The paper investigates the evolution of the demand and supply of female labour in Italy from 1959 to date with regard to the number of people employed in the resident population and with regard to the labour force. The article asserts that women’s access to the labour market has been slow and more difficult compared with other European countries. It shows how women have had to adapt to male behavioural patterns in order to penetrate the labour market. Education has played a fundamental role in increasing female participation and the service sector has provided the largest number of job opportunities. The extreme rigidity of the Italian labour market limits the use of part‐time work and other flexible working arrangements. In addition, gender stereotypes, still deeply rooted in Italian society, are responsible for a postponement of a “new labour force creation” and for the under‐representation of women in managerial positions and high level jobs.
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