Working in Italy
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Italy was hit hard by the international financial crisis and is still recovering. Competition for jobs is high, especially in the south of the country where the agriculture-based economy has suffered the most. There are still opportunities in engineering and pharmaceuticals, tourism, green technology, and food and drink. UK graduates will be in competition with Italian nationals. Non-EU citizens may find it difficult to obtain a work visa.
For jobs other than English teaching, and possibly IT, a good knowledge of Italian is essential. German, French and Slovenian are also spoken in the regions of Italy that border the respective countries. Making use of any personal contacts you have and networking will also greatly improve your chances.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: tourism, machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, fashion, clothing and footwear, ceramics, wine.
- Major companies: Enel (power), Eni (integrated energy company), Fiat, Finmeccanica (aerospace and defence), Generali Group (insurance), Intesa Sanpaolo (banking), Leadiant Biosciences, Pirelli, Telecom Italia, UniCredit Group (banking).
What’s it like working in Italy?
- Average working hours: 40 hours per week.
- Holidays: a minimum of four weeks' annual leave, in addition to 11 national public holidays.
- Tax rates: are progressive and range from 23% to 43%. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
You don't need to be in Italy to apply for a job, as vacancies are often advertised online. However, your chances will improve if you're in the country as networking and making personal contacts are common ways of finding employment.
Applications are made using a CV and covering letter or the application form provided by the company. Speculative applications are common and should give an indication of why you would like to work for the company and what you can offer them. Your CV and all letters of application should be in Italian unless otherwise stated. You should also have your university degree and certificates translated into Italian. Online application forms are more usual with large international companies that have a presence in Italy.
The interview process can be long, taking between one to three months to complete, as there may be three or four interviews. Make sure you know how long the recruitment period will be beforehand. As in the UK, some interviews may involve psychometric or other types of testing. Be honest about the level of your Italian language skills in your application as these will be tested at interview.
The application and interview processes in Italy are similar to those used in the UK. See application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- Cambio Lavoro – job listings (in Italian).
- Clicca Lavoro – job listings (in Italian).
- Cliclavoro – website of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Welfare in Italy. Provides a list of job centres (centri per l’impiego), job vacancies and CV-posting service for jobseekers (in Italian).
- EURES – European Job Mobility Portal – provides information about job vacancies, living and working conditions, and labour markets in Italy, as well as a CV-posting service for jobseekers.
- Lavorare.net – job listings for graduates (in Italian).
Recruitment agencies are listed in the Pagine Gialle (Italian Yellow Pages). Use the search term: ‘lavoro interinale e temporane’.
- Job centres (centri per l'impiego) can also help in your search for work. Register with a centre in the area where you're living.
- Guidance services at universities (servizi di orientamento) are available to students studying in Italy.
- Family businesses still make up a large portion of the businesses, particularly in smaller urban and rural areas. Personal contacts are, therefore, important – a lot of work is found by word of mouth. Be prepared to apply speculatively to companies and to network extensively. This kind of approach may work particularly well in language schools, hotels and restaurants, particularly in large cities.
- Contacting relevant trade or professional associations is another way of finding out about opportunities.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) provides students on technical degrees (primarily science, engineering, technology and the applied arts) with paid course-related training in a range of countries, including Italy. Opportunities are available to students in their second year of study or above. Although the majority of traineeships take place over the summer, longer periods are also available.
AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) provides an international exchange programme for students and recent graduates. They offer voluntary and paid work placements in professional organisations, schools and charities in a range of countries, including Italy. Main areas of work are in teaching, marketing and IT. Internships last between 6 weeks and 18 months.
The British Council – Language Assistants programme provides the opportunity for UK-based students who are native-level English speakers to work in Italy as an English language assistant. You need to be aged 30 or under, have passed two years of university-level education by the time you start your assistantship and have a minimum Italian language qualification at AS level or equivalent
If your university has a department for foreign languages or equivalent, you may be able to pick up useful advice, guides and contacts on teaching opportunities available in Italy.
Casual work is found in tourism, mainly in coastal, lake and mountain resorts, and cities. Opportunities also exist in the agricultural sector, mainly in fruit picking, and for au pairs. Jobs are advertised on websites such as iAGORA.
Research opportunities thoroughly and try to obtain a written contract with your job's terms and conditions before leaving the UK.
Gap year opportunities
There are many organisations offering gap years in Italy (or Italy as part of a gap year). To choose a reputable organisation, seek advice from your university careers service or check whether the company is registered with Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) or other similar organisations. Some companies will also offer services such as a 24-hour emergency helpline.
Do you need a visa?
EU nationals do not need a visa or work permit to work in Italy. However, nationals of Croatia should check with the Embassy of Italy in London to find out whether any restrictions apply.
EU citizens wishing to stay in Italy for longer than three months must apply to their nearest town hall for residency. They will be issued with a certificate, valid for five years from the date of issue. After five years, EU nationals can request permanent residency (attestazione di soggiorno permanente).
If you're a non-EU national, contact the Italian embassy in the country where you are currently living about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you're living in the UK, visit the Embassy of Italy in London website.
Living in Italy
- Cost of living: varies between the relatively wealthy north and the much poorer south. In cities, the cost of living is similar to the UK and the rest of Western Europe but tourist areas can be expensive.
- Internet domain: .it
- Currency: Euro (€)
- Health: healthcare in Italy is of a good standard. EU citizens should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling, which gives access to healthcare under the same conditions as nationals. Also take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance.
- Type of government: parliamentary, democratic republic. Italy has a long history of short-lived coalition governments.
- Laws and customs: you must be able to show some form of identification if requested by the police or judicial authorities. Crime rates are generally quite low, but there's a risk of petty theft in the major cities, particularly around rail, sea and air terminuses. In Venice and Florence you may be fined for dropping litter. It's also illegal to eat and drink or sit on steps near the main churches and public buildings in Florence. Many of the major cities have introduced a small tax on tourists.
- Emergency numbers: 112 (single European emergency telephone number, available everywhere in the EU free of charge); 113 (police); 115 (fire brigade); and 118 (medical emergencies). British citizens can get help in an emergency from the British Embassy in Italy.
- People: majority are Italian with German, French and Slovene Italians in the north, and Albanian and Greek Italians in the south. Also immigrants from Romania, Albania and Morocco.
- Major religion: Christianity.