Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Italy *
1.The Committee considered the sixth periodic report of Italy at its 38th and 39th meetings, held on 29 and 30 September 2022, and adopted the present concluding observations at its 60th meeting, held on 14 October 2022.
2.The Committee welcomes the submission by the State party of the sixth periodic report, based on the list of issues prior to reporting drawn up by the Committee. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for having accepted the simplified reporting procedure, as it provides an opportunity for focused consideration of the report and dialogue with the delegation. The Committee appreciates the constructive dialogue that it held with the State party’s delegation.
3.The Committee welcomes the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2015.
4.The Committee also welcomes the legislative, institutional and policy measures taken to increase the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the State party, such as Act No. 32 of 7 April 2022 on the family, aimed at improving the quality of life of families with children, Act No. 26 of 28 March 2019 on citizenship income, the second National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (2021–2026) and the measures mentioned in the present concluding observations.
C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
Domestic application of the Covenant
5.The Committee remains concerned about the absence of court decisions invoking provisions of the Covenant, and the lack of specialized training for judges, prosecutors and lawyers on the justiciability of the provisions of the Covenant. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of awareness of the State party’s obligations under the Covenant among public officials, especially those responsible for its implementation (art. 2 (1)).
6. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Regularly provide specialized training on the provisions of the Covenant and their justiciability for judges, prosecutors and lawyers;
(b) Enhance awareness of economic, social and cultural rights among State actors responsible for the implementation of the Covenant , such as law enforcement agencies, labour inspectors, social workers, health-care personnel and teachers ;
(c) Systematize a human rights impact assessment in the process of formulating legislation and policies in the areas of economic, social and cultural rights;
(d) Be guided by and follow the Committee’s g eneral comment No . 9 (1998) on the domestic application of the Covenant .
National human rights institution
7.The Committee regrets the continued lack of concrete results with respect to the establishment of an independent national human rights institution despite years of consideration by the State party (art. 2 (1)).
8. The Committee urges the State party to establish an independent national human rights institution with a broad mandate in accordance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles) , allocating sufficient human, technical and financial resources for it to fully exercise its mandate in relation to economic, social and cultural rights . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 10 (1998) on the role of national human rights institutions in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights .
Civil society, human rights defenders and journalists
9.The Committee is concerned about repeated allegations of harassment, physical threats and verbal attacks by both State and non-State actors on human rights defenders and journalists advocating economic, social and cultural rights, particularly in the context of the protection of refugees (art. 5).
10. The Committee recommends that the State party g uarantee the effective protection of independent journalists, human rights defenders and other activists, including by expanding personal protection programmes .
11.The Committee is concerned about persistent regional disparities in access to social services and the insufficient measures taken to address them, the low and varying levels of financial and administrative capacity of local governments, and the lack of coordination between the national and local governments (art. 2 (1)).
12. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen the financial and administrative capacity of local governments with a view to ensuring that people in the State party enjoy Covenant rights on an equal basis regardless of the region in which they live;
(b) Increase the transfer of public funds from wealthier, n orthern regions to poorer, s outhern regions;
(c) Make increased use of the possibilities of obtain ing funding from the European Regional Development Fund , a s a member State of the European Union , for regional development projects .
Business and human rights
13.Noting the State party’s adoption of its second National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (2021–2026), the Committee is concerned that the Legislative Decree No. 231/2001 does not adequately cover corporate abuses of human rights and provides for exemption from liability if companies demonstrate that they have adopted an adequate model of risk prevention and management. The Committee is also concerned that the legal and regulatory framework regarding due diligence does not sufficiently encompass subsuppliers, including foreign ones (art. 2 (1)).
14. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Amend the Legislative Decree No . 231/2001 to abolish exemption from liability for business entities and to cover abuses of all human rights;
(b) Apply business entities’ legal and due diligence responsibilities to the whole supply chain, including subsuppliers , at home and abroad;
(c) I nclude th e se elements in future national action plans on business and human rights , and b e guided by and follow the Committee’s general comment No . 24 (2017) on State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of business activities .
15.The Committee is concerned that human rights impact assessments into arms export control mechanisms have been inadequate, and that past and recent arms transfers and exports from the State party to countries that have subsequently used the arms in conflict zones may have facilitated human rights violations. The Committee is also concerned about reports that the lack of transparency in the process of granting licences for arms exports leads to corruption and malpractices (art. 2 (1)).
