Italy

   

Social Policies

#25
Key Findings
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.

Education

#32

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
5
The Italian education system is a predominantly public system headed at the state level by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR). MIUR dominates education policy, including hiring and funding. Though regional and municipal school authorities have some power with respect to the curricula, physical infrastructure and resource management. Private education in Italy is limited and consists primarily of religious schools. Italy also has a handful of private universities with a prestigious reputation (e.g., Bocconi, LUISS, Cattolica). The education system is, in principle, open to everybody without discrimination. Tuition fees are excised only at the tertiary level and are low. However, given the scarce amount of resources allocated for scholarships or similar support mechanisms for financially needy students, access is seriously limited at the upper secondary and tertiary levels. As might be expected, the share of individuals who do not complete their studies is above OECD averages.

Per student spending at all levels of education is close to the OECD average, but due to the smaller percentage of students, the global expenditure as a share of GDP is significantly lower than the OECD average. Moreover, the level of expenditure has been almost flat for the past 10 years. When education expenditure is measured as a percentage of total public expenditure, Italy shows one of the lowest rates among OECD countries.

In terms of tertiary education spending, Italy lags behind even more significantly. The share of education expenditure allocated to the salaries of teachers, professors and technical staff – the number of which is often unnecessarily high – compared to the share for capital expenditures and research funds, is above average. This is not because salaries are particularly high, but because capital and research funds are very limited. Selection of school and university personnel is still not sufficiently meritocratic. Although there are significant areas of high-quality education at both the secondary and tertiary levels, overall quality could be improved.

During the period under review, there has been no major change in the allocation of resources. Some limited changes have been made with the Good School program (“La buona scuola”). These include reforms to teacher recruitment procedures, the authority and accountability of secondary school principals, and the transition of many teachers from fixed-term to unlimited employment contracts.
The allocation of public resources to universities has increasingly incorporated a quota, which links government funding to academic research and teaching results. This mechanism should have significant effects in stimulating a more competitive and quality-oriented university system.

Social Inclusion

#25

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
6
The impact of the crisis on the incomes of a significant percentage of households and the increasing levels of unemployment – particularly among young people – have had important negative effects on social inclusion. The gap between the more protected sectors of the population and the less protected ones has increased. The traditional instruments of social protection (such as those guaranteeing unemployment benefits for workers with permanent labor contracts) do not cover a large part of the newly impoverished population, while new policies are only slowly being implemented.

In general, allowances for families with children are rather small, and do not compensate for the costs of raising a (large) family. The problem of poverty is thus particularly serious for young families, especially where only one adult is employed. Some of the pensions of the elderly are also extremely low.

The progressive tax system and a series of deductions and benefits for low-income individuals – which should have accomplished redistributive functions – have largely ceased to work in this direction. The system’s redistributive efforts have been curtailed by the rise in tax rates and the erosion of benefits and deductions, as well as the large tax evasion among certain parts of the population. Moreover, the system’s redistributive effects fail to reach that part of the population, which earns less than the minimum taxable income. An effective poverty reduction policy would require larger and more effective instruments.

The ongoing economic crisis has exposed the weaknesses of Italy’s social policy. The main social policy instrument used to mitigate and reduce social exclusion is pensions. Other instruments are not very effective and Italian national standards are not very good. On average, local social programs in the north of the country can deliver benefits three times higher than in the south. Italian family networks still constitute the most important though informal instrument of social welfare. The high percentage of home ownership helps protect many Italians from absolute poverty. Housing problems, which would be insurmountable for many young people, are to some extent mitigated by family rather than public support.

To address these problems the current government has maintained some of the instruments adopted by the previous government, such as the €80 monthly tax credit for low-income earners, the “Bonus bebé” (an allowance paid to families for each new baby) and the NASPI (a stronger unemployment allowance). The current government has also introduced a new maternity bonus for pregnant mothers and a new measure of integration income for families below the poverty line (Reddito di inclusione). These measures go in the right direction, but their impact is still insufficient.

The government must also address the large proportion of young people not in education, employment or training, particularly in the south of Italy. Otherwise, a generation of young people will be marginalized, unable to participate in the economy. The high rate of youth unemployment is also threatening the pension system and future tax revenues. The government will need to develop special social policies.

The inclusion of women in positions of economic and political leadership has shown some improvement due to new rules that require a more balanced representation of women in executive positions.

