Economy of Italy
|Economy of Italy|
|Currency||Euro (EUR), except in Campione d'Italia (CHF)|
$2.129 trillion (2014 estimate by IMF)(nominal) 8th
$2.065 trillion (2014 estimate by IMF) (PPP; 12th)
|GDP rank||8th (nominal) / 12th (PPP)|
|0.1% Q3 2014|
GDP per capita
|$35,512 nominal (2014)$34,455 PPP (2014)|
GDP by sector
|agriculture: 1.8%; industry: 25%; services: 73% (2010 est.)|
|0,6 CPI, (april . 2014 ISTAT estimate)|
Population below poverty line
|8% 4,814,000 people below absolute line of poverty (about €520/month)(2012)|
|22.4 million (2014 est.)|
Labour force by occupation
|services (68%), industry (28%), agriculture (4%) (2011)|
|Unemployment||12.3% (ISTAT estimate) (June 2014)|
Average gross salary
|€2,378/$3,270, (May 2013)|
|€1,898/$2,610, (May 2013) Average net income monthly €1472/$2003 (2014)|
|tourism, communications, machinery, steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, home appliances, clothing, fashion|
|Exports||$483 billion (2013 est.) (+3.2%)|
|engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals, and nonferrous metals|
Main export partners
United States 6.6%,
United Kingdom 5%,
Spain 4.8%, (2012 est.)
|Imports||$470 billion (2012 est.)|
|engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco|
Main import partners
Belgium 4%, (2012 est.)
|$369.5 billion (31 December 2012 est.)|
Gross external debt
|$2.493 trillion (31 December 2012)|
|134,6 % of GDP (2014 est.)|
|Revenues||$956.6 billion (2012 est.)|
|Expenses||$1.014 trillion (2012 est.)|
|Economic aid||donor: $2.48 billion, 0.15% of GDP (2004)|
Standard & Poor's:
AAA (T&C Assessment)
|US$152.689 billion (March 2014)|
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.
Italy has a diversified industrial economy with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and developed infrastructure. According to the International Monetary Fund (see List of countries by past and future GDP (nominal) ) Italy in 2014 is the 8th-largest economy in the world, the 4th-largest in Europe and in the EU and the 3rd-largest in the Eurozone in terms of nominal GDP, and the 10th-largest economy in the world and 5th-largest in Europe in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP.
Italy is a member of the OECD.
- Fascist era 1.1
- Post-war economic miracle 1.2
- From stagflation to stagnation 1.3
- Late 2000s recession 1.4
- North–South divide 2.1
- Regional economic differences 2.2
Economic sectors 3
- Agriculture 3.1
- Energy and natural resources 3.2
- Industry and manufacturing 3.3
- Transport 3.4
- Finance 3.5
- Labor 4
- Wealth 5
- References 6
- External links 7
The Unification of Italy in 1861 broke down the feudal land system that had survived in the South since Middle Ages, especially where land had been the inalienable property of aristocrats, religious bodies, or the king. The redistribution of land did not necessarily lead to small farmers in the South winding up with land of their own or land they could work and profit from. Many remained landless, and plots grew smaller and smaller and thus more and more unproductive as land was subdivided among heirs.
At the same time, the early industrialization process that characterized the northern and central parts of the country starting from the 1880s, completely excluded large areas in the North-East. The resulting Italian diaspora concerned nearly 25 million Italians, the most part immigrated in the period 1880–1914, and it is considered the biggest mass migration of contemporary times.
During the Great War, the Italian Royal Army increased in size from 15,000 men in 1914 to 160,000 men in 1918, with 5 million recruits in total entering service during the war. This came at a terrible cost: by the end of the war, Italy had lost 700,000 soldiers and had a budget deficit of billions of lira.
Italy emerged from World War I in a poor and weakened condition. The National Fascist Party of Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922, at the end of a period of social unrest. During the first years of the new regime, the Fascist pursued a laissez-faire economic policy: they initially reduced taxes, regulations and trade restrictions on the whole. However, once Mussolini acquired a firmer hold of power, laissez-faire and free trade were progressively abandoned in favour of government intervention and protectionism.
In 1929, Italy was hit hard by the Great Depression. Trying to handle the crisis, the Fascist government nationalized the holdings of large banks which had accrued significant industrial securities, establishing the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale. A number of mixed entities were formed, whose purpose it was to bring together representatives of the government and of the major businesses. These representatives discussed economic policy and manipulated prices and wages so as to satisfy both the wishes of the government and the wishes of business.