16. The Committee recommends that the State party conduct thorough risk assessments prior to granting licences for arms exports and refuse or suspend such licences when there is a risk that arms could be used to violate human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, and ensure that all arms transfers and exports comply with the State party’s obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty .
17.The Committee is concerned that current emissions-reduction policies may not be sufficient for the State party to observe its obligations under the Paris Agreement, and that unsustainable practices have an adverse impact on climate change beyond the State party’s borders (art. 2 (1)).
18. T he Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take measures to achieve its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement by, inter alia, increasing taxation of emissions;
(b) Make every effort to replace fossil fuel in its energy mix, including by increasing renewable energy as an alternative;
(c) Be guided by and follow the Committee’s statement on climate change and the Covenant .
Maximum available resources
19.The Committee is concerned about the decrease in the tax rates on corporate income in recent years, the persistent relatively high value added tax rates that are in themselves regressive, and the very low inheritance tax rate, all of which contribute to narrowing the fiscal space. The Committee is also concerned about delays in the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which could hamper the transfer of funds needed for post-pandemic financial and economic recovery (art. 2 (1)).
20. The Committee recommends that the State party readjust the structure of its tax system in a more progressive direction by revisiting the revenue deriv ed from taxes levied on corporat e income, value added tax rates and the inheritance tax rate with a view to expanding the tax base and fiscal space for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights, and to increasing its redistributive effect . The Committee also recommends that the State party ensure the timely implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan .
Official development assistance
21.The Committee is concerned that the State party’s official development assistance remains well below the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.
22. The Committee note s the State party’s stated intention to increase its o fficial d evelopment a ssistance to the United Nations target of 0 . 7 per cent of its g ross n ational i ncome by 2030 , and recommends that the State party make this increase without delay .
23.Noting the strengthening of the anti-corruption legal framework with the adoption of Act No. 3/2019, the Committee remains concerned that corruption continues to be pervasive within the State party, including in the judiciary. It is also concerned about the inadequate and underresourced institutions empowered to curb corruption (art. 2 (1)).
24. The Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party investigate all allegations of corruption, including in the judiciary, and ensure effective implementation of anti-corruption legislation . It also recommends that the State party allocate sufficient resources to anti-corruption institutions, implement a zero-tolerance policy against corruption and ensure the effective protection of victims of corruption, whistle-blowers and their lawyers .
Austerity measures and public debt
25.Noting the State party’s measures to reduce public debt following the financial crisis, the Committee is concerned about the significant and continued adverse impact of these austerity measures on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly budget cuts to the health-care sector, which exacerbated the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The Committee is also concerned that efforts to control the budget deficit and public debt might require the adoption of further austerity measures and thereby reduce the State party’s capacity to meet its obligation to mobilize the maximum available resources, and its ability to adequately fund the health-care system (arts. 2 (1), 6, 9 and 11).
26. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) A ssess the impact on Covenant rights when making budgetary adjustments and take all the measures necessary to ensure that any negative impact is minim ized and that the health - care sector is adequately prioritiz ed ;
(b) Be guided by and follow the Committee’s open letter , dated 16 May 2012 , to States parties on economic, social and cultural rights in the context of the economic and financial crisis, and its statement on public debt, austerity measures and the Covenant , issued in 2016 .
27.The Committee is concerned about recent instances of hate speech inciting animosity on the basis of sexual orientation and towards migrant, religious and race-based communities, including proposals to deprive these communities of their economic, social and cultural rights (art. 2 (1)).
28. The Committee recommends that the State party adopt comprehensive anti-discriminatory policies and laws to strengthen protection of the enjoyment by all persons of economic, social and cultural human rights against all forms of discrimination, including hate speech . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 20 (2009) on non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights .
Persons with disabilities
29.The Committee shares the concerns of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that national legislation lacks a definition of reasonable accommodation and does not include an explicit recognition that the denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes disability-based discrimination.It is also concerned that social protection programmes do not meet the requirements of persons with disabilities (art. 2 (2)).
