The labor force numbered 23.6 million in 2001. Of those, 63% were in agriculture, 32% in industry, and 5% in agriculture. The estimated unemployment rate in 2002 was 9%.
The law provides the right to form and join unions, and many workers exercise this right. There are three major trade union confederations. The largest national federation is the General Confederation of Italian Workers (CGIL), followed by the Italian Confederation of Workers' Labor Unions (CISL), formed in 1950, and the Italian Union of Labor (UIL). Approximately 40% of the workforce in 2002 were union members. The right to strike is constitutionally protected, and workers engage in collective bargaining. Employers may not discriminate against those engaged in union activity.
Collective labor contracts, which establish wages and salaries in every major field, generally provide for a 38-hour workweek (although workers may legally work up to 48 hours per week), 10 paid statutory holidays, and a paid annual leave varying from two to four weeks. All employees in Italy receive an extra month's pay at the end of the year; contracts may also call for additional compulsory bonuses, and basic wages and salaries are adjusted quarterly to compensate for increases in the cost of living. There is no legal minimum wage. With some limited exceptions, children under age 15 are prohibited by law from employment.