This economic model based on a partnership between government and business was soon extended to the political sphere, in what came to be known as corporatism. At the same time, the aggressive foreign policy of Mussolini led to an increasing military expenditure. After the invasion of Ethiopia, Italy intervened to support Francisco Franco's nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. By 1939, Italy had the highest percentage of state-owned enterprises after the Soviet Union.
Italy's involvement in World War II as a member of the Axis powers required the establishment of a war economy. The Allied invasion of Italy in 1943 eventually caused the Italian political structure – and the economy – to rapidly collapse. The Allies, on the one hand, and the Germans on the other, took over the administration of the areas of Italy under their control. By the end of the war, Italian per capita income was at its lowest point since the beginning of the 20th century.
Post-war economic miracle
After the end of World War II, Italy was in rubble and occupied by foreign armies, like Germany and other Axis powers, a condition that worsened the chronic development gap towards the more advanced European economies. However, the new geopolitical logic of the Cold War made possible that the former enemy Italy, a hinge-country between Western Europe and the Mediterranean, and now a new, fragile democracy threatened by the proximity of the Iron Curtain and the presence of a strong Communist party, was considered by the USA as an important ally for the Free World, and received under the Marshall Plan US$1,204 million from 1947-51.
The end of aid through the Plan could have stopped the recovery but its end coincided with a crucial point in the Korean War whose demand for metal and manufactured products was a further stimulus of Italian industrial production. In addition, the creation in 1957 of the European Common Market, with Italy as a founding member, provided more investment and eased exports.
These favorable developments, combined with the presence of a large and cheap labour force, laid the foundation for spectacular economic growth that lasted almost uninterrupted until the "Hot Autumn's" massive strikes and social unrest of 1969–70, which then combined with the later 1973 oil crisis and put an abrupt end to the prolonged boom. It has been calculated that the Italian economy experienced an average rate of growth of GDP of 5.8% per year between 1951–63, and 5% per year between 1964–73. Italian rates of growth were second only, but very close, to the German rates, in Europe, and among the OEEC countries only Japan had been doing better.
From stagflation to stagnation
The 1970s were a period of economic, political turmoil and social unrest in Italy. Unemployment rose sharply, especially among the young. By 1977 there were one million unemployed people under age 24. Inflation continued, aggravated by the increases in the price of oil in 1973 and 1979. The budget deficit became permanent and intractable, averaging about 10 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), higher than any other industrial country. The lira fell steadily, from 560 lira to the U.S. dollar in 1973 to 1,400 lira in 1982.
The economic recession went on into the mid-1980s until a set of reforms led to the independence of the Bank of Italy and a big reduction of the indexation of wages that strongly reduced inflation rates, from 20.6% in 1980 to 4.7% in 1987.
The new macroeconomic and political stabiliy resulted in a second, export-led "economic miracle", based on small- and medium-sized companies, producing clothing, leather products, shoes, furniture, textiles, jewelry, and machine tools. As a result of this rapid expansion, in 1987 Italy overtook the British economy (an event known as il sorpasso), becoming the fifth in the world. Similarly to Japan, a financial bubble soon developed, as the stock exchange increased its market capitalization more than fivefold in the space of a few years.
However, the Italian economy of the 1980s presented a paradox. On the surface, it was booming, thanks to increased productivity and surging exports. But this façade of prosperity hid the truth of a sick macroeconomy. Unsustainable fiscal deficits drove consumption. Inflation and labor costs thus rose again; unemployment and welfare payments were too high, maintained by the corruption of the political system. Debt was startling.
In the 1990s, a series of political scandals and the new Maastricht criteria boosted the urge to curb the growth of public debt, already at 104% of GDP in 1992. The consequent restrictive economic policies worsened the impact of the global recession already underway. After a brief recover at the end of the 1990s, high tax rates, lack of competition and red tape caused the country to stagnate between 2000 and 2008.
Late 2000s recession
Italy was hit hard by the economic crisis of 2007–11. The national economy shrunk by 6.76% during the whole period, totalizing seven-quarters of recession. According to the EU's statistics body Eurostat, Italian public debt stood at 116% of GDP in 2010, ranking as the second biggest debt ratio after Greece (with 126.8%). However, the biggest chunk of Italian public debt is owned by national subjects, and relatively high levels of private savings and low levels of private indebtedness are seen as making it the safest among Europe's struggling economies.
As a result of austerity measures passed in December 2010, Italy is targeting a public budget deficit of 3.9% in 2011 and 2.7% in 2012, both among the lowest in the European Union. In Autumn 2011, Standard & Poor's and Moody's downgraded Italian sovereign debt rating because of "Italy's weakening economic growth prospects." Italy also has a weak coalition government which would "limit the government's ability to respond decisively" to events. Both rating agencies give a negative outlook on the debt, meaning further downgrades are possible.
