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Employment Outlook: Italy

by Mary Anne Thompson

Slow economic growth, high youth unemployment and impending worker retirement characterize Italy for the foreseeable future.  

By Mary Anne Thompson, founder and president, Goinglobal, Inc.

Italy’s overall unemployment rate stands at 11.5 percent, but for younger Italians that statistic is much higher; the most educated in the country's history, Italy’s young adults are likely to find only temporary work or no work at all. For those between the ages of 15 and 24, unemployment in Italy is at 37.9 percent, ranking the country one of the highest in the EU for youth unemployment, behind only Greece and Spain. Older workers, many looking to retire soon, enjoy permanent, stable jobs with pensions and benefits.

Italy also has one of the EU's largest gender gaps, according to the World Economic Forum's latest Gender Gap Ranking. Home to many family owned businesses and a large informal work sector, Italy is also vulnerable to the world’s economic fluctuations.

There are challenges to the country whose economic growth has been slow and uncertain, but Italy’s growth exists and should continue, according to experts. There is reason for cautious optimism for jobseekers.    

Long Term Outlook

In the coming decade, many jobs in Italy (22 percent) will be available for professionals with high-level qualifications in the areas of science, engineering, health care, business and teaching, according to the most recent Skill Supply and Demand country report by CEDEFOP. Medium-level qualifications, such as those gained by technicians and associate professionals, will also be in demand in the coming years, since 17 percent of job opportunities between now and 2025 will be for this group of professionals. Sixteen percent of the future jobs in Italy are expected to be for lower-skilled workers, meaning machine operators and agricultural workers will find fewer employment opportunities in Italy than in other EU countries.

Areas of Job Promise

According to the most recent Antal Global Survey, the most active hiring in Italy in the near future will be in:

  • Hospitality
  • Accounting
  • Information technologies
  • Security services

Talent Shortages

In a global listing of countries having difficulty finding skilled employees to fill jobs, Italy’s talent shortages are below the global average, with about 31 percent of Italian employers struggling to hire qualified staff. This number has increased by 3 points in comparison to last year’s figure, a fact that shows the employment market is improving, but there are still more skilled professionals needed to fill vacancies. In comparison, 86 percent of employers in Japan, 69 percent in Hong Kong, 56 percent in Israel and 46 percent in the US are having difficulty filling open positions.

According to the latest Manpower survey of Italian companies, the top ten hardest-to-fill jobs in Italy are:

  1. Skilled trades
  2. Technicians
  3. Accounting and finance staff
  4. Drivers
  5. Teachers
  6. Sales managers
  7. IT personnel
  8. Sales representatives
  9. Restaurant and hotel staff
  10. Project managers

In the coming months, talent shortages are expected to prevail in technical areas, which will bring growing job opportunities for these professionals:

  • Digital
  • Marketing and communication
  • Biotech
  • Engineering

Green Economy: Among EU members, the Green Economy is expected to produce 20 million new jobs by 2020. Forty percent of new jobs created in Italy are ‘green jobs,’ meaning jobs that use environmentally friendly techniques to create goods and services. There will be strong demand for energy managers, renewable energy specialists, environmental surveyors, energy certifiers, eco-industrial designers, landscape architects, agronomists, botanists, environmentalists, climatologists, hydro geologists and eco-auditors.

Digital Careers: Italy is still not fully ready to meet the needs of a more digital global economy. This is partly due to an old university system in which training in digital careers is not up-to-date. Currently, the most demanded roles for digital professionals are:

  • User experience director
  • Data analyst
  • Chief technology officer
  • Mobile developer
  • Big data architect
  • Digital copywriter
  • Community manager
  • Digital PR
  • Digital adviser
  • SEO/SEM specialist

Skills in Demand

A candidate’s soft skills are often what make the difference in hiring decisions.

Employers in Italy are seeking candidates who are highly motivated and adaptable, as well as possess international work experience.

As far as hard skills are concerned, approximately 80 percent of Italian employers value professional experience as the most important element when hiring new staff, followed by 11 percent who highlight the importance of a relevant degree of study.

Language skills are critical; fluency in three languages is often desired. In addition to Italian and English, employers want candidates who can speak German (requested by 22 percent of employers), French (20 percent) or Spanish (14 percent).

General Salary Trends

Italy is one of the few EU nations where a minimum wage is not defined by law. However, as part of several labor reforms implemented through the Jobs Act, the government of Matteo Renzi has been studying the possibility of creating the first national legislation over minimum salaries.

Most salaries in Italy are determined by collective bargaining agreements. These agreements determine minimum wage levels for positions within each job category. Most major companies offer salaries that exceed these minimum wages.

After years of economic recession and average wage decreases, Italy has started registering growing salaries again. Average wages have grown by 1.7 percent in comparison to one year ago.

Today’s average salary for an employee in Italy is 29,176 EUR per year. However, Italian salaries vary significantly depending on professional position, geographical area, sector, age, gender and level of education. While managers in Italy earn on average a gross annual salary of 103,205 EUR, Italian employees receive average gross annual salaries between 24,382 EUR (for blue-collar workers) and 53,667 EUR (for specialized professional positions).


Italy has many challenges, but there are reasons to hope the economic and employment situation is improving. Young people need work, wages need to rise and gender inequality needs to disappear. For any country, this is a tall order. Italy is poised to tackle it, however, and over time, experts say, they just might.



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