Policy Performance


Economic Policies

With a new government shifting the reform focus, Italy scores relatively poorly (rank 34) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

Italy’s economy continued to grow during the review period, but at sluggish rates. The ongoing post-2014 recovery has yet to return the economy to pre-crisis levels. Recent labor, social and industrial reforms are only beginning to affect growth levels.

The government changeover in June 2018 led to a shift in economic policies, with the new government promising higher deficits resulting from increases in social and pension expenditures as well as tax reductions. Twin goals included fighting poverty and economic stimulus, but the policies had not yet taken effect by the end of the review period.

Labor-market rules over past years have led to a significant increase in employment, but largely of a short-term nature. The new government promised to introduce a “flat tax” (in fact two rates of 15% and 20%), but fiscal difficulties led it to settle initially for a tax reduction for some workers. Promised debt reductions have been slow to emerge, and the new government raised deficit projections substantially.

Social Policies

With new concerns arising in several areas, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 28) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.3 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 (NEET). Social programs are generally weak, with redistributive tax policies failing to help low-income households. The new government has proposed a “citizenship income” that could particularly reach the NEET population.

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 but rising, but the birth rate has continued to decline.

While recent pension reforms had made the pension system more sustainable, the new government promised reforms and retirement-age reductions that would undermine this sustainability. The government made access to Italian ports for ships carrying refugees much harder, and xenophobic rhetoric by ministers encouraged acts of violence against immigrants and foreigners.

Environmental Policies

Despite a strong renewable-energy record, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 29) 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. The new government declared that it would have a pro-environment orientation.



Quality of Democracy

With concerns raised by the new government’s rhetoric, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 23) in terms of quality of democracy. Its overall score on this measure has improved by 0.3 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 largely unsuccessful. A recent public-broadcasting reform reduced the influences of parties, but opened the door to increased government influence.

Freedom-of-information requests are often not answered in a timely manner, but the range of publicly accessible documents has grown. A series of judicial reforms is helping to reduce a longstanding backlog of judicial proceedings. The new government, driven by Interior Minister Salvini, highlighted law-and-order issues and officially promoted discrimination against immigrants and foreigners.

Same-sex civil partnerships are newly allowed. Gender balance in the corporate sector is a concern. Ministers’ increasing use of social media to communicate decisions has created legal uncertainty. Anti-corruption efforts have been strengthened, but corruption remains a serious problem, in part due to opportunities opened by regulatory complexity.



Executive Capacity

With the new coalition split between power centers, Italy scores relatively poorly (rank 31) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

Incoming Prime Minister Conte was politically weak relative to his two deputy prime ministers (and coalition party leaders). The Government Office thus lost some control over the legislative process, with ministers responding to party leaders rather than to the head of government. Informal meetings between Conte and the two party leaders were used to resolve conflict and develop policy.

A new, more comprehensive RIA regulation took effect in late 2017. Ex post evaluations are not widely employed. The Conte coalition government entered with strong anti-expert rhetoric, and appeared reluctant to consult with social actors. With party leaders overshadowing Conte, communication proved rather incoherent.

Policy differences between the two coalition parties made policy implementation difficult. Blocking entry by immigrants proved most effective. The collapse of the Genova bridge exposed the weakness of past regulatory enforcement. The Conte government has been more confrontational toward the European Union, while trying to strengthen bonds with the United States and Russia.

Executive Accountability

With a mix of oversight capabilities, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 27) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 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. Northern League party leader Matteo Salvini was elected in a primary process in 2017. 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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