Italy has an extensive social security (previdenza sociale) system covering the vast majority of the population. Social insurance provides benefits for unemployment, sickness and maternity, accidents at work and occupational diseases, as well as old-age, invalidity and survivor's pensions, and family allowances. It doesn't include the national heath service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale/SSN), which is funded from general taxation. The system is run by a number of state agencies, which have been brought together under the umbrella of the National Institute for Social Security (Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale/INPS). All resident employees and self-employed workers pay social security contributions (contributi previdenziali), with a few exceptions.
If you're an employee (lavoratore dipendente), your employer completes all the necessary formalities for registering with social security. Employee's contributions are deducted at source from their gross salary by their employer, who pays around two-thirds of pension contributions, while the remaining third is paid by the employee. For other types of social insurance, the employee's contributions are negligible. The standard total social security contribution made by employees is around 10 per cent of their gross salary, while the employer's contribution is around 35 per cent of an employee's salary (making a total of some 45 per cent). There are different contribution rates for employees in industry, commerce and agriculture, and for workers (operai), office staff (impiegati) and managers (dirigenti), who also receive different benefits. For managers in industry, an income ceiling applies for certain types of social security contributions, such as disability, old age pension and survivor's benefits.
The self-employed (lavoratori autonomi) must register and make contributions either to a separate organisation (called a cassa), which is a social security fund allied to their profession, or directly with the INPS. Self-employed people who make contributions to their own cassa include architects, accountants, lawyers, engineers, surveyors, medical specialists and other freelance professionals, who each have different rates of contributions. The self-employed who make contributions to INPS may be part-time employees (collaboratori), such as university students, freelance workers (indipendenti), including small businessmen, shopkeepers, traders, tenant farmers, sharecroppers and smallholders, or employees of relatively new industries (e.g. computer consultancies) who don't yet have their own cassa.
In certain circumstances where contributions aren't made, they're credited by the state. These are known as accredited contributions (contributi accreditati). For example, contributions are automatically credited for periods of unemployment where an employee has paid contributions for unemployment benefit (indennita' di disoccupazione), for periods of military service, maternity leave, and illness of not less than a week and no longer than 12 months, after making the relevant application to INPS. Applications for notional contributions during periods of illness must be accompanied by a statement from your employer.
If you disagree with a decision taken and notified in writing by a social security body, you may lodge an appeal within certain time-limits, which must be lodged by registered letter (with advice of delivery). If the appeal is dismissed or no decision is taken within 90 days, you may then appeal to the ordinary courts, which in the first instance means the magistrate's court for employment matters (pretore del lavoro). The time-limit is three years in the case of pensions and one year in the case of temporary benefits.
Contributions In Other EU Countries
If you've paid regular social security contributions in another EU country for two full years before coming to Italy (e.g. to look for a job), you're entitled to social security cover for a limited period from the date of the last contribution made in your home country. You're also entitled to be covered by the national health service. Form E106 must be obtained from the social security authorities in your home (or previous) country and given to your local social security office in Italy. If you're receiving an invalidity pension or other social security benefits on the grounds of ill-health, you should establish exactly how living in Italy affects those benefits. In some countries there are reciprocal agreements regarding invalidity rights, but you must confirm that they apply in your case.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.