Immigrant women are more likely than men to work in lower paid jobs | Photo: ANSA/Archive/Luciano del Castillo
Immigrant women are more likely than men to work in lower paid jobs | Photo: ANSA/Archive/Luciano del Castillo

A report on the economic integration of migrants in Europe has found that women migrants face discrimination in the European labor market. Half of the immigrant women in Italy are unemployed, the researchers say.

Women suffer from significant disadvantages in the European labor market. They have a lower probability of being employed, work in jobs with lower pay, and in general earn less than men even when they have similar jobs.

These gender gaps are aggravated for women immigrants, who have to deal with higher labor market "penalties" than those for men.

Only one out of every two immigrant women works in Italy, according to the 6th annual report on the economic integration of immigrants in Europe, curated by Tommaso Frattini and Irene Solmone and published by the Osservatorio sulle Migrazioni of the Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano (LdA) and the Collegio Carlo Alberto (CCA) foundation in the Italian city of Turin.

Higher education levels

Women account for over half the total immigrant population in Europe (52%) and, among European countries with a significant foreign presence, Italy is the one with the highest percentage of women out of the total immigrant population (55%), according to the report.

It underscored that education levels were higher among women immigrants than their male counterparts in most European countries, though countries in which more highly educated women immigrants are found have more highly educated men as well.

However, the report noted, despite these higher levels of education, women immigrants have in most European countries a lower probability of being employed than men do (-13.6%). This situation has not changed over the past ten years.

Women work in low-paid jobs

Women immigrants are more frequently employed in work that is poorly paid and that requires few or no qualifications. They are mainly employed in basic jobs (24% compared with 14% for male immigrants), especially cleaning: almost one out of every five, compared with only 2% of male immigrants.

In part because of this, women immigrants earn less and their income is among the lowest at the national level. This figure drops even further in Italy.

Not only are the educational levels of immigrants lower than the European average (and among the lowest in Europe, as is also the case for Italian natives), but they also have not improved in the past decade and a half.

Fewer than a fifth (17%) of women immigrants in Italy have attended higher education and, among the countries of origin, this is lowest among African women (9% compared with 23% in Europe).

Employment rates among women immigrants and Italian women are very similar and are both among the lowest in Europe. The gap between the employment levels of male and female immigrants in Italy is one of the highest in Europe and has actually grown in the past five years, with only one out of every two women immigrants in Italy working.

Women immigrants poorer in Italy than EU average

Women immigrants in Italy are considerably poorer than the European average: in Europe, half the women immigrants are among the poorest 30% in their countries of residence, while in Italy they are among the poorest 20%.

This is partly because they are mainly employed in basic jobs requiring few or no skills and which are poorly paid in Italy and other countries in southern Europe: about a third of women immigrants in Italy, Greece, and Spain are employed in unskilled labor jobs compared with 24% at the European level. In Europe, one in ten women immigrants is employed as a caregiver.


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