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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023

Key challenges to social inclusion

The ISTAT report "Poverty in Italy" estimates absolute and relative poverty, based on data from the household consumption expenditure survey.

The report underlines how, despite the increase in consumption and expenditures, high inflation levels prevented the improvement of the statistics on poverty, which remained almost unchanged since 2020.

In 2022, just over 2.18 million families were in conditions of absolute poverty (8.3% of the total from 7.7% in 2021) and around 5.6 million individuals (9.7% growing since last year).

Regarding relative poverty, the incidence is stable at 10.9% compared to the 11.0% of the previous year and there are around 2.8 million families below the threshold (2.6 million in 2020).

The phenomenon shows greater diffusion compared to 2021; to a large extent the increase observed is likely due to the strong acceleration in inflation recorded in

2022 (+8.7% change in the harmonized index of consumer prices - IPCA), the impact of which is particularly high for poorer families.

The intensity of absolute poverty - which measures in percentage points how much the monthly expenditure of poor households is below the poverty line (i.e. "how poor the poor are") - also remains substantially stable compared to the previous year (18.7%), with the only exceptions of the Central Regions of the country where it reaches 17.3% from 16.1% in 2020 and the North-West area (19.3% from 18.6%).

The incidence of families in absolute poverty is confirmed to be higher in the South (10.7%) while it drops significantly in the North, especially in the North-West (7.2%) and it’s lowest in the Centre (6.4%).

With reference to age groups, the incidence of absolute poverty stands at 13.4% among minors; at 12% among young people aged 18-34 (rising from 2021) and remains at a high 9.4% also in the 35-64 age group, while it remains below the national average for the people over 65 (6.3%).

In 2022, the incidence of absolute poverty is higher among families with a greater number of components/ The hardship is more marked for families with children, for which the incidence passes from 6.5% of families with only one minor child to 22.5% of those with three or more children.

The incidence of poverty among families with at least one elderly person is lower and it remains low among couples where the age of the reference person is over 64. In general, family poverty shows a decreasing trend as the age of the reference person increases; indeed, generally young families have less spending power since they earn incomes lower than average and have fewer savings or inherited assets accumulated over the course of their lives.

The trends in relative poverty indicators are the result of the dynamics of household consumption expenditure according to the various expenditure classes. Social bonuses for energy and gas - strongly strengthened in 2022 both in terms of the number of beneficiaries and in amount - contributed to contain the growth of poverty.

Poverty also decreases with the increase in education. The incidence is equal to 4.0% if the reference person has obtained at least a high secondary school diploma, while it stands at 12.5% (higher than 2021) in case of a middle school diploma.

Citizenship also plays an important role in determining the socio-economic status of the family. Foreigners in absolute poverty are over one million and 700 thousand, with an incidence equal to 34.0%, more than four times higher than among Italians (7.4%).

Another important factor to assess poverty and inclusion is the school dropout rate, which in Italy, according to the data collected by Openpolis, is around 11.5%, slightly lower than 2021, when Italy recorded the third highest dropout rate, now passing to the fifth.

In view of 2030, a European Council Resolution of February 2021 lowered by one point the target of the European dropout rate to 9%. To achieve this target, Italy must reduce the wide territorial gaps between the North and the South. Indeed, in Sicily 19% of the age group 18-24 are early school leavers, followed by Puglia (15.0%) and Campania (16.1%).

In 2022, according to EUROSTAT, NEETs were 1.67million of the population aged between 15 and 29. The highest concentration is found in the 25-29 year old age group, reaching peaks of 25.2% (more than one young person in four). In the 20-24 age group, NEETs are one in five (21.5%) and between 15 and 19 years old they are one in ten (10.1%).

Furthermore, the risk of being NEET is even higher for girls: 20.5% of Italian girls aged 15-29 are NEET, compared to 17.7% of boys.

Talking about inclusion, important data are those regarding the presence of unaccompanied foreign minors (MSNA), which 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.

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 organisation 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 adult and the emancipated minor, who are in a condition of habitual insanity that makes them incapable of providing for their own interests, must be banned from acting independently when this is necessary to ensure their proper protection".

With regard to labour legislation, law 68/99 "Rules for the Right to Work of people with disabilities" 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 people with disabilities. A person with disabilities is defined as "the person who has a physical, mental or sensory impairment, stabilised or progressive, which causes learning difficulties, relationship or work integration or such as to result in a process of social disadvantage or marginalisation".

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 adulthood.