25 September 2015
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today considered the fifth report of Italy on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Gianludovico de Martino, Minister Plenipotentiary and President of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Human Rights, highlighted that notwithstanding the economic crisis, Italy had kept pace with its Constitution and kept affirming its values strongly and publicly. The Italian Constitution envisaged economic rights such as the right to property, freedom to undertake economic initiatives, the right to work and to freely choose one’s work, the right to form trade unions, the right to equal and favourable conditions of work, equal treatment and social security. In October 2014, Italy had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Because of its geographic location, Italy had been exposed to massive inflows of migrants in recent years. The full implementation of the principle of “non-refoulement” in compliance with international norms was always granted. Italy was more than ever strongly committed to search and rescue activities at sea.
Committee Experts commended Italy’s advancement in terms of the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, and congratulated the Government for the ratification of the Optional Protocol. They also recognized Italy’s work in rescue operations and noted the steps taken towards combatting discrimination and violence against women. Among the issues that still remained were gender stereotyping in the work place and the home, obesity, prevalence of smoking among youth, school drop-out rates, the lack of a National Human Rights Institution, prison overcrowding, budgetary cuts in social and health areas due to austerity measures, corruption, access for persons with disabilities, the lack answers on cultural rights in the report and breast-feeding. The lack of justiciability of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights remained an issue. Experts also noted that in spite of the ratification of the Optional Protocol, Italy had not recognized the competence of the Committee to do inquiries. Serious concern remained regarding the plight of the Roma living in camps with poor sanitary conditions, little access to public housing, discrimination, and facing continued forced evictions.
In concluding remarks, Lydia Carmelita Ravenberg, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, and for their efforts to respond to all questions, even though not all of the issues had been covered.
Mr. de Martino, in concluding remarks, thanked the Experts for their observations and looked forward to the concluding recommendations on how Italy could more effectively promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights.
Waleed Sadi, Committee Chairperson, stated that Italy was an advanced nation, and, as such, it was expected to set an example to other countries.
The delegation of Italy consisted of the representatives of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Human Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labour, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the National Institute for Statistics, the Milan Centre for Food Law and Policies, the Ministry of Interior, and the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will resume its work on Monday, 28 September, at 10 a.m. for a meeting with partners.
The fifth report of Italy (E/C.12/ITA/5) can be accessed here.
Presentation of the Report
GIANLUDOVICO DE MARTINO, Minister Plenipotentiary and President of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Human Rights, stated that, notwithstanding the economic crisis, Italy had kept pace with its Constitution and kept affirming its values strongly and publicly. The Italian Constitution envisaged economic rights such as the right to property, freedom to undertake economic initiatives, the right to work and to freely choose one’s work, the right to form trade unions, the right to equal and favourable conditions of work, equal treatment and social security. In October 2014, Italy had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
During the previous five years, Italy had faced a severe economic crisis that had led to the increase of the unemployment rate up to 12.7 percent in 2014. Even worse was the situation among the young people. In order to address the challenge of an employment intensive recovery of the economy, Italy had introduced three main reforms: the Fornero Labour Market Reform, the Youth Employment Strategy, and the Jobs Act. In 2013, a legislative decree had established the general outline of the National System of Certification of Skills. An inter-institutional working group had been set up at the Ministry of Labour for the validation and certification of skills acquired in non-formal contexts. Italy had also devoted a lot of attention to the issue of monitoring the results of labour market reforms. The latest statistical data showed some improvement of main employment indicators.
With regard to social rights, Italy was hosting EXPO 2015 in Milan, entitled “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life”, with a special focus on the theme of food and aspects related to food. An extraordinary Action Plan against sexual and gender violence had been developed by the Department for Equal Opportunities, with the contribution of civil society. Healthcare assistance to non-European Union citizens not legitimately present in Italy was guaranteed through hospital emergency services. The law forbade healthcare and administrative personnel from alerting police officials of illegal migrants who made use of their health structures. In 2011, the Ministry of Health had adopted a special alert system for the first assistance to migrants.
