In order to create the best educational course for nurses possible, it is necessary to understand the background in the Early Childcare and Education, its purpose and ways of work in the European countries. That is why the partners are working on a comparative study about the Early childcare and Education System in the partner countries.

The next country we would like to present after GreeceCzech RepublicFlanders, SwedenSpain and Germany is Italy.

Parenthood and employment

After Malta, Italy has the widest gender employment gap in Europe. That means that the difference between the employment rates of men and women of working age (20-64) is quite big compared to the other countries.  Italy also belongs to a conservative group of countries with the overall low degree of development of the welfare services.

Parallel to this institutional deficiency is the strong role of the family. The family’s commitment in providing welfare to its members has always been wide, both in terms of money and material support and of care. That means that usually women have taken care of all dependent family members, be it small children or elderly people. Even after the female participation to the labour market started to increase, from the Sixties and Seventies, this division of labour has never been overcome, but rather transformed into the so called women’s double shift as the care services did not develop at the same pace. The consequence of such an unbalance is an increase in social inequalities and the failure to assure equal chances to citizens.

Maternity/parental leave and benefits

Compulsory maternity leave ends 3 or 4 months after the child’s birth. Very few families resort to crèches already at this age. Most of them cumulate optional maternity leave, holidays and eventually help from grandparents in order to postpone the entry of children in the collective service at around 6-12 months of age. Several for profit crèches do not even accept children under one year of age, as very young children demand a lot in terms of structural tools and workers’ attention.. Municipal authorities often ignore the for-profit childcare supply existing on their territory. Around 1% of children <3 is estimated to attend non-occasionally an alternative service (Time for Families, micro-crèches…); for these estimates are more difficult, because their diffusion and their functioning are even more differentiated at local level.

An employee on maternity leave receives 80% of their remuneration for a period of 8 weeks before and 12 weeks after childbirth. Furthermore, all collective agreements require employers to make up for any gap in salary so the worker ultimately receives 100% of their average daily salary.

Unpaid Parental Leave also exists in Italy, entitled are:

  • The working mother, after the period of compulsory maternity leave, for a continuous or fractioned period of no more than 6 months.
  • The working father, from the birth of the child, for a period, even split, not exceeding 6 months or 7 months if he / she takes advantage of the optional abstention for a continuous period of not less than 3 months. In the latter case, the maximum period that can be used by both parents is raised to 11 months.
  • A single parent, for a continuous or split period of not more than 10 months
  • If the mother does not choose to take parental leave, she is entitled to work 6 hours only until the newborn is 12 months old.

Childcare provision

In Italy two trends have been recently observed: § 1) The gap between supply and the demand continues to grow. § 2) At the same time, the diversity of services offered is improving. In particular, private services are increasing due to the rule of the market; national incentives and local government policies are also mushrooming aiming to limiting public

As mother or the extended family usually remain to be the main carer for small children, we can see still quite low rates of use of formal childcare, compared to countries in the region.

If we focus on the use of formal childcare for children less than 3 years we can see differences among the countries which may reflect, at least to some degree, the different patterns of part-time/full-time work of parents across the countries.

PORTUGAL 47,2% 86,2%
SPAIN 18,7% 43,9%
FRANCE 31,9% 56,9%
ITALY 22,3% 74,3%


Qualification of nurses/childcare professionals

Despite the fact that the minimum qualification requirement for educational staff working with younger children is set at upper secondary (ISCED 3) level in some regions, the general trend is to employ educators (educatore dell’infanzia) with tertiary education degrees. In settings for younger children, the provision for auxiliary staff including their prerequisite qualifications are foreseen in the regional regulations. In public settings, auxiliary staff may also qualify through specific vocational courses organised at regional level. No formal qualification is required in private settings.