Citations:
http://www.infodata.ilsole24ore.com/2017/10/11/le-borse-apprezzano-le-quote-rosa-nei-cda/
http://www.pariopportunita.gov.it/media/2976/report-febbrai-2017.pdf

Health

#4

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
7
Italy’s national health system provides universal comprehensive coverage for the entire population. The health care system is primarily funded by central government, though health care services and spending are administered by regional authorities. On average, the services provided achieve medium to high standards of quality. A 2000 WHO report ranked the Italian health care system second in the world and a recent Bloomberg analysis also ranked the Italian system among the most efficient in the world. A 2017 study published by Lancet rated the Italian system among the best in terms of access to and quality of health care. However, due to significant differences in local infrastructures, cultural factors, and the political and managerial proficiency of local administrations, the quality of public health care varies across regions. In spite of similar levels of per capita expenditure, services are generally better in northern and central Italy than in southern Italy. In some areas of the south, corruption, clientelism and administrative inefficiency have driven up health care costs. In these regions, lower quality levels and typically longer waiting lists mean that wealthier individuals will often turn to private sector medical care. Regional disparities also lead to a significant amount of health tourism heading north. Early moves in the direction of fiscal federalism are now stimulating efforts to change this situation through the introduction of a system of national quality standards (correlated with resources), which should be implemented across regions.

Preventive health care programs are effective and well publicized in some regions such as Tuscany and other northern and central regions. However, such programs in other regions such as Sicily are much weaker and less accessible to the average health care user.

To contain further increases in health care costs, payments to access tests, treatments and drugs exist. Even if these payments are inversely linked to income, they nevertheless discourage a growing number of the poorest from accessing necessary health care services. Similarly, additional medical services are only partially covered by the public health care system, while only basic dental health care is covered.

Citations:
http://www.who.int/whr/2000/en/
http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/most-efficient-health-care-2014-countries
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30818-8/fulltext

Families

#32

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
4
Italian society has traditionally relied very much upon its very strong family institutions. The family (often in its extended version) remains even today a major provider of welfare for its weakest components – children, young couples with precarious jobs and elders. Within the family, significant amounts of economic redistribution take place, and important services are provided, such as the care of preschool age children by grandparents. Partly because of this reliance, state support for families has generally been weak. Apart from relatively generous rules on maternity leave (paid for by social insurance) and limited tax deductions for children, the state has not offered much. Public day care facilities for preschool children are available on a limited scale and vary significantly across regions. Private firms and public offices have only recently started offering similar services, with some support from the state.

The lack of more significant policies has contributed to the limited participation of women in the workforce and a low overall employment rate, while also contributing to a very low birth rate (except in the immigrant population).

Proposals recurrently advanced to introduce important changes to tax policies with respect to families have never materialized, including the “quoziente familiare,” which would have divided taxable income by the number of family members. The crisis has left little space for such initiatives, which would strain the state’s budget. As a result, only limited subsidies for families with children in the lowest income brackets have been introduced. Because of the economic crisis, the levels of children living in poverty are above average.

New and innovative Scandinavian-style concepts (such as parental leave) that go beyond maternity allowance are not widely implemented. The whole child-care sector, and indeed the state of the public debate over the ability of women to combine work and children, lags behind that in wealthier and more progressive European countries. The decreasing transfers of financial resources to regions and municipalities during previous governments mean that many institutions and projects working in family support have run out of money and may have to cut back services significantly.

Pensions

#31

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
6
The Monti government introduced a key sustainability-oriented reform of Italy’s pension policy by increasing the retirement age to 67 years and by reducing benefit levels for higher income groups. Linking the age of retirement to rising life expectancy further strengthens the system. Thanks to this reform, no further major reforms of the retirement system will be needed at least in the next few years to ensure its sustainability – despite the demographic imbalance between the aged and the young. The current situation, however, is less positive from the point of view of intergenerational fairness, as the younger generations will receive significantly smaller amounts upon retirement. This problem is exacerbated by the late entry into the labor force of younger cohorts, which itself is a consequence of the economic crisis. In addition, the growing number of permanently unemployed also face receiving little to none in terms of a pension. The high percentage of public spending on pensions also diverts financial resources from other welfare policies such as family policy. Ensuring pensions comes with high costs for the rest of society.

The problem of poverty prevention which exists today for a relatively limited share of the population will be much more significant and relevant for the young cohorts of today when they reach retirement age.