The government had adopted austerity measures on 15 July and 14 September 2011, together meant to save 124 billion euro. Nonetheless, by 8 November 2011 the Italian bond yield was 6.74 percent for 10-year bonds, nearing a 7 percent level where Italy is thought to lose access to financial markets, but it was under 5.0% in February 2012. As a result of austerity measures passed in 2011, Italy is targeting a public budget deficit of 1.5% in 2013.
In the post-war period, Italy was transformed from an agricultural based economy which had been severely affected by the consequences of World War II, into one of the world's most industrialized nations, and a leading country in world trade and exports. According to the Human Development Index, the country enjoys a very high standard of living, and, according to The Economist, has the world's 8th highest quality of life.
From the last Eurostat data, Italian per capita GDP at purchasing power parity remains approximately equal to the EU average, while the unemployment rate (8.5%) stands as one of the EU's lowest. Italy owns the world's third-largest gold reserve. The country is also well known for its influential and innovative business economic sector, an industrious and competitive agricultural sector (Italy is the world's largest wine producer), and for its creative and high-quality automobile, industrial, appliance and fashion design.
Despite these important achievements, the country's economy today suffers from many and relevant problems. After a strong GDP growth in 1945–1990, the last two decades's average annual growth rates lagged well below the EU average; moreover, Italy was hit particularly hard by the late-2000s recession. The stagnation in economic growth, and the political efforts to revive it with massive government spending from the 1980s onwards, eventually produced a severe rise in public debt. In addition, Italian living standards have a considerable north–south divide: the average GDP per capita in Northern and Central Italy significantly exceeds the EU average, whilst some regions and provinces in Southern Italy are dramatically below. Between 2000 and 2006, Italy received €27.4 billion from the European Development Fund for investments in depressed areas of the South. Italy is the first net contributor to the European Union.
More specifically, Italian economy is weakened by the lack of infrastructure development, market reforms and research investment, and also high public deficit. In the Index of Economic Freedom 2011, the country ranked only 87th in the world, in particular due to the high rate of corruption, an excessive state interventionism, and a strong labor law. In addition, the most recent data show that Italy's spending in R&D in 2011 was equal to 1.1% of GDP (12th in the world by expenditures), below the European average of 1.7% and the Lisbon Strategy target of devoting 3% of GDP to research and development activities.
Italy has a smaller number of global multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size, but there is a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises, as in the Northern "industrial triangle" (Milan-Turin-Genoa), where there is an area of intense industrial and machinery production, notably in their several industrial districts, which are the backbone of the Italian industry. This has produced a manufacturing sector often focused on the export of niche market and luxury products, that on one side is less capable of competing on quantity, but on the other side is more capable of facing the competition from emerging economies based on lower labor costs, with higher quality products.
The country was the world's seventh-largest exporter in 2009. Italy's major exports and companies by sector are motor vehicles (Pagani); yachts (Ferretti, Azimut). Italy's closest trade ties are with the other countries of the European Union, with whom it conducts about 59% of its total trade. Its largest EU trade partners, in order of market share, are Germany (12.9%), France (11.4%), and Spain (7.4%).
Starting with the unification of Italy in 1861, a wide and increasing economic divide has been noticeably growing between the northern provinces and the southern half of the Italian state. In the early decades of the new kingdom, the lack of an effective land reform, heavy taxes and other economic measures imposed on the South, together with the removal of protectionist tariffs on agricultural goods, made the situation virtually impossible for many tenant farmers and land owners. Multitudes chose to emigrate rather than try to eke out a meager living, especially from 1892 to 1921.
In addition, the surge of Italian empire and Southern Italian ports were strategic for all commerce towards the colonies. Naples enjoyed a demographic and economic rebirth, mainly thanks to the interest of King Victor Emmanuel III who was born there. With the invasion of Southern Italy, the Allies restored the lost authority of the mafia families during the Fascist period and used their influence to maintain public order.
In the 1950s the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno was set up as a huge public master plan to help industrialize the South, aiming to do this in two ways: through land reforms creating 120,000 new smallholdings, and through the "Growth Pole Strategy" whereby 60% of all government investment would go to the South, thus boosting the Southern economy by attracting new capital, stimulating local firms, and providing employment. However, the objectives were largely missed, and as a result the South became increasingly subsidized and state dependent, incapable of generating private growth itself.