30. T he Committee recommends that the State party enact legislation that explicitly recognize s the denial of reasonable accommodation as disability-based discrimination across all areas of life, including within public and private sectors, as also recommended by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities . The Committee also recommends that the State party ensure that social protection programmes meet the requirements of the diverse range of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, as required by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities .
Migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees
31.The Committee remains concerned about the limited enjoyment of Covenant rights by migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees upon arrival in the State party. The Committee is also concerned that Act No. 132 of 1 December 2018, on immigration and citizenship, has contributed to a rise in the number of irregular migrants in the State party and has increased their risk of exploitation. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that unclear communication pertaining to various regularization campaigns has discouraged applications for regularization (art. 2 (2)).
32. The Committee recommends that, i n implementing its Covenant obligations regarding the protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants, asylum - seekers and refugees, the State party seek and strengthen international cooperation and assistance, in particular with other member S tates of the European Union . The Committee also recommends that the State party review Act No . 132 of 1 December 2018 with the aim of increasing the regularization of migrants, and ensure certainty and clarity , in legal and communications terms, in regularization instruments and campaigns .
Equal rights of men and women
33.The Committee remains concerned that gender stereotypes persist and that women’s representation in the judiciary and senior positions within the public administration remains unsatisfactory. The Committee is also concerned about the much lower labour market participation rate of women and the concentration of women in traditionally female-dominated professions, which contribute negatively to the gender pay gap (arts. 3 and 7).
34. The Committee recommends that the State party increase its efforts to combat gender stereotypes, including by increasing the use of the media and awareness-raising campaigns and enhancing women’s participation in the judiciary and senior public positions, including by considering quotas . The Committee also recommends that the State party i ntensify its efforts to close the gender pay gap, including by addressing the gender-based segregation in the labour market, reviewing its social and tax policies and addressing the factors that discourage women from continuing their careers or taking up full-time employment . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 16 (2005) on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights, and its previous recommendations .
35.The Committee is particularly concerned that the youth unemployment rate for women has recently increased and remains stagnant compared to the previous periodic report. The Committee remains concerned that the unemployment rate remains high in the State party for youth, for persons with disabilities and for those living in the southern regions and on the islands (art. 6).
36. Recalling its previous recommendations, the Committee recommends that the State party increase its efforts to address unemployment, including by implementing targeted employment schemes in the public sector , paying particular attention to youth , especially women, and to persons with disabilities, and by expanding localized employment programmes in the s outhern regions and on the islands .
Informal economy, security in employment and social protection
37.The Committee reiterates its concern about the considerable proportion of workers in the informal economy in the State party, the inadequate coverage of such workers by labour and social protection laws, and the punitive approach taken by the State party towards such workers (arts. 7 and 9).
38. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation that the State party adopt a holistic approach in addressing the informal economy and take all measures necessary to reduce the extent of the informal economy and to increase employment opportunities in the formal labour market .
39.The Committee is concerned about the abuse of human rights relating to business activities – including inhumane living and working conditions, occupational health hazards, exposure to pollution and exploitative practices by employers – in the agriculture, construction, and garment and textile industries, especially against migrant workers (art. 7).
40. The Committee recommends that the State party adequately monitor conditions in the agriculture, construction, and garment and textile industries, including by raising the level of fines imposed on employers and increasing the number of unannounced inspections by the National Labour Inspectorate . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 23 (2016) on the right to just and favourable conditions of work .
41.The Committee is concerned that the medium- to long-term financial sustainability of the pension system is negatively affected by the lack of sufficient measures to adjust to the relatively rapidly ageing population, and that this may negatively affect retirees’ enjoyment of economic and social rights. The Committee is also concerned that the minimum requirements for obtaining the right to an earlier retirement age for those working in particularly strenuous and heavy activities may not be adequately flexible (art. 9).
42. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the medium - to long-term financial sustainability of the old-age pension system without negatively affecting retirees’ enjoyment of economic and social rights . Measures could include, for example, reducing the number of exceptions to the increased retirement age and allowing it to rise gradually , for all categories of persons , in tandem with the increase in the average lifespan . Simultaneously, the Committee recommends that the State party adapt the requirements for early retirement to allow for more flexib ility in individual cases .
