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Italy - Sardegna

Short overview of the labour market


Sardinia has special status as an autonomous region. It covers an area of 24 100 km² and has a population density of about 68 inhabitants per km². Regional Law 2 of 4 February 2016 and the related Regional Council Resolution 23/5 of 20 April 2016 reformed Sardinia’s system of autonomous local authorities. It made substantial changes to the existing system, setting up the Metropolitan City of Cagliari and the Province of South Sardinia. It redrew the borders of the provinces of Sassari and Oristano and abolished the provinces of Carbonia-Iglesias, Medio Campidano, Ogliastra and Olbia-Tempio.

The Metropolitan City of Cagliari has an area of 1 249 km² and the highest population density (346 people per km²), followed by Sassari (area 7 692; 64 people per km²) and by the provinces of Southern Sardinia, Oristano and Nuoro.

According to ISTAT figures, on 1 January 2020 the total population was 1 629 307, of whom 49 % were men and 50.9 % women. The province of Sassari (which now also includes the former province of Olbia-Tempio) is the most populated, with 30 % of the region’s total population. It is followed by the Metropolitan City of Cagliari with 26 % of the total and the province of Southern Sardinia with 21 %. Together, these two provinces make up 47 % of Sardinia’s total population. 52 % are in the 35-69 age group, while the younger age group, 15-34 year olds, comprises almost 24 %.

In 2019, foreign citizens on the island made up 3.4 % of the total population, with women slightly outnumbering men (29 069 out of a total of 55 998). 43 % of foreign citizens live in the province of Sassari, 30.7 % in the Metropolitan City of Cagliari and 11 % in the province of Southern Sardinia, which has recorded a significant drop (-4.3 %). The largest foreign communities come from Romania (25.5 %), Senegal (8.7 %) and Morocco (8 %). There are 31 111 foreign people in work, with employment contracts (76 %), mainly concentrated in three sectors: collective and personal services (33 %), trade (22 %) and hotels and restaurants (19 %). Of those in employment, 59.5 % are manual workers and 58.5 % are in the 25-44 age group.

In 2019, there were 143 122 active companies in Sardinia, grouped into the following sectors: trade (26 %); agriculture (24 %); other services (20 %); construction (14 %); hotels/catering (9 %); industry (7 %). In terms of size, 96 % of total enterprises have fewer than 10 employees. Thus, micro-enterprises prevail by far on the island, while small enterprises (numbering 3 341) and medium and large enterprises (325 and 27 respectively) have a very low incidence on total activity, including in terms of labour force employed (6 % of employees compared to 22.5 % at national level). The region’s economy is strongly skewed towards services, to a greater extent than the national economy. Wholesale and retail trade is the most dynamic sector, with 37 176 active companies, but the dominant sector is real estate. A large role in the regional production system is also played by the public administration and tourism businesses. There are 1 579 accommodation and 11 420 food service businesses in Sardinia. In 2019, the number of businesses in this sector increased by 332 compared to the previous year. In the industrial sector, which includes mining and manufacturing, electricity, water and gas supply and waste management, there are 10 542 active companies in Sardinia. In the manufacturing sector, a significant role is played by the food industry (1 967 businesses) and the wood and cork processing industry (1 270 businesses). In construction, active businesses number 19 714. 

In the first quarter of 2020, the region’s labour force amounted to 668 000 people (376 000 men and 292 000 women), down by more than one percentage point compared to the first quarter of 2019, above all for the male component. Indeed, the activity rate for men declined to 68.1 %, from 70.2 % in 2019. As a consequence, the inactivity rate rose to 38.6 %, almost one percentage point higher than the same quarter of the previous year (37.9 %); this change was also more pronounced for men.

In the period under review, about 90 000 people were looking for a job, with an unemployment rate of 13.5 %, down from 16.5 % in the first quarter of 2019; once again, the improvement relates to women.

In the first quarter of 2020, employment rose by approximately 12 000 people compared to the same period of the previous year. Total employment reached 578 400, and the employment rate 52.9 %. In particular, female employment rose by 15 000, while male employment declined by about 3 000. 

Links, bibliography and websites: 

Presidency of the Region of Sardinia – Regional Statistics Office – The Labour Market – Regional Data – Q1 2020

Crenos – The Sardinian Economy - 27th Report 2020 -

Bank of Italy – Regional Economies – The Sardinian Economy - 2020 -

Ministry of Labour and Social Policies – DG of Immigration and Integration Policies - Foreigners on the labour market in Italy - 2020

ASPAL - Congiuntura lavoro Sardegna – December 2019

ASPAL – Labour Market Observatory - 5th report ‘Covid-19 and impact on the labour market in Sardinia’

ASPAL – Labour Market Observatory – Covid 19 in Sardinia: impact on the labour market – updated on 14 July 2020

ISTAT – Annual Report 2020 – The State of the Nation

Chamber of Commerce of Sassari – Osservatorio Economico 2019 Nord Sardegna – Focus Imprese -

Chamber of Commerce of Sassari – Rapporto delle Imprese del Nord Sardegna – 8th edition – 2019 -

Unioncamere – Excelsior Information System 



Text last edited on: 11/2020