Italy’s economy is one of the strongest in the EU. Despite this, the country does struggle with a high unemployment rate relative to the rest of Western Europe, as well as slow growth rates. There are also large disparities between the northern and southern regions of the country.
As Italy still boasts a large economy, developed infrastructure, beautiful scenery and high quality of life, it's little wonder that many expats are attracted to the idea of working in Italy.
Job market in Italy
Italian companies such as Ferrari and Prada are world renowned, and the country is well known for being a global fashion centre and manufacturer of automobiles. At the same time, this does not give a full picture since different industries operate in different regions. Additionally, Italy has a relatively small number of international corporations, while small and medium enterprises create the most jobs.
Northern Italy is well developed, industrialised and responsible for most exports. Southern Italy, on the other hand, is economically much weaker, far more agricultural and struggles with much higher rates of unemployment. As a result, many new arrivals work in Italy’s northern regions and Rome, the Italian capital.
With a lack of natural resources throughout the country, the main driver of the Italian economy is its service sector. Tourism plays an especially significant role, with the wealth of cultural attractions in Italy drawing in millions of tourists every year.
The manufacturing sector also plays a key role in Italy’s economy, with the country’s biggest exports including cars, furniture, food-processing and, unsurprisingly, fashion. While the agricultural sector makes a relatively small contribution to Italy’s GDP, Italy is one of the world’s largest producers of wine, olive oil and fruit, especially in the south of the country.
The industries that have traditionally been the most open to foreigners are tourism, finance, media and communication, and international business. That said, the current economic climate does make finding a job in Italy as a foreigner quite challenging.
Teaching English in Italy is an increasingly popular option for expats wanting to take up employment in the country. Given higher levels of competition for jobs, those who have the relevant qualifications and experience are most likely to find work as teachers.
Finding a job in Italy
While it is changing with the younger generations, a large proportion of Italians don’t speak English. Italian continues to be the official language of business and, as a result, foreigners looking for a job in Italy will often be expected to be fluent in the local language. As a rule, Italian businesses are biased towards qualifications over experience. Those who are most likely to find employment in Italy will therefore have one or more degrees and will be able to speak Italian.
There are several avenues that foreigners searching for jobs in Italy can explore. National newspapers often advertise vacancies for higher-level employees, while online job portals and recruiters are also viable options. Some expats look for short-term jobs first to get experience in the Italian workplace before trying to land a longer-term appointment.
While EU citizens have a right to work in the country, those from outside of the EU will require a work permit for Italy.
Work culture in Italy
Business culture, like Italian society in general, respects age and seniority. New arrivals will notice this extends to the workplace where hierarchical structures are the norm. Expats will find that it is always important to dress well as appearances and first impressions are important to Italians.
Business hours in Italy are usually between 8am and 1pm and from 3pm to 7pm, depending on the business and the industry. Many businesses, especially in the retail sector, close on Monday mornings. While this is less the case at major firms in big cities, Italians traditionally take a two-hour lunch, contributing to the somewhat unorthodox working day.
►For more on Italian work culture, read Doing Business in Italy
►Check out Teaching English in Italy for more on this career path
"It is more dependent upon who you know and who recommends you, rather than experience or merit." Read how Valerie describes work culture in Italy in her personal expat interview.
"The north of Italy at least is far more work orientated (particularly cities like Milan, Turin and Bologna)." Read more on the differences between the north and south of Italy from Sarah's interview.
Are you an expat living in Italy?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Italy. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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