The unemployment gap in Italy

The unemployment gap in Italy

Since the foundation of the Italian Republic (1861), Italy has suffered from the development gap characterized by flourishing northern and central regions, in contrast to the poor southern areas, which have always had the worst GDP and employment rate level. This condition was present even before the economic crisis, in fact, in 2007 the three areas showed different employment rates of the population aged 20-64: 70,5% in the North, followed by 66,3% in the Center, against 50.7% in the South. In the same way, the unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 in the South overcome 10%, compared to 3,5% in the North and 5,4% in the Center[1].


During the economic recessions, this gap has increased and, in the last few years the deep differences in infrastructure, in the labor market and in the productions between the three areas has become even more evident. According to the National Statistic Institution's reports, today only the  regions in the North and in the Center has recovered its economy, overcoming the level of employment rate present before the crisis - respectively +2% of growth in the North and +1,5% in the Center. Instead, the South is still in a condition of underdevelopment, and its employment rate has remained 2,5% lower compared to the level before the crisis.


The differences in the economic performance of the three areas also affected the Italian citizens’ quality of life and increase inequality. Indeed, the BES index (Fair and Sustainable Wellness) report of 2018 shows that in the South the quality of healthcare, education, and employment remain lower respect the northern areas where people have a better chance to be treated, well-educated and employed[2].

The index of the South shows that in 2018:

-       the number of people (aged 15-64) employed is 48,2% compared to 70% in northern areas,

-       the number of inactive people (aged 15-64) is 43% compared to 30%  in northern areas,

-       the number of young people (aged 15-24) in NEET conditions is 34,4% compared to 16,7% in northern areas,

-       number of graduated people is 21,4% compared to 30% in northern areas,

-       the live expectancies are 82 ages compared to the 83,5 in the northern areas.

These data are very critical in comparison to the national and European averages because they indicate the lack of economic recovery in these regions. The main concern is that the South could fall into an economic situation similar to Greece or even worse in a few years.


Why the South have difficulties to improve its economy and employment rate? Which are the main obstacles to the recovery and development of the South areas? There are several causes to take in consideration.

1)    Lack of infrastructures: since 1992 the government has interrupted to finance essential infrastructures in the South such as hospitals, schools, and transportations. The weakness of such relevant services affects the health state and poverty of the population preventing the rise of development and the realizations of new economic activities and job places[3]. (Martucci N.)

2)    The Italian wage system: in Italy, the wage system is centralized which means that the government establishes a common national wage in agreement with the representatives of labor union and industries. In this way, salary is not linked to the territory's economic performance, but it is common to all areas. In the South the cost of labor results highest in comparison to the northern areas, favoring the disemployment[4]. (Boeri T, Inchino A.)

3)    Labour black market: to escape from poverty and disemployment a lot of people in the South enter in the irregular labor market. According to the research of the National Statistic Institution, the work units in black in the South are 1.300.000, in confront to the 581.176 million in the northern areas[5]. (Riccio S.)


This article has been written by Daniela Faccioli about the project Workpetence which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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