceleration imposed by digitalisation and automation processes will change the structure of the resources employed in the world of work and therefore the skills needed and required. Rapid and profound changes that require a response: on the one hand, major investments are needed in training and in the inclusion of women in the world of work; on the other hand, the human factor must be placed at the centre of economic and social policies for family support services that facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life without constraints linked to wage and systemic differences for women.
We do not have years to implement these measures, we only have a few months to develop public policies that enhance sustainable development. This requires commitment from the Government. After all, the 2030 Agenda is a roadmap with well-defined steps that call for immediate action.
We can all do our part and take action to enhance ourselves, but we also have a duty to promote freedom of action and participation in society, removing cultural and systemic barriers that oppose the recognition of constitutional rights that apply to all citizens.
Promoting gender equality and economic independence for a fairer and more inclusive world that cares about education and training of new generations is an investment in the future of our country. Some progress has already been made, for example on air quality or on reducing urban waste and crime, but it is not enough. The Government must act in the direction of recognising the rights of Italian women guaranteed by the Constitution: in Article 3, in relation to social dignity and equality and in Article 4 regarding the right to work and the promotion of conditions that can make this right effective. We must ensure that our voice does not remain an isolated one but becomes a widespread chorus, because, as we like to say in our Foundation, “education and knowledge are the clean energy of the future”.