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.

While previous tax reductions and other expansionary measures have produced positive economic effects, impact has been less than expected due in part to slowing international growth. Nevertheless, modest growth has returned. New policies have reduced the cost of hiring young people and encouraged companies to offer permanent contracts.

Unemployment rates have increased in recent years, with jobless rates particularly dramatic among the young. Reforms have increased labor-market flexibility while providing incentives to offer long-term contracts. Policies have seen more success in increasing employment rates among older workers than within the younger cohorts.

Tax reforms have encouraged technological investment. Income-tax reductions have been postponed. Fiscal stabilization, producing falling deficits and a strong primary surplus, has sharply diminished government-debt interest rates. Expenditure cuts and privatization measures have come more slowly than promised, and debt levels remain high.

Social Policies

With serious gaps in its safety net, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 25) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Overall education-system quality is not high, with access concerns at the secondary and tertiary levels. 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 increased the lowest pension rates and made retirement ages more flexible. Preventing illegal immigration and hosting refugees have been bigger policy concerns than integration. The navy provides crucial aid to migrants endangered while crossing the Mediterranean.

Environmental Policies

Despite a strong renewable-energy record, Italy scores comparatively poorly overall (rank 29) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points 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 nearly 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. However, recycling rates have increased significantly, particularly in central and northern Italy. Traffic-related smog is an issue even in smaller towns, with the country having among the highest number of cars per capita in the world.

The country has been supportive of international environmental regimes, including the Paris climate accords, 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 22) in terms of quality of democracy. Its overall score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

A recently passed 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, and public-television neutrality has increased.

Freedom-of-information requests are often not answered in a timely manner, but a new law significantly extends the range of publicly accessible documents. Court backlogs hamper the protection of civil rights, but the Renzi government has focused on improving court efficiency especially for civil proceedings.

A new law granting same-sex civil partnerships has been passed. Discrimination against immigrants, particularly in the labor market, remains 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 upper-middle ranks internationally (rank 16) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.8 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 are increasingly used, but tend to be more formal than substantial when conducted by ministries. The government has established tighter relations with the employers’ association, and has newly worked to engage with trade unions. Communications responsibility has shifted to the Prime Minister’s Office, but occasional contradictory statements have required corrections.

During the review period, the Renzi government focused strongly on the constitutional reform that was approved by parliament but ultimately rejected in a referendum. The reform would have reduced the second chamber’s legislative role, centralized powers and enabled the enforcement of national standards, among other changes. Renzi has also sought to increase Italy’s influence at the EU level.

Executive Accountability

With a mix of oversight capabilities, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 23) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have significant resources and executive-oversight powers. The audit court is independent but not connected to parliament. A Parliamentary Budget Office assesses government forecasts, often critically, and monitors compliance with European fiscal rules. No national ombuds office exists.

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. A strong public-information campaign accompanied Renzi’s ultimately unsuccessful constitutional-reform referendum.

Political parties vary widely with regard to decision-making structures. 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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