Because of its geographic position, over the previous two years Italy had been exposed to massive inflows of migrants. The full implementation of the principle of “non-refoulement” in compliance with the international norms was always granted. Italy was more than ever strongly committed to search and rescue activities at sea. After the Lampedusa tragedy, Italy had intensified search and rescue activities by launching in October 2013 the operation “Mare Nostrum” to deal with the humanitarian emergency. The total number of migrants until now in 2015 stood at 128,993.
Questions by Experts
WALEED SADI, Chairman of the Committee, said that the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was a very positive step and a strong statement that Italy was moving forward in the promotion and protection of economic social and cultural rights.
LYDIA CARMELITA RAVENBERG, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for its extensive report. A positive development was the ratification of the Optional Protocol as well as the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. Though the report was detailed, adopting legislation and making policy were not the only steps to be taken. The Committee had to be informed about the measures taken on implementation.
To date there was still no independent National Human Rights Institution in conformance to the Paris Principles. What were the plans in this respect? Would such an institution have a broad mandate, and was civil society fully involved with the drafting of a bill establishing it?
There was also lack of information on people seeking redress for human rights violations, the Expert noted.
Austerity measures were affecting access to social security, housing health, education and food, and inequality across the country was increasing. What kind of indicators and data collection systems were used to monitor the effects of budget cuts to persons with disabilities? Was the rationalization of public expenditures taking into consideration the real effects on the population and, if so, based on which data? Were economic and social policies interlinked, the Expert asked.
Another Expert asked the delegation to update the Committee on the legal framework on migrants.
An Expert asked what the difference was between the fact that economic rights were part of Italy’s Constitution and other rights, which were classified under “promotion of justice”.
Regarding anti-discrimination, how were all points in the Covenant covered?
The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants had recommended the National System of Collection of Data – had the Government already started with that, and were they familiar with the Human Rights Indicators?
Another Expert said that he was impressed by the efforts of the Italian Coast Guard in rescuing refugees, adding that it merited a Nobel Prize. How were the rights of refugees and asylum seekers assessed from the perspective of the Covenant?
An Expert noted that although Italy had ratified the Optional Protocol, it had not recognized the competence of the Committee to do inquiry.
Could the delegation comment on human rights education?
Regarding non-discrimination and equality, what measures were in place to protect persons with disabilities? There was no concept of reasonable accommodation in the Law for Persons with Disabilities, and persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities were not included in the classification of persons with disabilities.
On discrimination against women, an Expert stated that it was most important to tackle the prevailing mentality. How was the work shared between mothers and fathers? Was there any parental leave for fathers to participate in childcare, in order to mitigate the stereotype gender roles?
Another Committee Expert was concerned that there was no case law arising from the direct applicability of the Covenant. It was paradoxical that Italy had ratified the Optional Protocol, but its applicability was unclear in the internal legal system.
The level of corruption in Italy was estimated at about 60 billion euros, or four percent of the gross domestic product, each year, which implied that many funds that could be used to improve economic, social and cultural rights were being wasted. What was the Government doing to combat corruption?
Another Expert congratulated the Government on the Mare Nostrum operation. People coming to the shores had different categories. How did the Government distinguish between them? Some were migrants, some asylum seekers, and some refugees.
What did one do, in case that there was a conflict between a provision under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and another international obligation?
An Expert asked for a clarification of the notion of socially useful workers.
Regarding youth unemployment, question was asked about the assessment in terms of how efficient and effective the implemented instruments had been.
What measures were taken to empower Roma women through employment?
Regarding Article 7 on the Right to just and favourable conditions of work, an Expert asked whether it would not be better to opt for a monthly rather than an hourly minimum wage. Could the delegation elaborate on the concept of equal pay for work of equal value?
What kind of social security benefits were provided for non-nationals?
An Expert said that, regarding trade union freedoms, the country’s report spoke of trade unions of employees and employers. Were those on equal basis, or was the weaker side better protected? Could the delegation clarify its answers in the report regarding Article 39 and trade unions? What sort of legal remedies could be used? Was there a right to strike?
