Below is some info on diversity and inclusion in Italy to help shed some light on day-to-day life.

Accessibility in Italy

Italy is one of the most accessible countries in Europe, and there are laws that guarantee the rights to independence and autonomy of people with disabilities. In some parts of society, however, there is still a social stigma attached to people with disabilities, and some families tend to keep disabled family members out of public view.

Italian Railways have a service called Sala Blu that assists people with a disability or reduced mobility during their train journey. Most trains have flat-access or wheelchair lifts, along with disabled seating, and most buses have a ramp for wheelchair users. There are also tactile guides at bus stops. Major airports in Italy offer a service that provides help to disabled people, including assistance during boarding and landing. This can be arranged through the airlines.

Hotels, restaurants, and public buildings are mostly accessible to those with disabilities, although it’s best to plan in advance and be aware of the cobblestone streets, narrow walkways and hilly terrain that characterise many Italian city centres – these may pose a challenge to those who rely on a wheelchair. There is a lack of dropped curbs and accessible transportation in many towns and cities.

Policies and interventions for school integration still suffer from the presence of architectural barriers and the lack of technological tools.

Further reading

LGBTQ+ in Italy

Italy is one of Western Europe’s most socially conservative countries, and although being gay is not a crime, it is still frowned upon by many people, and some gay people feel the need to remain in the closet. The gay scene in Rome is centred on the Gay Street di Roma, an area behind the Colosseum that has been designated as a gay-friendly neighbourhood. Milan has Italy's largest and most open gay scene, the Porta Venezia neighbourhood is the centre of gay life in the city, and its metro station is even decorated with rainbow colours to highlight this.

Same-sex activity has been legal in Italy since 1890, and a civil union law was passed in 2016 that gave same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples, though same-sex marriage remains impossible under Italian law for now. A recent poll showed that the majority of Italians are in favour of same-sex marriage (56 percent).

People have been allowed to legally change their gender since 1982 and Italy’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The European Union LGBTI Survey found that 62 percent of LGBTQ+ people in Italy rarely or never declare their sexual orientation; higher than the EU average of 53 percent. It also found that 22 percent of Italian LGBTQ+ individuals perceive some discrimination at work, which is around the average within EU countries.

Further reading

Gender equality in Italy

Gender equality in Italy has increased markedly in the last ten years, but the country still ranks below its Western European peers in the EIGE Gender Equality Index. There is a growing acceptance of gender equality, especially in the north of Italy, but in some sections of society women are still expected to stay at home and care for the house and children, rather than join the workforce and earn a salary. Only 67 percent of women work in Italy, compared to 79 percent of men.

Women in Italy excel in both secondary and tertiary education, and 60 percent of Italian university graduates are female. Despite the statistics, there are plenty of opportunities in the workplace for women, and the majority who graduate from university go on to get good jobs.

Further reading

Interview with Juli-Anne, a Jamaican expat in Italy

Women in leadership in Italy

Women remain under-represented in senior management roles, and although the gender pay gap has decreased in Italy, women are on average still paid 14 percent less per hour than their male counterparts. This gender gap in retribution is as if women work for free for two months per year. 28 percent of senior managers in Italy are women.

Female representation on the boards of Italy’s largest companies is just less than 40 percent, which puts Italy towards the top of the rankings among the G20 countries.

Women occupy around a third of the seats in Parliament, which is a similar ratio to countries like the UK, Germany and The Netherlands.  

Mental health awareness in Italy

Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by stress and loneliness. International companies are becoming more aware of the impact of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental illness is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes, as well as promoting knowledge and decreasing stigma by holding in-house workshops. There is a level of stigma in Italy, and misunderstanding of mental disorders, which can prevent or delay people seeking help.

Expats who are registered with an Italian GP (medico di famiglia) can make an appointment to see them and if necessary, they will refer patients to a suitable hospital or the local mental health centre (CSM, centro di salute mentale). Expats who are not yet registered with an Italian GP can contact the local health authority (ASL, azienda sanitaria locale) to register. Once registered, the ASL will provide a list of state-enrolled doctors to select from. There are also plenty of excellent English-speaking private psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals that can be contacted directly.

Further reading – a list of English-speaking doctors in Italy

Unconscious bias training in Italy

The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're often inaccurate and based on assumptions.

Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.

Further reading

Diversification of the workforce in Italy

There are around 2.5 million foreign workers in Italy in total, and the number of non-EU residents in Italy has increased by 44 percent over the last ten years. The number of non-EU nationals working for companies in Italy is highest for men working in the northeast of the country at 15 percent. The promotion of ethnic diversity and inclusion in the workforce still faces many obstacles, principally because of the bureaucratic procedures for hiring foreigners in Italy.

Despite the socially conservative attitudes of many Italians, leading companies in Italy scored very highly in a recent Diversity Leaders table published by the Financial Times. The table assessed employees’ perception of inclusiveness or efforts to promote various aspects of diversity within their respective industries.

Safety in Italy

Italy is one of the safest countries in the world, but petty theft is common, and expats should avoid walking alone late at night, be street smart, and keep their valuables hidden. There are incidents of pickpocketing in busy or touristy areas and on public transport. There are low rates of violent crime, and incidents are much lower than in the US, for instance. While Italy is a safe place for single women, Italian men can be flirtatious, and it is not uncommon for women to hear “ciao bella”. It's usually best to ignore the comment and walk on.

Calendar initiatives in Italy

4 February – World Cancer Day
28 February – Rare Disease Day
March – TB Awareness Month
17 May – International Day Against Homophobia
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Gay Pride events in Rome and Milan
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day