Final Post: Gender Equity and the Impact on Fertility in Italy – Sarah Wagner

My health topic is the issue of gender equity and the impact on fertility in Italy.  Women in Italy are slowly getting closer to the gender equity level with men.  However, having children can hold a woman back from gender equity.  If women are given the same opportunities as men in education and market employment, these opportunities are cutdown when a woman has children (McDonald 2000).  The woman would need more flexibility on work hours and require more benefits to support her children.  Because of this, women may limit the number of children they have resulting in a low fertility level (McDonald 2000).  Gender equity and the impact on fertility can be seen as a social determinant.  Of the anthropological perspectives the feminist theory works best with my topic.  The feminist theory lecture from week one discusses how feminist theorists ask about the role of gender in all situations including the inequalities that exist because of gender.

The feminist theory from week one begins with the big question: how does gender impact the situation?  The feminist theory, as defined by “The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies”, is the “relations between the production of knowledge and practices of power” of women (Harding 2003).  Studying the “relations” applies to my topic because more and more women in Italy want to be full time employees with equal benefits offered to men, but also want to be a mother.  The situation of low fertility and the impact can start in the beginning of adulthood.  In this day women going to college has become a commonality in Italy (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004).  College can offer them more career opportunities and higher wage rates once graduated.  However, a woman is typically in her “childbearing years” while in college and education “induces fertility postponement,” (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004).  Because the woman wants to make something of herself, she’ll start a career soon after college which adds more time to the “fertility postponement”.  Some will work for multiple years before having children (Conforti 2007).  By the time the woman has children, she might not have many “childbearing years” left which is one reason to such few children.  When an Italian woman has a baby, she is already losing benefits that were available before the birth, but she isn’t offered as much opportunity compared to other European countries such as a French woman.  The French woman is given longer parental leave and greater healthcare and childcare systems for children under three years old (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004).  Italian child care systems are scarce and have relatively high costs for what is available and limited hours.  The Italian woman needs to depend more on family (her and/or his parents and grandparents) to care for her children (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004).  The Del Boda et al. article (2004) measured only 6% of Italian parents with a child three years old or younger using formal childcare and compared it to 29% of French parents.  The article also showed 64% of parents in Denmark use formal childcare.  Another comparison to note is “Italian husbands contribute less to housework and childcare than their European counterparts,” (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004).  One country to note is Sweden.  Sweden heavily contrasts Italy when it comes to gender equality (Conforti 2007).  Swedish women have “considerable social support and corresponding self-confidence” on keeping her job and the job’s benefits.  Jumping over to southeastern side of Asia, Japan and Italy, together with their cultural differences, have low fertility rates (Conforti 2007).  One reason to this is the commonality of postponing marriage, if they marry, and both countries having a very low level of premarital fertility.

UNICEF’s (2013) definition of total fertility rate is “the number of children that would be born per woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children at each age in accordance with prevailing age-specific fertility rates.”  As of 2012 Italy’s total fertility rate is 1.5 (UNICEF 2013).  Throughout first world countries the replacement level of the total fertility rate is seen as 2.1 and the “length of the generation” is 30 years (McDonald 2000).  The total fertility rate is below “replacement level” which results in a “population growth rate” close to zero (Chesnais 1996).  Although the concentration for this paper is the social determinant other determinants should also be included.  It has been stressed there is more than one thing that contribute to health issues.  The other determinants  (the political, economic, and social factors) have an impact on the medical system.  The social system in Italy lacks businesses that will balance a woman’s work with her parenthood creating a “male-breadwinner” model which reinforces a “highly unequal division of household labour,” (Mills et al. 2008).  Typically social sciences overlap each other.  The economic system alters the salary for a woman living in Italy who has multiple children.  If a woman has a low employment status, she is more likely to have children.  In advanced industrial societies where more women work full-time jobs, fertility is below replacement level (Chesnais 1996).

In the Italian society, if each potential mother has zero to one children she could make more money and be given more benefits and opportunities.  If each of the potential mothers have two or more children the current population could be retained, but the mothers will less frequently be offered a full-time job and even if offered she most likely won’t be provided the same benefits provided to a man.  The way gender has an effect on fertility in Italy, from a feminist standpoint, is the wanting of equality.  For Italy, this makes things much more complicated, such as low availability of childcare, which discourages women to have multiple children.  This could all change if Italy followed the policies offered by their European counterparts.

Works Cited for anthropological theory:

Conforti, Joseph.  “Low Birth Rates in Japan and Italy.”  International Review of Modern Sociology 33.3 (2007): 245-268.  Web.  5 Aug.  2015.

Del Boca, Daniela. Pasqua, Silvia. Prozato, Chiara.  “Why are Fertility and Women’s Employment Rate So Low in Italy?  Lessons from France and the U.K.”  IZA Discussion Paper 1274 (2004)  Web.  5 Aug.  2015.

Harding, Sandra.  The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies.  New York: Routledge, 2004.  Print.

Works Cited for health issue:

Chesnais, Jean-Claude. “Fertility, Family, and Social Policy in Contemporary Western Europe.” Population and Development Review 22.4 (1996): 729-739. Web. 29 Jul. 2015.

McDonald, Peter.  “Gender Equity, Social Institutions and the Future of Fertility.”  Journal of Population Research 17.1 (2000): 1-16.  Web.  29 Jul. 2015.

Mills, Melinda, et al. “Gender Equity and Fertility Intentions in Italy and the Netherlands.” Demographic Research 18 (2008): 1-25.  Web.  30 Jul. 2015.

“Statistics.”  UNICEF.org  UNICEF.org, 2013.  Web.  28 Jul. 2015.

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