Supplementary pension schemes have to date played only a limited role in the pension system and fiscal policies adopted to encourage them have not been sufficiently bold. Recent data suggests that the importance of supplementary pension schemes is gradually increasing.

The government has recently introduced new measures to make the age of retirement more flexible and increase lower pension rates.

Integration

#16

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
6
Large-scale immigration is a relatively new phenomenon in Italy compared to other countries in Europe. In recent years, the number of legal (mainly from new EU member countries) and illegal immigrants has increased significantly, making immigration one of the hottest political issues. Issues associated with immigration have been cast in negative or even xenophobic rhetoric by some parties (especially the Northern League or Lega Nord) during electoral campaigns, with immigrants portrayed as dangerous social elements.

Policies dealing with the topic have concentrated more on controlling illegal immigration and temporarily hosting refugees than on integration. However, given the failure of measures designed to prevent illegal immigration, successive governments have adopted provisions for the large-scale regularization of immigrants, especially those working for and within families. In spite of these measures, a large number of immigrants are still involved in the black economy and are thus subject to economic exploitation, dangerous working conditions and a lack of respect for their rights. Some sectors of Italy’s agriculture, for example, rely heavily on a workforce of low-paid illegal immigrants. In general, it is clear that in some sectors entrepreneurs and families are only able to operate due to the high number of migrants available to work. Agriculture, the building industry, private elderly care services, many child-care services and private cleaning services are dependent on legally or illegally employed immigrants. Access to citizenship for immigrants remains problematic. The discussion about the “ius soli” (i.e., granting Italian citizenship to children with a migrant background born in Italy) has been heated and legislative proposals remain blocked in parliament.

The school system has proved to be a positive factor in the process of integration, but schools have not received sufficient resources for achieving the best results in this field. Public housing policies have been weakened by the budgetary constraints. As a result, in many cities there are ghetto-like areas where immigrants live in extremely poor housing conditions. The universal health care system has in general been fairly effective in providing medical treatments also for immigrants. Charitable organizations, in particular organizations aligned to the Catholic Church (e.g., Caritas), have contributed significantly to assisting and integrating migrants.

To address the influx of immigrants from Africa arriving in Italy by the dangerous Mediterranean Sea routes and prevent immigrants from drowning at sea, Italian governments have deployed significant naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea, which have been joined by NGO vessels. While international support for these operations has increased in recent years, the willingness of other EU countries to accept a redistribution of migrants has been minimal. The efforts of successive Italian governments to promote a common European policy to address the phenomenon have so far been ignored or opposed.

Safe Living

#24

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
7
With the exception of some regions of southern Italy where mafia-type organized crime can have a serious impact on the security of certain sectors of the population (for instance entrepreneurs and shop owners) internal security is sufficiently guaranteed. Homicide levels have generally declined and are among the lowest in Europe. Theft and robbery rates have significantly increased probably as a consequence of economic instability and rising unemployment. The public confidence in the security forces is generally fairly high. The segmentation of security forces (Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato, Guardia di Finanza, Polizia Municipale) might result in some inefficiencies and accountability issues although there was a small reform incorporating the Corpo Forestale di Stato (rangers) into the Carabinieri. The security forces are not always able to efficiently maintain law and order, and security in major suburban areas. Italian security agencies have to date been fairly successful in preventing terrorist attacks.

Global Inequalities

#23

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
5
The engagement of the Italian government in promoting socioeconomic opportunities internationally is generally rather limited. Over the years, the Italian level of international aid has been among the lowest for developed countries, but has increased recently from 0.13% of GDP in 2012 to 0.26% in 2016, according to the OECD and other sources. A special sector where the current and past governments have displayed a significant activity is that of providing help at sea through the Italian navy for illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea on unsecure boats belonging to traffickers. In order to address the rapid increase in immigration across the Mediterranean Sea and the humanitarian catastrophes produced by this increase, the Italian government has proposed an EU “immigration compact,” which should strengthen long-term EU help to African countries and develop bilateral agreements for the regulation of migration.

On a more qualitative and organizational level Italy has stressed the importance of fighting hunger and developing food production and distribution. Probably because of this activism it hosts three major U.N. food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP).

Citations:
http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/aid-to-developing-countries
http://www.governo.it/sites/governo.it/files/immigrazione_0.pdf
https://donortracker.org/country/italy
Back to Top