Another Expert noted an increase in employment, which was very positive. Could the delegation clarify the notion of “atypical” employment contracts?
The delegation was asked to provide information on the current policy and statistics on promoting employment of persons with disabilities. What was the policy of the Government on funding for accessibility infrastructure?
An Expert said that, according to the information available, women could be worst affected by the crisis, due to the fact that they were most represented in the education and social sectors, which were most affected by the budgetary cuts. Savings were being made in public budget by limiting availability of hours in kindergartens and primary schools, which were in high demand among single mothers. Which measures was the Government planning to undertake in light of the austerity measures, regarding the right of women, in particular their right to work?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the first part of the Constitution envisaged economic, social and cultural rights. The justiciability stemmed from the Constitution. If rights were denied, cases could be brought to the Constitutional Court under certain circumstances. Notably cases of denial of access occurred typically in the health sector.
The Roma Strategy included provisions on employment and a gender perspective. In 2014, the National Office against Discrimination had launched a programme entitled “Diversity on the Job” which proposed 220 vocational trainings. Regarding best practices over the previous two years, access had focused on the Sinti people in the construction sector. In Venice, Cremona, Turin, Milan, Naples and other cities, a number of programmes had been enacted in that direction for the Roma and the Sinti.
Regarding health care, the delegation reiterated that all persons were entitled to health-care services, including irregular migrants. The 2012 Guidelines for the Correct Application of Heath Care in Autonomous Projects targeted that issue, especially for the Roma.
Answering questions on women and employment, the delegation said that women participated much more in the services sector, while in the information technology, building and construction sectors participation of women was particularly low. In 2014, women represented 41.9 percent of the employed people. Women were over-represented in the social, education, health and hotel service sectors and under-represented in traditionally male occupations, such as construction. The presence of women entrepreneurs was particularly low. More than one third of managers in the non-profit sector was female, while in the business sector the figure was just over 12 percent. In public institutions, over 40.8 percent of the management was women. In the judiciary, the presence of women had decreased in the top positions. There had been a revolution in the presence of women in boards of private and state owned companies, thanks to a new law that obliged them to have at least 33 percent by women by 2015. In order to improve the role of women in science and to fight discrimination against women in that strategic sector, a project had been enacted with the help of the European Union.
The delegation stated that there was alarming data on the sexual violence against women, and in order to counter that, the Government had launched a programme to fight against the paternalistic mentality. Steps had been taken to remove advertising showing degrading images of women or inciting violence against women.
There was compulsory paternal leave in the Italian system, which needed to be used within five months of the child’s birth. Parental leave was flexible, and it could be granted to adoptive parents, or taken through part-time employment.
Stereotypes about gender professions were less prevalent among younger people, highly educated individuals, and residents of northern Italy. Over 70 percent of the total time devoted to household work was by women. Italy had a data collection system in place and was regularly gathering data on discrimination.
The numbers of persons with functional limitations had decreased, the delegation said, and women accounted for two thirds of the total. In the south of Italy and the islands, the numbers remained higher. Only 19.7 percent of people with severe limitations were employed. The level of education among persons with disabilities was on average lower than that of the rest of the population.
Questions by Experts
An Expert inquired about the plight of Roma living in camps with poor sanitary conditions, little access to public housing and facing discrimination. There were no adequate housing units for low income families. Those issues had been raised in 2004, and had still not been addressed. What corrective measures had been taken to improve the situations of disadvantaged groups to tackle the poverty rate?
What steps were being taken to put an immediate stop to the repeated forced evictions of Roma families, without adequate compensation or housing, the Expert asked. Did the Italian legislation have clear legislation against evictions? Did the State party intend to enact national legislation concerning forced evictions? Why were Roma who were willing to leave camps and seek alternative housing, not provided rent allowances and other social aid?