43.The Committee is concerned about the persistently high rates of poverty, which in some areas have increased in recent years, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains particularly concerned about the high rate of child poverty, the disproportionately high level of absolute poverty among non-nationals, and the regional disparities in the prevalence of poverty (art. 11).
44.The Committee urges the State party to redouble its efforts to address poverty , paying particular attention to child poverty, poverty in the s outhern regions , and poverty among non-nationals not eligible for the citizen ship income scheme (reddito di cittadinanza), including by considering increasing direct cash transfers to the most disadvantaged and marginali z ed . In this regard, the Committee recalls its previous recommendation s, and refers to its statement on poverty and the Covenant .
Right to adequate housing
45.The Committee is concerned that the ability of the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups to afford adequate housing is being threatened by rising prices. The Committee is also concerned that Roma continue to live in settlements where basic facilities are inadequate or lacking, that de facto residential segregation of Roma communities persists, and that Roma are subjected to discrimination when seeking housing on the private rental market (art. 11).
46. The Committee recommends that the State party increase housing subsidies for those unable to obtain affordable housing , and that it ensure sustainable access to the basic facilities necessary for adequate housing . The Committee also recommends that the State party take targeted housing measures to prevent any direct or indirect discrimination against Roma . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 4 (1991) on the right to adequate housing .
47.The Committee is concerned about the impact of the rising cost of food on the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including migrants, individuals and families with low income, and persons living in the southern regions (art. 11).
48. The Committee urges the State party to take immediate action to address rising food costs, including by adopting emergency action plans with clear-cut targets for ensuring adequate access to food for all persons in the State party, and introduce or increase subsidies to food banks and other charitable organizations that provide food aid .
49.The Committee is concerned that the increasing severity and occurrence of droughts in recent years has made small-scale farmers increasingly vulnerable to aggressive land purchases by large farming businesses or developers. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the imbalanced power structure of the food economy forces producers to take shortcuts that either increase production, such as aggressively using pesticides, or cut production costs, such as lowering salaries for farm workers and offering far less than the minimum wage or compromising safety measures (art. 11).
50. The Committee recommends that the State party support the income of smallholders with a view to reduc ing their production costs, further increase monitoring of the use of banned pesticides, and establish positive incentives and assistance for organic and biodynamic farming and natural wine production . In this regard, the Committee recalls the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the r ight to f ood .
Climate change adaptation
51.The Committee is concerned that the environmental consequences of climate change have a considerable impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the State party, including an increase in the number and severity of heatwaves that have disproportionally affected the health of older persons, sea-level rise,degradation of arable land, droughts, storms and lack of freshwater resources (art. 11).
52. The Committee recommends that the State party take all the adap ta tion measures necessary to protect the environment and address environmental degradation, taking into account its effects on economic, social and cultural rights . Such measures could, for example, take the form of concrete, detailed and locally oriented contingency planning for heatwaves , including action plans for homes for older persons, water - rationing, the expansion of drip irrigation techniques, dike-building, and storm-proofing of public and private buildings .
Right to health
53.The Committee remains concerned about the lack of access to basic health-care services that is adversely affecting populations living in the southern regions. The Committee is also concerned about the viability of the broader health-care system owing to the backlog of operations, procedures and medical examinations postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic (art. 12).
54. Recalling its previous recommendation s , the Committee recommends that the State party increase funding for basic health-care services in poorer regions , with a view to bridging the gap between the regions in the north and those in the south and ensuring equal access to health care . It also recommends that the State party earmark additional funding specifically to reduce the backlog in the health-care system owing to the COVID-19 pandemic . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 14 (2000) on the right to the highest attainable standard of health .
55.The Committee is concerned about the persistent high levels of child obesity, particularly in the southern regions (art. 12).
56. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation that the State party introduce higher taxes on junk foods and sweet beverages, and further recommends that it lower taxes on healthy food products, ensure mandatory physical exercise in the primary school system and increase earmarked funding for anti-obesity programmes for children in the s outhern regions .
Sexual and reproductive rights
57.The Committee remains concerned that the availability and accessibility of abortion services remain limited, which is exacerbated by health personnel conscientiously objecting to carrying out such operations, leading pregnant women to undergo unsafe abortions (art. 12).
