Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

With two successive governments pursuing different policies during the period, Italy falls into the bottom ranks (rank 40) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

The first Conte government sought a sharp break with previous practices, proposing policies that would have sharply increased expenditure and violate EU deficit rules. After negotiation with the EU, these policies were scaled back, losing much of their stimulus effect. After the fall of the first cabinet, the second Conte government opted for a more fiscally prudent approach.

The first government increased protections for short-term workers while encouraging transitions to permanent contracts. Some success has been evident here. A new “citizen’s income” provides benefits to people in poverty while offering job-search assistance through employment centers. These centers have been slow to emerge.

Proposals for a flat tax (of two different rates) were scaled back to a tax reduction for self-employed workers. The initially expansionary proposals and confrontational stance toward the EU contributed to raising the cost of borrowing on international markets, but the second Conte government has proved more cooperative.

Social Policies

With concerns rising in several areas, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 29) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

With few financial-support mechanisms for students, access to upper-secondary and tertiary education is socially discriminatory. A new “citizen’s income” offers a variable income to every person under a given economic threshold, contingent upon acceptance of a job proposed by employment centers if the person is able to work.

Service quality in the universal healthcare system is often very good, but varies significantly by region. Aside from generous maternity leave, family policy is limited. Family members very often provide critical services such as care for preschool age children. Workforce-participation rates among women are low but rising, but the birth rate has continued to decline.

Recent pension-system sustainability reforms have been rolled back, reducing the retirement age to 62. The first Conte government made access to Italian ports for ships carrying refugees much harder, and xenophobic rhetoric especially by Interior Minister Salvini helped encourage acts of violence against immigrants and foreigners.

Environmental Policies

With a strong renewable-energy record, Italy falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 18) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.2 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, most recently even in southern Italy, which has traditionally lagged. The country has among the highest number of cars per capita in the world, and smog, particulate matter, poor air quality and traffic jams increasingly undermine the quality of life.

The first Conte government focused largely on slowing the pace of new infrastructure development, while the second has said it would introduce green-oriented tax incentives.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

With a number of clear concerns under successive governments, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 26) in terms of quality of democracy. Its overall score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

A new party-financing system, based on citizens’ voluntary contributions to parties as a part of their income tax, has proved largely unsuccessful. Private donations are not fully transparent, and cases of abuse or fraud have emerged in almost all parties. A recent reform reduced parties’ influence over the public broadcast system, but opened the door to increased government influence.

Immigrants are not accorded strong legal protections, particularly in the labor market. Critics say a new law imposing restrictions on demonstrations, and imposing stronger penalties for banned behavior, infringes on civil rights and political liberties. While in office, Interior Minister Salvini openly promoted discrimination against immigrants and foreigners.

Gender balance in the corporate sector is a concern. Ministers’ increasing use of social media to communicate decisions has created legal uncertainty, and some of Salvini’s decisions were overturned by courts. Anti-corruption efforts have been strengthened, but corruption remains a serious problem, in part due to opportunities opened by regulatory complexity.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

With its government split into separate power centers, Italy scores relatively poorly (rank 32) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.0 point relative to 2014.

The first Conte cabinet was shaped by two party leaders with very different programs, with the prime minister wielding little clout. This left little room for strategic planning. The Government Office’s control over the legislative process and line ministries was minimal, with ministers responding primarily to their party leader. That pattern has continued somewhat under the second Conte government.

This bifurcated power structure required frequent political “summits” between the prime minister and party leaders to resolve conflicts. Poor coordination produced poorly prepared decisions that later needed correction. Under the first Conte government, consultation with expert and societal actors was rare, and communication rather incoherent. The successor cabinet has shown some improvement.

The first Conte cabinet was confrontational toward the EU, and made little effort to respect international obligations. The second Conte government has backed away from this mode of operation. The government is trying to introduce more independent monitoring mechanisms in response to the collapse of the Genova bridge.

Executive Accountability

With a varied mix of oversight capabilities, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 28) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have significant resources and executive-oversight powers. The audit court has demonstrated considerable independence from the government, while a Parliamentary Budget Office monitors compliance with European fiscal rules. The data-protection authority has extensive powers and enjoys a high degree of independence.

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, which does feature political themes significantly.

Political parties vary widely with regard to decision-making structures, but the Northern League and Five Star Movements are dominated by their leaders. 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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