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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 24 March 2022
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  1. Main challenges to social inclusion
  2. Main concept

Key challenges to social inclusion

ISTAT’s report "Poverty in Italy 2020" published estimates of absolute and relative poverty, based on data from the household consumption expenditure survey.

In 2020, just over two million families (7.7% of the total, 6.4% in 2019) and over 5.6 million individuals (9.4% from 7.7%) are in absolute poverty. After the improvement in 2019, absolute poverty increased in the year of the pandemic, reaching the highest level since 2005 (the beginning of the historical series). As for relative poverty, families below the threshold are just over 2.6 million (10.1%, from 11.4% in 2019).

The value of the intensity of absolute poverty - which measures in percentage terms how much the monthly expenditure of poor families is below the poverty line (on average) - records a reduction (from 20.3 % to 18.7%) in all geographical areas. This dynamic is also the result of the measures put in place to support citizens (citizenship income, emergency income, extension of the redundancy fund, etc.) which have allowed families in economic difficulty - both those who have fallen below the poverty line in the 2020 and those who were already poor - to maintain a consumer spending not very far from the poverty line.

Also in terms of individuals, the North recorded the most marked increase, with the incidence of absolute poverty going from 6.8% to 9.3% (10.1% in the North-west, 8.2% in the North -East). Thus, there are over 2 million 500 thousand absolute poor residing in the Northern regions (45.6% of the total, distributed in 63% in the North-West and 37% in the North-East) against 2 million 259 thousand in the South (40.3 % of the total, of which 72% in the South and 28% in the Islands). In the latter division, the incidence of individual poverty rose to 11.1% (11.7% in the South, 9.8% in the Islands) from 10.1% in 2019; in the Centre, on the other hand, it was 6.6% (from 5.6% in 2019).

By age group, the incidence of absolute poverty reaches 11.3% (over 1 million 127 thousand individuals) among young people (18-34 years); remains on a high level, at 9.2%, even for the 35-64 age group (over 2 million 394 thousand individuals), while it remains below the national average for the over 65s (5.4%, over 742 thousand people).

Compared to 2019, the share of poor families grows nationally in all types of municipalities, although with some differences at the geographical level: in the North it increases - from 6.1% to 7.8% - in municipalities up to 50 thousand inhabitants (different from the suburban municipalities of the metropolitan area) and in the suburban municipalities of the metropolitan areas and municipalities with 50,001 inhabitants (from 4.8% to 7.0%). In the Centre, the conditions of families residing in the metropolitan area centres are worsening, with an incidence that goes from 2.0% to 3.7% while in the South the incidence of poverty increases, from 7.6% to 9.2% %, in municipalities with up to 50 thousand inhabitants (other than municipalities on the outskirts of the metropolitan area).


In general, family poverty shows a decreasing trend with the increase of the age of the reference person; generally the families of young people have lower spending capacity because they have lower average incomes and have fewer savings or inherited assets accumulated over the course of their lives.

Absolute poverty concerns 10.3% of families with a reference person between 18 and 34 years of age and 5.3% of those with a reference person over 64 years of age. Compared to 2019, the incidence of poverty increases among families with a reference person aged 35-44 (from 8.3% to 10.7%) and among those in which the reference person is between 45 and 54 years old ( from 6.9% to 9.9%).

Poverty also decreases with the increase in education. If the reference person has obtained at least the upper secondary school diploma, the incidence is equal to 4.4% while it stands at 10.9% if they have a middle school diploma.

Absolute poverty in Italy in 2020 affects 1 million 337 thousand minors (13.5%, compared to 9.4% of individuals nationwide). The incidence varies from 9.5% in the Centre to 14.5% in the South. Compared to 2019, the conditions of minors worsened nationally (from 11.4% to 13.5%) and in particular in the North (from 10.7% to 14.4%) and in the Centre (from 7.2% to 9.5%). There are over 767 thousand families with minors in absolute poverty, with an incidence of 11.9% (9.7% in 2019). The greatest criticality for these families is the intensity of poverty, with a value equal to 21.0% against 18.7% of the general figure. In addition to being poorer more often, families with minors are also in conditions of more marked difficulties. Citizenship plays an important role in determining the socio-economic status of the family. 8.6% of families with minors made only by Italians are in absolute poverty and 28.6% of those made by foreigners.

The latest report on school dispersion and dropouts by the Ministry of Education, shows that between the years 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, 0.93% of pupils attending lower secondary school and 3.33% of pupils attending secondary school abandoned at the beginning of the school year, adding to the dropouts recorded in previous years. The Not inEducation, Employment or Training (NEET) people (age group 15 to 29 years) in 2020 are 2.1 million, out of a total aggregate of 9.8 million in the 27 EU member states. The NEET condition affects about 11 percent of young people between 15 and 19 years, still a large majority within the education and training system (Figure 3.12). The incidence of NEETs increases with age and, in the last year, the phenomenon has grown particularly for the 25-29 year old class (31.5%, +1.8 points). At a territorial level, in the South the incidence is double compared to the North (32.6% and 16.8% respectively) and much higher than that of the Centre (19.9%). The trends of the phenomenon are linked to the performance of the labour market. The low participation rates of women residing in Italy lead to a higher risk of being NEET than that of men and of their peers from other European countries. In recent years, the distance between the two genders has increased, while in 2020 the worsening has affected women and men equally.