58. T he Committee reiterates its previous recommendation that the State party guarantee access to abortion services and appropriate referral services and ensure that the exercise of conscientious objection by health-care personnel does not pose an obstacle for women who wish to terminate a pregnancy . In this regard, the Committee recalls its general comment No . 22 (2016) on the right to sexual and reproductive health .
59.The Committee is concerned about the punitive approach to addressing drug use and the insufficient availability of harm-reduction programmes (art. 12).
60. The Committee recommends that the State party review its drug policy and legislation to bring them into line with international human rights norms and best practices, and improve the availability, accessibility and quality of harm - reduction programmes .
Right to education
61.The Committee is concerned about the school dropout rate in the State party, which remains among the highest in the European Union, especially in the southern regions and among foreign-born children, and about the disproportionately negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning among children living in the southern regions, Roma children and foreign-born children (art. 13).
62. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation that the State party redouble its efforts to reduce the school dropout rate, pay ing particular attention to the tendency in the s outhern regions . It also recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to ensure that Roma children and foreign-born children enjoy equal opportunities with other children in access to quality primary education .
63.The Committee is concerned that the sociocultural diversity of the State party is not adequately reflected in the mainstream media, including State-controlled media, in a context of increasing domestic political focus on strengthening traditional cultural values at the expense of diversity and the culture of minorities (art. 15).
64. The Committee recommends that the State party provide increased financial and administrative support for programmes aimed at preserving, promoting and developing the culture, language, religion and traditions of minorities, including through mainstream and S tate-owned media .
Right to science
65.The Committee is concerned that unreasonable restrictions and limitations imposed by Act No. 40/2004 might effectively hinder scientific research, as they are incompatible with the right to benefit from scientific progress and the obligation of the State party to respect the freedom that is indispensable for scientific research (art. 15).
66. The Committee recommends that the State party review Act No . 40/2004 in order to remove unreasonable restrictions .
67.The Committee is concerned about the persistence of the digital divide, which is relatively high and disproportionately affects persons living in poverty, older persons and persons living in rural areas, in the southern regions and on the islands (art. 15).
68. The Committee recommends that the State party take appropriate measures to narrow the digital divide for the benefit of persons living in poverty , older persons and persons living in rural areas , in the s outhern regions and on the islands, including by providing financing to local governments to install fibre - optic cables to provide I nternet in these areas .
69. The Committee recommends that the State party consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families .
70. The Committee recommends that the State party coordinate with the Working Group on Communications to address concerns regarding claims of Covenant violations received by the Committee through individual communications .
71. The Committee recommends that the State party take fully into account its obligations under the Covenant and ensure the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined therein in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the national level, including in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic . Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals would be significantly facilitated by the State party establishing independent mechanisms to monitor progress and treating beneficiaries of public programmes as rights holders who can claim entitlements . Moreover, the Committee recommends that the State party support the global commitment to the decade of action for s ustainable d evelopment . Implementing the Goals on the basis of the principles of participation, accountability and non-discrimination would ensure that no one is left behind . In this regard, the Committee draws the State party’s attention to its statement on the pledge to leave no one behind .
72. The Committee requests that the State party disseminate the present concluding observations widely at all levels of society, including at the national and municipal levels, in particular among parliamentarians, public officials and judicial authorities, and that it inform the Committee in its next periodic report about the steps taken to implement them . The Committee emphasizes the crucial role that Parliament plays in implementing the present concluding observations and encourages the State party to ensure its involvement in future reporting and follow-up procedures . The Committee encourages the State party to engage with non-governmental organizations and other members of civil society in the follow-up to the present concluding observations and in the process of consultation at the national level prior to the submission of its next periodic report .
73. In accordance with the procedure on follow-up to concluding observations adopted by the Committee, the State party is requested to provide, within 24 months of the adoption of the present concluding observations, information on the implementation of the recommendations contained in paragraphs 14 (business and human rights), 18 (climate change) and 28 (discrimination) above .
74. The Committee requests the State party to submit its seventh periodic report in accordance with article 16 of the Covenant by 31 October 2027, unless otherwise notified as a result of a change in the review cycle . In accordance with General Assembly resolution 68/268, the word limit for the report is 21,200 words .