Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite considerable recent progress, Italy receives relatively low scores (rank 30) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

A solid government parliamentary majority has facilitated welcome stability. Tax reductions and other expansionary measures have produced positive economic effects. New policies have reduced the cost of hiring young people. A public-administrative reform is aiming at reducing bureaucratic complexity.

Unemployment rates have continued to increase, and are particularly dramatic among the young. Reforms have increased labor-market flexibility while creating incentives for long-term contracts, with significant evident success.

Tax reforms have aided low-income tax payers, reduced taxes on income and corporations, and raised financial-asset taxes. Fiscal stabilization, producing falling deficits and a strong primary surplus, has sharply diminished government-debt interest rates. Debt levels remain high.

Social Policies

With serious gaps in its safety net, Italy receives a comparatively low overall ranking (rank 29) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Overall education-system quality is not high. A high share of young people are not in education, employment or training. Social programs are weak, and fail to reach a significant share of the newly impoverished. Redistributive tax policies fail to help low-income households.

Service quality in the universal health care system is often good but varies by region. Aside from generous maternity leave, family policy is limited. Workforce-participation rates among women are low, as are birth rates.

Pension reforms have improved the system’s sustainability. Immigration policy, though an increasingly contentious issue, has become more pragmatic with regard to regularizing immigrants. The navy has increasingly provided help to migrants endangered while crossing the Mediterranean.

Environmental Policies

Despite a strong renewable-energy record, Italy scores comparatively poorly overall (rank 31) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Although incentives for solar-power deployment have diminished, significant hydroelectric-, wind- and solar-based power generation has driven the country to a renewable-energy share of more than 35%. The country’s performance with regard to CO2 emissions per unit of GDP is above average, and strong incentives are provided for sustainable house construction and renovation.

Water efficiency and waste management remain serious problems, particularly in the south. Traffic-related smog is an issue even in smaller towns. The country has been supportive of international environmental regimes, but has not played a leading role.



Quality of Democracy

Despite improvements in recent years, Italy falls into the middle of the pack internationally (rank 23) in terms of quality of democracy. Its overall score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

A new electoral law switches from closed electoral lists to mixed lists, enabling voters to express candidate preferences. Public financing of political parties will be phased out by 2017.

The media system has become more pluralistic. Public-television neutrality has improved. A pending constitutional amendment will make referenda easier to pass. Freedom-of-information requests are often not answered in a timely manner.

Court backlogs hamper the protection of civil rights, but a structural reform is aimed at improving court efficiency. Discrimination against immigrants, particularly in the labor market, is a problem. Gender balance in the corporate sector is a concern. Anti-corruption efforts have been strengthened, but corruption remains a serious problem.



Executive Capacity

With significant positive reforms underway, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 22) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

The strong current prime minister and his staff guide the cabinet’s legislative initiatives, but lack the resources to monitor technical details closely. A small team of experts advises the prime minister on policy strategy. The importance of informal coordination can sometimes result in poorly coordinated decisions.

RIAs tend to be more formal than substantial. The government engages in continuous dialogue with traditional societal actors. Communications responsibility has shifted to the Prime Minister’s Office, but contradictions sometimes require corrections.

The Renzi government has largely succeeded in achieving its reform agenda. Ministry monitoring has improved. The government has reduced municipalities’ taxing power. Electoral and constitutional reforms have been aimed at making government more efficient.

Executive Accountability

With a varying mix of oversight capabilities, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 25) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have significant resources and executive-oversight powers. The audit court is independent but not connected to parliament. A new Parliamentary Budget Office assesses government forecasts and monitors compliance with European fiscal rules.

Media coverage of politics is substantial but often superficial, with newspapers providing the strongest policy information. A minority of citizens say they are interested in politics, but most watch TV news.

Political parties vary widely with regard to decision-making structures, from the very democratic to Berlusconi’s leader-run system. Employers’ associations and trade unions draw on expert resources, but are conservative in outlook. A growing number of single-issue movements provide policymaking contributions.
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