The delegation was asked about concrete measures be taken to develop non-discriminatory measures to include social housing for Roma, in line with the National Strategy for Roma Inclusion. A recent court ruling of May 2015 stated that any large-scale housing solution directed only at persons belonging to the same ethnic group, as had been the case in the La Barbutta Camp, was regarded as discriminatory. What concrete measures were being taken to combat discrimination against Roma families who were parked and segregated in mono-ethnic camps?
Another Expert inquired about the considerable inequalities and standard of living, especially in the southern parts and islands. How effective had the measures been in that regard? What was being done to improve the rights of persons in the informal economy?
Question was asked on special provisions against violence against girls and women with disabilities. Due to the austerity measures, the budget for health had been severely affected. One of the side effects had been the return to institutionalization of persons with disabilities, instead of home care. How were the rights of persons with disabilities addressed in home settings?
Many Italian women could not obtain abortion, an Expert noted. A woman should be able to undergo abortion in spite of doctor’s conscientious objection. How could a woman be provided abortion services?
About nine million people in 2013 had said that they could not attend to health services due to increased fees. Were there specific ways to avoid that those measures affected marginalized persons?
Another Expert stated that there had been a sharp increase of tobacco use, particularly among children and adolescents. What measures were being taken to discourage that trend?
An Expert stated that obesity among the young in Italy was increasing. At least 75,000 deaths could be avoided every year if a prevention strategy were in place. What measures did Italy plan to introduce in order to stem the rise of obesity among children?
Students with disabilities faced a number of architectural barriers. How was the training and curricula of teachers on disability-related issues organized? Was staff adequately trained and how was quality of inclusion monitored, the Expert asked.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation clarified that socially useful workers were gardeners, people cleaning schools and so on – individuals in jobs that were beneficial to society. In total, seven billion euros per year were allocated by the municipalities for that purpose. The National Health Fund provided for social sanitary needs.
In the Parliament there was a draft law that was meant to address and prevent institutionalization of children with disabilities. A structural fund with a minimum amount of 250 million euros per year was in place. In 2010, a significant increase in education at all levels had been seen for persons with disabilities. There was now one teacher for every child with a disability, but a high turnover of teachers was still an issue. Specific training curricula were available.
The delegation said that the general social protection benefits had decreased since 2009. The proportion of people with functional limitations continued to decrease. Over 80 percent were elderly people, with women accounting for over two thirds of them. The number of support teachers for students with disabilities had increased from over 80,000 to over 110,000 over the years. Disabled children under six were estimated to be around 3 percent of all children.
The most frequent disability among students was mental disorder, which affected about 40 percent of disabled pupils in both primary and secondary school.
The issue of architectural barriers had been addressed by several regional funds, which provided support to develop mobility at home. The Lombardy Region, for example, had invested four million euros per year for mobility at home.
Measures were also being taken to stop undeclared work. There had been over 6,000 measures of suspension of activities because workers had not been declared.
The delegation explained that open-ended contracts had been introduced with a law in 2014 as an economic incentive, and statistics showed that those were popular. In the period January – July 2015, the number of open-ended contracts had increased by 22.4 percent. The transformation from full to part time workers was reserved for persons seriously ill, or parents who chose not to take parental leave, or parents with a significant family burden. The collaboration contract was no longer allowed.
Regarding violence against women with disabilities, it was explained that a law in 2013 had an urgent provision, with a definition for all forms of disabilities.
On migrants, and the differentiation between asylum seekers and other immigrants, the delegation said that all received immediate health assistance upon arrival. The second step involved law enforcement officers, physicians, linguistic personnel making interviews and preliminary screening of migrants. All migrants were informed of their rights. Regardless of their preliminary screening, each migrant wishing legal protection, was put on the path to asylum and international protection. Even if the migrant did not at first express his will to be an asylum seeker, if the information in the interview pointed out that he was in that category, he would automatically be considered as such.
With regard to the issue of development cooperation and overseas development funding, it was explained that aid had suffered due to the economic crisis. The goal was to reach 0.71 percent of the gross domestic product in 2017. Italy development aid assisted Kenya and Somalia, among other countries.
