The Italian Economy

Italy has a diversified industrial economy, which is divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with high unemployment. The Italian economy is driven in large part by the manufacture of high-quality consumer goods produced by small and medium-sized enterprises, many of them family owned.

Italy also has a sizable underground economy, which by some estimates accounts for as much as 15% of GDP. These activities are most common within the agriculture, construction, and service sectors. Italy has moved slowly on implementing needed structural reforms, such as reducing graft, overhauling costly entitlement programs, and increasing employment opportunities for young workers, particularly women.

The international financial crisis worsened conditions in Italy’s labor market, with unemployment rising from 6.2% in 2007 to 8.4% in 2010, but in the longer-term Italy’s low fertility rate and quota-driven immigration policies will increasingly strain its economy. A rise in exports and investment driven by the global economic recovery nevertheless helped the economy grow by about 1% in 2010 following a 5% contraction in 2009.

The Italian government has struggled to limit government spending, but Italy’s exceedingly high public debt remains above 115% of GDP, and its fiscal deficit—just 1.5% of GDP in 2007—exceeded 5% in 2009 and 2010, as the costs of servicing the country’s debt rose.

Labor force: 25.54 million (2015 est.)

Labor force by occupation:

  • Agriculture: 3.9%
  • Industry: 28.3%
  • Services: 67.8% (2011)

Exports: $454.6 billion (2015 est.)

Export commodities: Engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals, and nonferrous metals.

Imports: $389.2 billion (2015 est.)

Import commodities: Engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco.

Source: CIA The World Factbook

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