The presence of unaccompanied foreign minors (MSNA) is a structural element of the phenomenon of migration to Europe and, in particular, to Italy. This phenomenon presents various problems related to the condition of lonely children, along with the often traumatic migratory experiences, and the difficulties of accessing training opportunities and job placement when becoming adults. The Directorate General of Immigration and Integration Policies of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies is responsible for monitoring the condition of MSNA in Italy and, for this purpose, periodically publishes statistical reports and monitoring on the presence and main characteristics of MSNA in the country. According to thereport published, as of 31 December 2021 there were 12.284 MSNA in Italy, mainly male (97,3 %) between the age of 16 and 17 (88,0%). The main countries of origin are Bangladesh (23,1%), Egypt (18,1%),  Tunisia (12,7%) Albania (9,7%) and Pakistan (6,4%). MSNA present in Italy are mainly welcomed in Sicily (28,2%), Calabria (12,3%), Lombardy (9,8%), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (8,0%) Puglia (7,8%).

The protection of unaccompanied foreign minors has recently been the subject of several regulatory interventions in the Italian system: first, the decree-law 142/2015 introduced specific provisions relating to the reception of unaccompanied foreign minors, and the law 47/2017, which dictated an organic discipline of the subject. Unaccompanied foreign minors, who cannot be identified, have the same rights and protection as minors of Italian nationality, as stated in article 1 of the law 47/2017.

Key concepts

The Italian Constitution, in Article 31, stipulates that "The Republic facilitates with economic measures and other provisions the formation of the family and the fulfilment of related tasks, with particular regard to large families. It protects motherhood, childhood and youth, fostering the institutions needed for this purpose." This article must be coordinated with Article 37, according to which "The working woman has the same rights and, for the same work, the same wages as the [male] worker. Working conditions must enable the fulfilment of its essential family function and ensure that the mother and child are properly protected. The law sets the minimum age limit for paid work. The Republic protects the work of children with special rules and guarantees them, for equal work, the right to equal pay." Finally, according to Article 3, paragraph 2: "It is the task of the Republic to remove economic and social obstacles, which, by effectively limiting the freedom and equality of citizens, prevent the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organization of the country".

With regard to inclusion problems, the Italian Constitution identifies certain categories of people who, for different reasons, must be considered disadvantaged and/or must receive support throughout their lives. The Constitution lists those in social and/or economic difficulties as follows:

  • Art. 10: "The foreigner, who is prevented in his country from the effective exercise of democratic freedoms guaranteed by the Italian Constitution, has the right to asylum in the territory of the Republic, according to the conditions established by the law"

  • Art. 24: "The low-income subjects are insured, with special institutions, the means to act and defend themselves before every jurisdiction"

  • Art. 32: "The Republic protects health as a fundamental right of the individual and as a collective interest and guarantees free care to the destitute."

  • Art. 34: "The school is open to all. [...] The capable and deserving, even if lacking in means, have the right to reach the highest grades of study. The Republic makes this right effective with grants, family allowances and other provisions, which must be awarded by competition."

  • Art. 38: "Every citizen who is unable to work and lacks the means to live has the right to maintenance and social assistance. [...] Disabled people have the right to education and professional start-up"

Article 10 of decree-law 460/1997 (relative to the tax treatment of third sector entities) refers to disadvantaged people "due to physical, mental, economic, social or family conditions", in line with constitutional provisions.

With regard to ordinary legislation, Article 414 of the Civil Code states that "The one of majority age and the emancipated child, who are in a habitual infirmity of mind that renders them unable to provide for their own interests, are prohibited when this is necessary to ensure their proper protection."

With regard to labour legislation, law 68/99 "Rules for the Right to Work of disabled people" allows the "targeted" inclusion and work integration of people with disabilities. Other beneficiaries are the protected categories: orphans and surviving spouses of those who have died from work, war or service, or as a result of the worsening disability reported for these causes, as well as of spouses and children who have been declared to be disabled by war, service and employment and Italian refugees who have been repatriated.

With specific reference to the conditions of physical or mental disadvantage, law 104/1992 sets out a broad and articulated discipline on the care, social integration and rights of disabled people. A person with disabilities is defined as "the person who has a physical, mental or sensory impairment, stabilized or progressive, which causes learning difficulties, relationship or work integration or such as to result in a process of social disadvantage or marginalization".

Law 381/1991 (relative to social cooperatives), art. 4, states that "the physically, psychological and sensory disabled, the former patients of psychiatric hospitals [...] persons in psychiatric treatment, drug addicts, alcoholics, working minors in difficult family situations, persons detained or interned in prisons, convicts and inmates admitted to alternative measures to detention and work outside must be considered disadvantaged."

Decree-law 112/2017 (revision of the discipline in the field of social enterprise), art. 2 paragraph 4 letter b), identifies "the beneficiaries of international protection under decree-law 251/2007, among the disadvantaged categories employable in a social enterprise.

According to art. 2, law 47/2017, an unaccompanied foreign minor is defined as the "minor who does not have Italian or European Union citizenship who is for any cause in the territory of the state or who is otherwise subject to Italian jurisdiction, without assistance and representation by parents or other adults legally responsible under the state’s laws".

Law 47/2017 defines the various measures to protect MSNA in line with the regulatory framework for minors. In particular, protections for the right to health and education of children are strengthened, with simpler procedures for enrolment in the National Health Service and the school system.

On 21 December 2019, the Council of Ministers approved in preliminary consideration the "Regulation with amendments to the Presidential Decree (D.P.R.) of 31 August 1999, No. 394, in implementation of Article 22 of Law 7 April 2017, No. 47, which provides measures to protect unaccompanied foreign minors." The new regulation changes and integrates the existing regulatory discipline, with particular reference to the issuance of residence permits and the conversion of them upon reaching the age of majority.