Despite electricity interruptions are more common in this area, European standards in public services are fully respected.
Even at present, huge regional disparities persist. Problems in Southern Italy still include widespread political corruption, pervading organized crime and very high unemployment rates. It is estimated that about 40% of the businesses in the gross sales, an estimated annual profit of €100 billion, and boasted estimated cash reserves of €65 billion.
Regional economic differences
|NUTS-1 region||€ mil.||€ per cap.||% of the EU average|
|Region||€ mil.||€ per cap.||NUTS-1 region|
- The regions highlighted in red are autonomous and have special financial privileges.
The northern part of Italy produces primarily  and one of the leading in olive oil, fruits (apples, olives, oranges, lemons, pears, apricots, peaches, cherries, strawberries and kiwi), flowers and vegetables.
According to the agriculture census, there were 2.6 million farms in 2000 (down from 3 million in 1990,) covering 19.6 million hectares. The vast majority (94.7%) are family-operated and small, averaging only 5 hectares in size. Of the total surface area in agricultural use (forestry excluded,) grain fields take up 31%, olive tree orchards 8.2%, vineyards 5.4%, citrus orchards 1%, other orchards 3.8%, sugarbeets 1.7%, and horticulture 2.4%. The remainder is primarily dedicated to pastures (25.9%) and feed grains (11.6%.) Livestock includes 6 million head of cattle, 8.6 million head of swine, 6.8 million head of sheep, and 0.9 million head of goats.
The most famous Italian wines are probably the Tuscan Chianti and Pinot grigio. Other famous wines are Barbaresco, Barolo and Barbera (Piedmont), Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany), Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo) and Nero d'Avola (Sicily). Quality goods in which Italy specialises are often DOC or 'of controlled origin'. This DOC certificate, which is attributed by the European Union, ensures that the origins and work that goes into a product are recognised. This certification is considered important by producers and consumers alike, in order to avoid confusion with low-quality mass-produced ersatz products.
Energy and natural resources
Italy has few natural resources. There are no substantial deposits of iron, coal, or oil. Proven natural gas reserves, mainly in the Po Valley and offshore Adriatic, have grown in recent years and constitute the country's most important mineral resource. Most raw materials needed for manufacturing and more than 80% of the country's energy sources are imported. The energy sector is highly dependent on imports from abroad: in 2006 the country imported more than 86% of its total energy consumption (99.7% of the solid fuels demand, 92.5% of oil, 91.2% of natural gas and 15% of electricity).
In the last decade, Italy has became one of the world's largest producers of renewable energy, ranking as the world's fifth-largest solar energy producer in 2009 and the sixth largest producer of wind power in 2008.
Italy has managed four nuclear reactors until the 1980s, but in 1987, after the Chernobyl disaster, a large majority of Italians passed a referendum opting for phasing out nuclear power. The government responded by closing existing nuclear power plants and stopping work on projects underway, completely putting a halt to the national nuclear program. Currently, the majority of Italian electricity is produced gas, oil, coal, and hydro. Italy also imports about 16% of its electricity need from France for 6.5 GWe, which makes it the world's biggest importer of electricity. Due to its reliance on expensive fossil fuels and imports, Italians pay approximately 45% more than the EU average for electricity.
In 2004, a new Energy Law brought the possibility of joint ventures with foreign companies to build nuclear power plants and import electricity. Public opinion on nuclear power was positive, as Italy's younger generations embraced nuclear energy. In 2005, Italy's power company, ENEL made an agreement with Electricite de France for 200 MWe from a nuclear reactor in France and potentially an additional 1,000 MWe from new construction. As part of the agreement, ENEL received a 12.5% stake in the project and direct involvement in design, construction, and operation of the plants. In another move, ENEL also bought 66% of the Slovak Electric utility that operates six nuclear reactors. As part of this agreement, ENEL will pay the Slovak government EUR 1.6 billion to complete a nuclear power plant in Mochovce, which has a gross output of 942 MWe. With these agreements, Italy has managed to access nuclear power without placing reactors on Italian territory.
Industry and manufacturing
In 2004 the transport sector in Italy generated a turnover of about 119.4 billion euros, employing 935,700 persons in 153,700 enterprises. Regarding to the national road network, in 2002 there were 668,721 km (415,612 mi) of serviceable roads in Italy, including 6,487 km (4,031 mi) of motorways, state-owned but privately operated mainly by Atlantia company. In 2005, about 34,667,000 passenger cars (equal to 590 cars per 1,000 people) and 4,015,000 road good vehicles circulated on the national road network.
