Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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5 > WORK



Work contracts fall into two general categories, strutturati (structured) and atipici (atypical). Those with structured contracts are dipendenti, meaning that they are regular employees with a series of obligations and benefits. The three classes of dipendenti (operai, impiegati, dirigenti) have varying pay scales and one can generally expect a raise every two years. If your job falls into a category of organized labor, contracts are negotiated by the unions, a very powerful force in Italy.

Once you are hired as a dipendente, you can only be let go if your employer demonstrates just cause. Here this does not include poor job performance, but instead indicates a more serious offense like stealing or repeated absence. Dipendenti contracts represent job security and predictable income. They also offer paid vacation (from 4-6 weeks a year), maternity/paternity leave, and the real zinger: 13 months of paychecks rather than 12, called a tredicesima (thirteenth). In some sectors, like banking, dipendenti can sometimes even receive a 14thand 15thmonth of pay. Is there a downside?These contracts are extremely rigid and usually have fixed work hours. Even professionals punch a time card. While vacation is ample, employers may require you to take time off at certain times, notably in August when some businesses literally close their doors for weeks. Some argue that the real downside to these contracts is for the employer, who pays elevated taxes, overtime, generous leave and may have to put up with mediocre job performance without the threat of firing. The downside for job seekers, foreigners and Italians alike, is that employers are extremely risk averse when it comes to hiring dipendenti and the lack of flexibility in the labor market means that openings for these positions are scarce.

Atipici contracts take multiple forms: fixed duration agreements, research grants, project contracts and apprentice contracts. In political lingo, these contracts are also called precari (precarious) because they do not offer any of the job security that comes with being a dipendente. The contratto a progetto (project contract) is the most common example, in fact, it is becoming more typical than atypical. Under this type of arrangement, you are hired for a fixed amount of time (anywhere from three months to several years) to work on a specific project.

A contratto a progetto gives total autonomy to the employee to decide how to best accomplish the assigned goals. In theory, this means no fixed working hours and no reporting structure. These contracts, however, do not offer any benefits such as sick days, vacation or parental leave. A tredicesima is out of the question. If at the end of the defined project your employer is not satisfied with your performance, he or she simply does not renew your contract. Unfortunately, employers do not always use these contracts in the way they were intended, but instead as a way to save in employee tax contributions. There is an upside to these contracts, especially for foreigners who are seeking their first job in Italy. They have created flexibility in the labor market, increasing job turnover and employers’ willingness to take a chance on an unknown quantity. Many foreigners cite the contratto a progetto as their foray into the Italian job market and the start of their career. Visit, a site sponsored by the Region of Emilia Romagna, for detailed information about atypical contracts.


Do not sign any contractual agreement that is not clear to you. Ask to take a copy of the contract home to review the details. You may also consult the Centro Lavoratori Stranieri (Center for Foreign Workers) organized by the CGIL trade union. This office is accustomed to helping foreigners decipher the labyrinth of laws governing work in Italy.

Centro Lavoratori Stranieri
CGIL - Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (General Italian Work Confederation)

Via Marconi, 69/d
Tel. 051.6087190
Open Monday-Friday 9-13 and 15-18; Saturday 9-13

I have six years of international teaching experience. I chose to come to work in Italy not for the pay and conditions, as there are much better deals elsewhere, but for the experience of living here. As an EU citizen I have the advantage of working in Italy tax free for two years, that makes a big difference as teaching salaries are low. The contract I have is a contratto a progetto, which does not include any type of medical insurance, etc. Although teaching is a profession, this type of contract feels like a student package and can be a little demoralizing. However, the environment I work in and the opportunities it provides make it worthwhile.

Rachel Burgess


Employers typically pay once a month and the date by which you will receive your stipendio (stipend) is indicated in your contract. The University of Bologna is known to pay its project employees up to 60 days after certified completion of the project.Overtime, paid only to structured employees, amounts to 115-130% of your basic pay and up to 175% for overtime performed at night or on holidays. Some employers limit the number of possible overtime hours in a year.