Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite considerable recent progress, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 29) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.0 point relative to 2014.

Threading a careful path between euro zone rules and domestic-economy support, Italy has experienced an accelerating economic recovery. The government has prolonged previous years’ expansionary measures, while adding new incentives for innovative industrial investments. The cost of employing young people has been reduced, and anti-poverty mechanisms have been strengthened.

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 younger cohorts.

Tax credits for low-income people have been maintained, helping to diminish inequality. 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 initially proposed, and debt levels remain very 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 0.5 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 generally weak, with redistributive tax policies failing to help low-income households. Low-income tax credits, unemployment allowances, and benefits for pregnant women and poor families have helped somewhat.

Service quality in the universal health care system is often very 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.

Recent pension reforms have made the pension system more sustainable. Preventing illegal immigration and hosting refugees have been bigger policy concerns than integration. Xenophobic rhetoric has increased, turning immigration into one of the country’s hottest political topics.

Environmental Policies

Despite a strong renewable-energy record, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 28) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.7 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 country has been supportive of international environmental regimes, including the Paris climate accords. The country joined the anti-coal alliance at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, declaring it would phase out coal use by 2030.



Quality of Democracy

Despite gains in recent years, Italy falls into the middle of the pack internationally (rank 20) 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 combines single-member districts and multi-member districts with a proportional system. A new party-financing system, based on citizens’ voluntary assignment of small income-tax payments to parties, has proved unsuccessful. The Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset media group retains considerable political influence, but 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. A series of judicial reforms is helping to reduce a longstanding backlog of judicial proceedings. A law against torture has been introduced after years of discussion.

A new law approving 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, in part due to opportunities opened by regulatory complexity.



Executive Capacity

With modest reforms succeeding where more ambitious attempts failed, Italy receives middling scores overall (rank 19) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

Former Prime Minister Renzi’s decision to resign but retain the position of leader of the largest governing-coalition party complicated coordination and policymaking. The new government had less control over ministers, and successor Gentiloni adopted a softer leadership style as a consequence. Weaker coordination led to occasionally hasty and ill-prepared decisions.

RIAs are increasingly used, but tend to be more formal than substantial when conducted by ministries. A new, more comprehensive RIA regulation took effect in late 2017. The Gentiloni government was less confrontational than Renzi’s, seeking to consult more broadly with trade unions and employers.

Gentiloni’s limited government program was largely achieved. Incremental electoral reforms proved more successful than Renzi’s broad and ultimately rejected constitutional reform. New instruments for monitoring the public administration have been introduced.

Executive Accountability

With a 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 declined 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 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, which does feature political themes significantly.

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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