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Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in Italy

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: April 2015

Work Culture

People are normally addressed as Signor or Signora on introduction or with their professional title. These titles should continue to be used until you are invited otherwise. The Italians are well known for their sense of style; looking good is more important than simple smartness. This does not just apply in the office but in any workplace; you should always make an effort to look good,  and demeanour is important too. Men should wear a elegant, stylish suit and women can do the same or wear a dress.

In general, there is less formality than most countries in the Italian workplace. The Italians are an expressive, emotional people and this is reflected in their business meetings. It is common to shake hands at the beginning of the meeting and to exchange business cards – which should be in Italian and include your qualifications. Usually there is also social conversation at the beginning and at the end of the meeting. It is not considered rude to interrupt people and expressing emotions is not considered unprofessional or unusual.

Furthermore, it may take some time for your colleagues to reach a decision, as they may not be in a hurry. In addition, hierarchy is still important. For example, you should stand when an older person enters the room.

Italians are occasionally punctual (when the mood takes them), though they may have higher expections of you. It is better to arrive on time to be on the safe side, at least at first. Hours of business usually include a two-hour lunch break and can be from 8:00 to 1:00 and 3:00 to 8:00. Larger businesses will have the more internationally recognised hours, however.

Business is conducted on a personal rather than transactional level, so people will start to trust you once you have begun to open up to them. The better you are at building up this trust and camaraderie, the easier you will find it to get on in Italy. This means that networking is an integral part of Italian business culture. There are numerous business groups and professional associations in Italy.


Labour Market

The Italian economy has had a rough ride during the global recession and its long aftermath. Apart from a brief resurgence in 2010-11, Italy’s GDP has been decreasing since 2008. The decrease is now small, but this is still a problem. Unemployment is currently between 12% and 13%, which is considerably higher than the world average of 8%. Youth unemployment, meanwhile, is at a highly alarming 41%. This means that, currently, moving to Italy for work may not be worthwhile in many cases, though highly skilled professions such as computer programming are still in demand.

As jobs are in short supply, applications are subject to an order of priority. Italian citizens come first, then EU citizens, and finally non-EU citizens. This means that there are few positions available for those from outside the EU. Those that are available tend to be high-level management roles in multinationals.




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Working in Italy can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in Italy, and general Italian culture of the labour market.



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