Female Slovenian workers enjoy the best conditions and are much better represented at a managerial level. Social research carried out at the International Institute of Sociology in Gorizia compares the female populations in Austria, Slovenia and Friuli Venezia Giulia (NE Italy) in the fields of economics and employment
Greater ease in finding work, less discrimination, a network of services that supports mothers. The women of Slovenia can count on the best working conditions and quality of life. This is what emerges from a doctoral thesis on the conditions enjoyed by women in the Euroregion.
‘Gender inequalities and social conditions of employed women in the Alps-Adriatic region. A comparison between Carinthia, Friuli – Venezia Giulia and Slovenia’ is the title of the work of Serena Fedel, carried out between Friuli Venezia Giulia, Slovenia and Carinthia, during a doctorate in transboundary policies in daily life, through the Institute of International Sociology in Gorizia together with a consortium of ten universities from Central and Eastern Europe.
The aim of the research and fieldwork was to analyse the approach towards gender differences in the three areas. Jumping to the work’s conclusions one discovers that Slovenia is without doubt the country where women find fewer obstacles in achieving their aims, especially economically and in the workplace. This, of course, without forgetting how these two aspects have a positive effect in the social and family spheres. But behind these conclusions there is a long piece of research that begins with the reasons that, today, produce the different outcomes, in Austria, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia. Amongst these, without doubt, is the socialist heritage of ex-Yugoslavia.
“The comparison between the three different realities – explains Serena Fedel – shows how Slovenia is more progressive in this sector, as a result of the country’s socialist past. Even in the Constitution women are called upon to work like men. As a result an entire system has been created to help women to reconcile family and professional obligations through nursery schools to the provision of canteens.
Without doubt therefore, over time, a greater sensitivity (to women’s issues) has developed”.
The Italian situation is very different. Even if there are differences, borne out in the thesis, between what takes place in Italy as a whole and in Friuli Venezia Giulia in particular. If, at a Italian level, the number of women in work is far lower than in Slovenia, in Friuli Venezia Giulia the figures are much improved, even though a larger gap between the sexes still remains.
The data, provided by Eurostat and this Italian Region’s Statistical Almanac show a level of male unemployment at 2.6% whilst that for women stands at 5.8%, set against 10.1% at a national level. In Slovenia 6.1% of men are unemployed and 7% of women. In Austria the respective figures are 4.9% and 5.5%. The reasons lie in the strong influence of the Catholic Church in the separation of the roles within the family and the laws that continue to reflect the patriarchal tradition of the Italian family. The model according to which the woman takes care of the children has brought about a more limited provision of services.
This affects the hours of the nurseries and schools which are largely incompatible with parents where both work full time. All this without looking at the terms of parental leave that guarantee only 30% of the salary.
The dissatisfaction of women regarding their position, both professionally and within the family, is also seen in the interviews carried out by Serena Fedel.
The analysis of the various pieces of legislation and the practices in the various areas have been placed alongside fieldwork through a series of interviews with Austrian, Italian and Slovene women employed by the same banking group. “The results – says Fedel – confirmed my hypothesis and the first group of women interviewed stressed the absolute incompatibility of the care services with full-time work. The Slovene situation once again proved completely different, where the system of parental leave was much more generous and, because of this, women were much better represented at a managerial level“.
Even though some change in the old family model, based on the working man and the housewife, was recorded, especially in the Region Friuli Venezia Giulia, the changes were limited to the field of work, whilst less change was seen in the division of housework: the time dedicated to housework was decidedly imbalanced (between the sexes) as were the requests for parental leave which were rather only occasionally amongst the men.
The Austrian reality, and that of Carinthia in particular, presents yet another, different set of characteristics. Here part-time work represents a widespread option for women and mothers in particular, so as to reconcile the time needed for one’s profession with that required for maternity. The possibility to go part-time, together with the generous parental leave given by employers allows women to risk leaving their careers or at least carry almost exclusively on their shoulders the responsibility for childcare and housework, but tends to increase the disparity in terms of pay (between the sexes). Female Austrian workers, in fact, can stay at home with the child until it is 30 months old and get a part-time post until the child reaches the age of seven.
Serena Fedel’s analysis goes into the details. The questionnaire given to 30 female workers in Austria, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia aims to analyse the family and working conditions and their opinions on sex equality policies.
The questions therefore range from the level of satisfaction felt towards parental leave to that on the role given to women in their respective families, through to the level of satisfaction with the services provided by their employers. If the Austrian and Slovene women show that flexible working hours and the opportunities for leave represent the positive side of the equation, the female Italian workers’ responses illustrate a series of difficulties. “Being a woman penalises you, inasmuch as you can be as good as the men, but the men are preferred. Compared to a men you have more things to worry about: there’s not only the work but also the children, the house… even if you put in the same effort, you risk coming out worse…”, one reads in the interviews. Going on: “The differences in treatment are there for all to see”, summing up with those who believe that “the thing is all quite open and above board… because it’s women who have children and that’s why they are discriminated against in the world of work.
There are women who have children and manage to make a career for themselves but it’s difficult and they have to fight harder to get where they are and then hold their position…”. x