On abortion, monitoring had started on a national basis. Some 64 percent of all hospitals performed those operations. Italy was one of the countries with lowest abortion rates. In relation to young girls and young women, the abortion statistics remained stable.
The general health figures were positive, the delegation said. Life expectancy had increased and child mortality had decreased. Deaths caused by tumors among adults continued to decline. The people who consulted a medical specialist had increased, whereas the use of non-conventional therapies had halved. The level of satisfaction for public health services was very high.
The number of smokers had decreased from roughly 23 percent in 2012 to roughly 21 percent in 2013. The decrease was stronger among young women and teenagers. Regarding obesity, the lack of exercise affected around 40 percent of the population and the numbers remained stable. In order to prevent child obesity and food disorders, the National Plan for Prevention of Obesity strengthened the training of teachers and pupils on healthy nutrition.
The delegation informed that the prison over-crowding rate had been decreasing, thanks to the changes in the legislation which had reduced the number of individuals in prison. Alternative measures included house arrest for drug consumption and other petty crimes, as opposed to detention.
Health expenditures amounted to 110 billion euros per year, with a decrease of less than one percent in 2015 as compared to the previous years. There was a growing supply of child care services.
The National Authority against Corruption had established cooperation with the police, justice, and provincial offices of the Ministry of the Interior in order to strengthen investigations.
Over 25,000 police and law enforcement officers had been trained in the area of human rights.
Regarding the Roma, the delegation said that monitoring was being conducted by the National Office against Discrimination, with the aim of finding positive alternative solutions to the camps, in line with the legislation in force. In October 2015, a website would be launched devoted to the National Strategy on Roma inclusion. The results of the first study would also be published then. Approximately one quarter of the Roma, whose estimated population in Italy was 100,000 to 150,000, lived in camps. The closing down of settlements was crucial to the National Strategy. The management of the local settlements was done by local authorities.
The law on the National Human Rights Institution was in the parliamentary procedure. The bill had not yet been adopted due to the change of the Parliament, as well as the ongoing discussion regarding the costs.
Questions by Experts
An Expert suggested that for the next report, Italy could present some information about the way in which Article 15, on cultural rights, was being implemented. Another Expert also regretted the lack of information on cultural rights in the State party’s Report.
Regarding the right to education, there was a problem of early school drop-outs, which although improved, continued to be high. Persons from 24 to 35 years old without education amounted to 28 percent, as compared to less than 20 percent in other countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
What measures were taken with regard to cultural rights and persons with disabilities?
An Expert asked about the impact of the economic crisis on the cultural heritage in Italy.
Could the delegation inform about the special measures taken to ensure that people who were disadvantaged had access to the Internet?
An Expert inquired about the balance between teaching migrant children in Italian and promoting their own cultural traditions?
Replies by the Delegation
On the teaching of migrants and the preservation of their cultural heritage, the delegation stated that the link to the country of origin was strong, so there was a de facto way of maintaining cultural and linguistic traditions. Difficulties with the Italian language differed according to the nationality group – whereas migrants of the Albanian origin had less difficulties, migrants of the Ukrainian origin, for example, experienced more problems.
Regarding the drop-out rates, it was explained that between 2011 and 2014, nearly all education indicators had improved. However, the percentage of individuals aged 35 who had been awarded a university degree was much lower than the average European level. Data showed that females performed better than males at all education levels. The number of individuals neither in school nor at work remained stable in the country taken as a whole, but had grown in southern areas. There were several actions aimed at improving the high school drop-out rate. The plan was to create a national registry from pre-school to high school, and to create synergies between school, family and society in order to enhance the collaboration which would then help students succeed. The aim was to create a higher feeling of satisfaction among students. The new education had the aim to prevent drop-outs and remove ethnic and cultural barriers.
The delegation informed that 92.1 percent of children aged four to five attended pre-school education.
Regarding the Internet, it was explained that between two and three billion euros had been allocated to reduce the digital divide.
