A tale spanning two years that concluded with a happy ending. Initially launched in 2019, the government ‘Conciliamo’ (Let’s Reconcile) tender has finally come to fruition: The Ministry of Family Affairs has announced the 127 companies that secured a total of €74 million in funding for new corporate welfare projects aimed at improving the quality of life of working mums and dads. Plans will nevertheless need to be revised in the light of the pandemic, which, as teleworking mainstreams, has profoundly changed the needs and requirements of families.
With the publication of the selection list, we have completed another commitment to facilitate families and build a fairer model, in which life time, family time and work time are recognised and harmonised.
Elena Bonetti, Minister for Equal Opportunities
The background to the tender was rather complex. After its publication in August 2019, the initiative was suspended, then underwent several amendments with the aim of also including small and medium-sized enterprises (initially excluded), and then restarted. The application evaluation process was lengthy, as the final results of the selected companies arrived only two years after the opening of the call.
In the intervening period, the COVID-19 outbreak also made a dramatic change to the work and its organisation. Now most of the awarded companies will probably find themselves in the difficult position of having to rethink the system they had originally contemplated in their applications. This is a complex task that will necessarily require additional effort on the part of the proposers, but also flexibility in the reporting procedures, a detail that is certainly not to be taken for granted given the rigmarole so far in the tender.
Funding for childcare services, starting with kindergartens, and even the possibility of networking across companies, enabling smaller activities to support larger ones, lie at the heart of the projects presented. That’s not all there is to it: The projects also include care for the elderly and disabled, now an inevitable part of family care for working women and men, but also “the demographic revival, increasing female employment, rebalancing workloads between men and women, combating the abandonment of the elderly, and supporting the family in the presence of disabled family members”, said Minister Bonetti.
The services of the 127 projects are naturally aimed at both female and male workers, with a view to a fair distribution of family tasks, which is also a strategic objective for the social policies of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan together with the increase in the female employment rate. As Bonetti herself pointed out, the main beneficiaries of the ‘Conciliamo’ project are women, who often find it difficult to find jobs (in southern Italy, only one in two works).
There is no democracy without the full achievement of gender equality. Women have paid the highest price for the pandemic.
At work, in business, and at home. COVID did not create gender inequality, but it certainly amplified it, Bonetti points out.
The winning applicants
There is a broad variety of projects and backgrounds in the list of 127 selected organisations. There are large companies such as Sky, Umana, Telethon, the agricultural company Carnj (Fileni) in Jesi (Ancona), yet also small organisations such as Cascina Biblioteca in Milan or the Prodoos Consortium in Naples, which received significant funding in addition to the larger players.
The history of the Neapolitan cooperative itself says a lot about why it was selected: Proodos is a consortium of social co-operatives engaged in the territory of Naples and its province in networking processes between non-profit organisations, institutions and companies, capable of providing answers to people’s needs.
The Nip consortium, merging 140 companies with 4,000 employees in the Pordenone foothills, is one of the companies selected. It took part in the ministerial call for tenders with a project aimed at informing companies and workers about the many opportunities offered by corporate welfare. Of the 700 applications received, the project came in 32nd place, just a few points behind the large companies, and received €450,000, including €300,000 from the Ministry.
The aim is to create, also through corporate welfare, an economic driver for the territory, favouring local purchases: this is why the NIP is already arranging agreements with the Confcommercio, municipal pharmacies and other local authorities.
There is no shortage of other interesting projects. One recipient of funding is, for example, the Società cooperativa bilanciai of Campogalliano (Modena), a major industrial player: In fact, the company has a turnover of more than 50 billion and more than 200 members of staff work in the modern 20,000 square metre headquarters.
The Eureka cooperative in San Donato Milanese also received funding. As their website states, “a social enterprise accredited by the Lombardy Region for all training and work placement services, from Consultancy and Training and Financial Education to Employment Services, Traineeships and Job Placements”. An important task, which prompted the Ministry to grant more than €884,000, of which €280,000 was co-financed. It is now up to the companies to decide what to do with the available resources. Considering that the pandemic, with teleworking becoming more prevalent, has also distorted workers’ needs and requirements.