Gender gap: from female unemployment to economic violence

Mum holding a baby
Mum holding a baby

When, in a relationship, the use of money and lack of financial autonomy are used as a means of abuse, the economic aspect can play a decisive role as a form of gender-based violence.
If women are not working or are underemployed, underpaid, financially exploited, economic dependence on their husbands or partners can turn into a particular form of psychological violence, which is more insidious because it is less visible than physical or sexual violence: it is economic violence.

These were the topics discussed at the meeting entitled “When your Love asks you for the receipt” organised in Turin by the Museo del Risparmio (Museum of Saving) in partnership with the States General of Women. The event was attended by Giovanna Paladino, Director and Curator of the Museum of Saving, an institution committed to financial literacy and awareness-raising on the issue of financial education; Isa Maggi, coordinator of the States General of Women, Women's Alliance; psychologist Giorgia Ortu La Barbera; Bruna Bruni, President of Aiaf Piedmont (the Association of Lawyers for Families and Minors); and teacher Alessandra Fiori.

What is economic violence and how to recognise it

It is not always obvious whether one is a victim of economic violence, but insight can be acquired by asking a few questions. Here are those suggested by Giorgia Ortu La Barbera to assess one's degree of economic independence:

• Do you independently dispose of the money necessary for your family's needs?

• Are you aware of the economic and financial situation of your family?

• Do you actively contribute to the financial decisions that are made?

Negative answers can be considered a wake-up call. But economic violence can also be exercised against economically autonomous women, for instance by forcing them to sign sureties, provide guarantees, or mortgage real estate. In short, to expose oneself personally to help the partner’s business. 

Women and money: when cultural heritage and stereotypes accompany economic violence

Ortu La Barbera mentioned that economic violence often manifests itself already in language, in proverbs and popular sayings, because our culture is full of preconceptions and generalisations about women being kept by their husbands, preferably spendthrift women. This concept is summed up perfectly in the saying, 

"The successful man is the one who earns more than his wife spends, and the successful woman is the one who married that man."

A cultural legacy that perpetuates stereotypes, which are hard to eradicate.
In addition to that of the “ATM man” and the “squanderer woman”, there is also the one that sees women exclusively assigned the tasks of caring for children and the elderly, besides household management. This prevents many women from working outside the home.

Review the event “When your Love asks you for the receipt”.

Gender Gap: female unemployment generating the economic gap

Data is very clear about this issue. Alessandra Fiori recalled that scholars of the gender gap agree that the goals set by the UN with the 2030 Agenda will not be met. Indeed, in the world, the next generation of women will carry out an average of 2.3 hours per day more unpaid domestic work than today, while European welfare researchers say it will take 67 years to close the gap between men and women in Europe.

Italy in particular ranks among the last in Europe for the female employment rate. At 48.2%, it is more than 10 points below the European average of 59.5%. Hence, half the women do not work, and two out of three lack autonomy in managing their budget. In Southern Italy the situation is harder still, with female labour participation standing at 35.5%.

Work as an element of liberation from economic violence

In Italy, as in the rest of the world, the road to equality and women's freedom necessarily passes through having an occupation and, therefore, a salary in order to be able to participate independently or equally in the management of the household's economic resources. And the essential condition for being able to find (and keep) a job is to have sufficient time available. Therefore, it is equally important to be able to negotiate a fair distribution of care burdens within the home: 

a fair division of care tasks for home and children between men and women, and within the family in general, is a necessary condition for women to be able to perform their work to the best of their ability.

Attending courses on financial economic empowerment can also be useful, especially for women who must support themselves or a household with their income alone.

Civic education and the society of the future: talking about economic violence in schools

School, needless to say, can and must play a key role in overcoming this situation. Bruna Bruni, whose association is attempting to do this in Piedmont, told us about this. They have launched pilot initiatives in three schools through an experimental educational path. The plan is to bring activities into classrooms to help adolescents avoid paths that can lead to economic violence, and raise awareness among students about the importance of economic independence as a prerequisite for actually being free.