The railway network in Italy totalled 16,862 kilometres (2008) of which 69% are electrified and on which 4,937 locomotives and railcars circulate. It is the 15th largest in the world, and is operated by Ferrovie dello Stato. High speed trains include ETR-class trains, with the ETR 500 reaching 300 km/h (190 mph). The rail tracks and infrastructure are managed by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana
In 1991 Treno Alta Velocità SpA was created for the planning and construction of high-speed rail lines along Italy's most important and saturated transport routes. One of the focuses of the project is to turn the rail network of Italy into a modern high-tech passenger rail system in accordance with updated European rail standards. A secondary purpose is to introduce high-speed rail to the country's high-priority corridors, namely the Milan-Naples and Turin-Milan-Venice lines.
When demand on regular lines is lessened with the opening of dedicated high-speed lines, those regular lines will be used primarily for low-speed regional rail service and freight trains. With these plans realised, the Italian rail network would be integrated with other European rail networks, particularly the French TGV, German ICE, and Spanish AVE systems.In 2005, about 34,667,000 passenger cars (equal to 590 cars per 1,000 people) and 4,015,000 road good vehicles circulated on the national road network.
The national inland waterway network comprised 1,477 km (918 mi) of navigable rivers and channels in 2002. In 2004 there were approximately 30 main airports (including the two hubs of Malpensa International in Milan and Leonardo Da Vinci International in Rome) and 43 major seaports including the seaport of Genoa, the country's largest and the second largest in the Mediterranean Sea after Marseille. In 2005 Italy maintained a civilian air fleet of about 389,000 units and a merchant fleet of 581 ships.
Banking in Italy has, as of 11 October 2008, an average assets/liabilities ratio of 12 – 1, while the banks's short-term liabilities are equal to 86% of the Italian GDP or 43% of the Italian national debt. This is a list of the top 10 Italian banks ranked by market capitalization.
|2||Intesa Sanpaolo||Turin||47.7 billion|
|3||Monte dei Paschi di Siena||Siena||36.6 billion|
|4||UBI Banca||Bergamo||9.8 billion|
|5||Banco Popolare||Verona||9.4 billion|
|6||Banca Nazionale del Lavoro||Rome||7.5 billion|
|8||Banca Popolare dell'Emilia Romagna||Modena||4.6 billion|
|10||Banca Popolare di Milano||Milan||4.0 billion|
Following the 2003 "Biagi law", a controversial labour reform, unemployment has been steadily decreasing, reaching 6.2% in 2007, the lowest rate since the 1970s. In the south the average unemployment rate is far higher than the national average, but, in recent years, progress was made nonetheless, with the unemployment rate falling from 23.7% in 1999 to 11.2% in 2007 for Campania, and from 24.5% to 13% for Sicily. There is a significant underground economy, especially in the south where it partially offsets the high official unemployment rate, absorbing substantial numbers of people, working for low wages and without standard social benefits and protections. Italy maintains a good self employment rate at 25.5%.
Unions claim to represent 40% of the work force. Most Italian unions are grouped in three major confederations: the CGIL, the CISL, and the UIL, which together claim 35% of the work force. These confederations formerly were associated with important political parties (respectively the Italian Communist Party, the Christian Democracy and the Italian Socialist Party), but they have formally terminated such ties. Nowadays, the three often coordinate their positions before confronting management or lobbying the government. The three major confederations have an important consultative role on national social and economic issues.
Among their major agreements are a 4-year wage moderation agreement signed in 1993, a reform of the pension system in 1995, and an employment pact, introducing steps for labor market flexibility in economically depressed areas, in 1996. The CGIL, CISL, and UIL are affiliates of the Confindustria, the Italian Employers' Federation.
The average standard of living in Italy is very high. As noted by Mario B. Mignone:
“In the official economy, the Italian worker is well rewarded with high wages, good benefits, and many paid holidays, but he or she cannot escape from the heavy burden of taxes.”
A quarterly report prepared by the Miuccia Prada, Ennio Doris, the Benetton family, the Agnelli family and Silvio Berlusconi, to name but a few. According to the Banca d'Italia the average net wealth per capita in 2013 was above €140,000. In 2013 Italy was ranked 10th in the world by net wealth per capita according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report with $195,925 ($241,383 per adult, 13th). According to Allianz AG Global Wealth Report 2013 the net financial wealth per capita is €45,770 in Italy that is ranked 14th in the world. Italy represents the 5th largest cumulative net wealth globally (it accounts for 4.92% of the net wealth in the world) according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2013. The country has over 1.4 million people with a net wealth greater than $1 million and a national wealth of $11.857 trillions.
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