The impact of austerity measures on cultural participation could be felt. Men residing the south and the islands were the most heavily penalized:19.3 percent did not participate in cultural activities at all. Museum visits and other such activities had increased by 2 percent, on the other hand. Reading of books, attendance of cinema and concerts was stable. What was decreasing was reading of newspapers.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
An Expert noted that there was no concrete information about the plans being implemented and what the results of the poverty reduction policies were.
What was being done about the segregation of Roma in camps? In spite of the court ruling, discrimination persisted. Not a word was said about the forced evictions of the numbers of families of Roma who remained homeless. There were about 40,000 homeless people in 2011, the majority of whom were foreigners. What was the nature and extent of homelessness in Italy? Would a national policy be adopted to inquire into the causes of homelessness?
In respect to housing, what were the measures undertaken to ensure that marginalized groups could claim their housing rights?
Another Expert stated that the situation of children poverty was grim. The absolute poverty had increased three-fold in the previous two years. Why was children poverty still growing, and why were efforts of the Government not producing results in that respect?
Could the delegation provide disaggregated data regarding persons with disabilities?
Could the delegation clarify the justiciability of the Covenant, an Expert asked. If a right was not in the Constitution, was it justiciable or not?
Question was also asked about the lack of protection of same sex marriages.
Another Expert wanted to get a reply on the concept of reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities.
In case of violence against women with disabilities, the perpetrators would be punished. But were there additional special protection measures to protect such women?
Regarding abortion, could women in all of Italy have access to abortion? If not, what was the reason for that?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation informed that Italy had one of the lowest rates of homelessness in Europe. There was an allocation of 100 million euros every year to build housing, meant for all people, without discrimination.
Disaggregated disability statistics would be provided subsequently.
On children poverty, the delegation said that social card had been introduced especially because of the financial crisis, and was experimentally tested in 12 cities with over 250,000 inhabitants. This programme was especially geared to fight child poverty as it was based on the number of children per household. The number of beneficiaries was 40,000, and up to 400 euros per month was given to each household based on the number of members of the household.
Regarding the same–sex marriage, the law did not foresee the possibility of two people of the same sex getting married. It was up to the legislators to introduce the legislation. In March 2015, five recommendations had been accepted on recognizing civil unions, and presently a law was being observed in the Parliament on that matter.
Abortion in Italy had become legal in 1978, and Italian women were now eligible to seek abortion on economic and health reasons, among others. It was available in public and private institutions. The law also allowed doctors the right to refuse to perform an abortion, but ensured the presence of at least one doctor performing abortions in hospitals.
On Roma segregation, the delegation said that the National Roma Strategy envisaged housing projects. There was an ongoing process in which the Italian authorities were trying to overcome segregation. Evictions took place mainly because of public health reasons.
Responding to the questions on breast-feeding, the delegation said that Italy used indicators, harmonized on the international level: early initiation of breast feeding within one hour from birth, exclusive breast feeding under six months, predominant breast feeding under six months, continued breast feeding under one year, and the introduction of solid or semi-solid foods. The share of breast-feeding mothers had increased. The mean duration of breast feeding was also on the rise.
The National Action Plan against Sexual and Gender Based Violence had a particular approach for women with disabilities. An allocation of 30 million euros was set aside for this plan for women with disabilities.
LYDIA CARMELITA RAVENBERG, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and their efforts to respond to all the questions, even though not all issues had been covered. The Committee would always work with the State on optimizing the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights.
Gianludovico de Martino, Minister Plenipotentiary and President of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Human Rights, thanked the Experts for their observations and looked forward to the concluding recommendations and to the dialogue on how Italy could more effectively promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights.
WALEED SADI, Committee Chairperson, said that the main objective was that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights be known not only legally but also be applied in practice, by all public bodies. He hoped that the concluding recommendations would be taken with utmost seriousness. Italy was an advanced nation, and it was expected to set an example to other countries.
For use of the information media; not an official record