Working in Italy
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Find out how to get a job and work in Italy
Are you being sent to Italy on an expat assignment, or have you decided to take a new direction in your career? Our InterNations GO! guide covers all the essential information you need to know before working in Italy, from visas and work permits, to tips for the job hunt.
Employment in Italy
At a Glance:
- Italy is the eighth largest economy globally, with a large service sector accounting for 75% of the national GDP.
- Nationals of non-EU countries will need to apply for a work permit before starting work in Italy.
- Women in Italy are entitled to five months maternity leave: two months before giving birth and three months after.
- English is not as widely spoken all over Italy as in some other European countries, so learning some Italian prior to your move is a must.
For a number of years, Italy has been a popular destination for expats looking for a change of scene. While red tape can be a bit of a nuisance, the prospect of relocating your career Italy is an exciting one.
Challenging Times for the Italian Economy
Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy, with a 2.5% share of the world economy. It has a heavily service-based economy, with the tertiary sector accounting for around 75% of the GDP. Compared with other economies of a similar size, Italy has fewer large international businesses, but lots more small to medium-sized companies.
Among other things, Italy’s key industries are automotive production, chemicals, food, and fashion. The year 2016 saw record numbers of tourists visiting Italy — almost 50 million — making tourism one of the country’s most important industries.
Northern Italy is generally wealthier and more industrialized, offering more jobs in the service sector, while the more rural south is less wealthy, with higher unemployment rates. Agriculture plays a more important role in the southern regions.
However, even the more traditionally prosperous north has been affected by the general economic troubles. Though Italy’s economy seemed to slowly recover following the financial crisis of 2008/2009, this positive trend did not last long. Since 2012, the country has been going through a serious recession, forcing the government to introduce budget cuts to curb expenses. These cuts have, in turn, impacted on the domestic market and consumption. Unemployment rates have also increased, with youth unemployment being greatly affected — the current rate stands at 35.7%. However, in the second quarter of 2017, the Italian economy saw its best growth rate since 2011, demonstrating that things are gradually improving. While many industries continue to struggle, tourism appears to have stabilized, and visitor numbers are estimated to continue to grow over the next few years.
Become an Official Resident!
Before you can start working in Italy, you must make sure to get a social security number and health insurance. Applying for a social security card is a one-time-only affair, which you can do at the INPS (Instituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale), Italy’s National Social Security Institute.
While working in Italy, you will be automatically registered with social security by your employer. If you are self-employed, you must contact the INPS yourself. Ask for more information regarding the payment of social security contributions, as these figures vary based on income and type of work.
Tackling the Bureaucratic Obstacles
As an EU citizen or a member of the Schengen Agreement countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Switzerland, Monaco, or the Vatican City), you do not need to apply for a special work visa. The European Union allows you to work in any EU member state.
However, if you are not a national of the countries mentioned above, you must apply for a work visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the nearest Italian Embassy or Consulate. Remember to allow enough time for your application to be processed and take care of this long before entering the country to start your new job.
All non-EU nationals must apply for a residence permit within eight days of their arrival. This can be done by filling out a special application pack that is available at many (though not all) local post offices. The residence permit may or may not be granted within 120 days — although it’s rare that it will be rejected if you have a job lined up for you.
Finding work is generally more complicated for expats working in Italy outside a traditional foreign assignment. Preference in job openings is given to Italians. Therefore, it is very useful if you can offer a certain skill or expertise in a field that may be lacking qualified labor, such as bio technology. You will be treated like any other Italian employee and receive the same benefits once you have officially started working in Italy.
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Etiquette and the Job Search in Italy
Women and men have equal legal rights in Italy. However, it may be important for expat women to know that there are slight salary differences between men and women. Italy’s gender pay gap is, however, one of the smallest in the EU, standing at 5.5%, compared with an EU average of 16.3%. Women get a total of five months of paid maternity leave: two months before and three months after the birth of their child. Working women may not be fired for one year after the birth of their child. It is, however, expected of them to find childcare quickly after giving birth.
Traditional Business Etiquette
Most Italians are very open and friendly, curious and sometimes a bit loud, which can be a little overwhelming for expatriates from some other cultures. Socially speaking, Italians are very laid back, but when it comes to business situations, things are taken seriously.
If you are unsure of how to act when dealing with Italian business partners, then read the following points carefully:
- Italians tend to prefer doing business with people whom they know and trust.
- Italians value hierarchy; they respect power and age.
- If you are in a meeting, do not always expect an agreement to be reached. Meetings are generally more about brainstorming and exchanging ideas.
- In northern Italy, people often get down to business immediately, while in southern Italy small talk precedes most business talks. Be prepared to talk about your family and country of origin.
- Be sure that you are dressed impeccably, as Italians tend to judge people by their outward appearance.
- Don’t schedule meetings in August, as many businesses close for this summer month.
- Be punctual to meetings in the north. In the south, arriving 15 minutes late is generally not a problem.
- If you are invited to a business lunch or dinner, dress formally and bring your host a gift.
Speak Italian & Be Well-Connected
There are two key aspects for finding work in Italy: speaking Italian and networking. While there are of course the usual job sites that can be used worldwide, such as Monster and JobOnline, relationships are definitely valued in Italy, making it very important to build up a good network of contacts. This can be difficult if you do not speak much Italian, especially as English is not generally spoken as widely, or to as high a standard, as in many other European nations.
If you plan on moving to Italy but have not yet secured a job, then a good short-term solution for native English speakers is to teach English for a while. Many language schools throughout Italy are frequently looking for new teachers, and it gives you a chance to get settled and meet new contacts, while earning some money.
How and Where to Find a Job in Italy
Tips for Job Seekers
If you do not want to teach English and would like to try searching for jobs in the conventional way, here are some tips:
- Translate your CV into Italian. If you are not fluent in Italian, it is worthwhile spending the money on a professional translator.
- Be honest about your Italian language skills, as potential employers will likely put you to the test in an interview.
- Check local and regional job listings in newspapers, and also visit companies in person. People tend to remember faces rather than names and making a personal impression on a potential employer may benefit you in the long run.
- Be sure to have all your university degrees and certificates translated into Italian.
Most European university degrees are accepted by Italian employers.
Of course, where you decide to go about searching for a job is very much related to the line of work you are in and which industry you would like to join. When thinking of Italy, Rome automatically comes to mind.
Rome houses dozens of diplomatic missions, the overseas offices of international media, and numerous companies in the services sector, e.g. tourism or professional services. In addition, Rome is home to a big international airport and many international schools, which might be a deciding factor for expats moving with their families.
Any bankers looking for a bit of a change of scene should consider making the move to Italy’s business capital, Milan.
Despite the economic crisis that has shaken the finance sector, Milan is one of the world’s largest financial centers, and people there have the highest average income in Italy. It is the seat of the Italian stock exchange, and also where many international banks have chosen to base important offices.
Today, Milan is a leading exporter of textiles and garments. Fashion labels such as Prada, Valentino, and Versace have their headquarters there. Milan also welcomes a lot of tourists each year, so if you are looking to work in a tourism-related business, this could be a good destination for you.
Sicily and Sardinia
Sicily and Sardinia are popular places to settle down if you are looking to become self-employed in the tourist business. Although the two islands are already full of tourism offices, hotels, and restaurants, there’s nothing to say that your business won’t fit in. So, if you’re interested, it is certainly worth a try. Remember that you must be a legal resident to apply for self-employment status, and that you will be paying your social security contributions and health insurance on your own.