Italy

   

Social Policies

#29
Key Findings
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.

Education

#33

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 national 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 comparatively low. However, given the scarce amount of resources allocated for scholarships or similar support mechanisms for financially needy students, access is socially discriminatory at the upper secondary and tertiary levels. The share of individuals who do not complete their studies is above the OECD average.

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. The number of university students did not drop very significantly during the economic crisis years; however, attendance levels have yet to regain their pre-2008 highs.

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 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 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.

The allocation of public resources to universities has increasingly incorporated a mechanism linking government funding to academic research and teaching results. This has had significant effects with regard to stimulating a more competitive and quality-oriented university system.
The first Conte government gave no sign of having any significant interest in this policy field. The education minister of the second Conte government has asked for an increased endowment for schools and universities, but had obtained little as of the end of the review period

Citations:
http://dati.ustat.miur.it/dataset/immatricolati/resource/c39e6e60-d92e-46f2-bfaa-f865d3fb1771

Social Inclusion

#22

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 economic crisis on the incomes of a significant percentage of households and the high 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 (e.g., 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. 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 those 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.

While previous governments adopted rather timid measures to deal with these problems, the first Conte government launched a much larger program called the “reddito di cittadinanza,” or citizens’ income. This program eliminates a variety of previously existing measures and provides a (variable) income to every person under a given economic threshold. For people able to work, the allowance is conditional upon the acceptance of a job proposed by employment centers. As of October 2019, out of 1.5 million applications, more than 950,000 had been accepted with an average monthly benefit of €482.
The rate of inclusion of women in positions of economic and political leadership has improved somewhat due to new rules requiring a more balanced representation of women in executive positions. Italy also performs better than the OECD average with regard to gender gaps in income (OECD 2019).

Citations:
http://www.pariopportunita.gov.it/media/2976/report-febbrai-2017.pdf
https://data.oecd.org/earnwage/gender-wage-gap.htm
https://www.inps.it/docallegatiNP/Mig/Dati_analisi_bilanci/Osservatori_statistici/Osservatorio_REI/Report_trimestrale_Rei-RdC_apr-sett_2019.pdf

Health

#7

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 healthcare system is primarily funded by central government, though healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare. However, due to differences in local infrastructures, cultural factors, and the political and managerial proficiency of local administrations, the quality of public healthcare varies significantly 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 healthcare 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. The existing system of national quality standards (correlated with resources), which is meant to be implemented across regions, has not yet produced the desired effect of reducing the quality divide between the North and South.

Preventive healthcare programs are effective and well publicized in some regions (e.g., Tuscany, and other northern and central regions). However, such programs in other regions (e.g., Sicily) are much weaker and less accessible to the average healthcare user.

To contain further increases in healthcare costs, payments to access tests, treatments and drugs exist. Although these payments are tied to income levels, they nevertheless discourage a significant number of the poorest residents from accessing necessary healthcare services. Similarly, additional medical services are only partially covered by the public healthcare system, while only basic dental healthcare is covered.
The first Conte government did not focus strongly on reducing cross-regional differences in healthcare quality.

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

#38

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 daycare 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 (albeit slowly growing) participation of women in the workforce and the low overall employment rate, while also contributing to a very low birth rate (except in the immigrant population), which continues to decline.

A number of proposals for modifying tax policy to benefit families have been advanced over time, such as the “quoziente familiare,” which would have divided taxable income by the number of family members. However, most have never been implemented. 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 (e.g., parental leave) that go beyond maternity allowance are not widely implemented. The whole childcare 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.
Beyond some rhetorical mention, the first Conte government never really prioritized family policies. However, the new citizen’s income can to some extent provide help for needy families even if it is not specially tailored for them. The second Conte government has indicated a willingness to expand benefits for families with children.

Citations:
https://www.redditodicittadinanza.gov.it/

Pensions

#36

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
5
With the 2011 Fornero reform of Italy’s pension policy, which increased the retirement age to 67 years, reduced benefit levels for higher income groups and linked the age of retirement to rising life expectancies, the pension system achieved a satisfactory level of sustainability. Thanks to this reform, no further major reforms of the retirement system would have been 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 or uncertain 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 nothing in terms of a pension. The high percentage of public spending on pensions also diverts financial resources from other welfare policies (e.g., family policy). Ensuring pensions comes with high costs for the rest of society.

The problem of poverty prevention, which exists today for an already significant share of the population, will be even more relevant for today’s younger cohorts 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, however, that the importance of supplementary pension schemes is gradually increasing.
One of the promises of the first Conte government was to radically reform the Fornero pension law. Driven by Salvini’s Northern League in particular, the government imposed a reform that again reduced the age of retirement (“Quota 100” enables retirement at 62 after at least 38 years of contributions). This reform began to be implemented in 2019, and will add significant costs to the pension system. To save money, the government has reduced automatic inflation adjustments for large pensions. As of the time of writing, the second Conte government had not elected to revise the Salvini reform.

Integration

#32

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
4
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 Salvini’s Northern League) 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. Past provisions for the large-scale regularization of immigrants, especially those working for and within families, have not been repeated. As a consequence, a large number of immigrants are still involved in the underground economy, and are thus exposed to economic exploitation, dangerous working conditions and a lack of respect for their rights. 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 childcare services and private cleaning services are dependent on legally or illegally employed immigrants. Access to citizenship for immigrants remains problematic. Discussions on the issue of the “ius soli” (i.e., granting Italian citizenship to children with a migrant background born in Italy) have been tense, and legislative proposals on the matter have ultimately failed to win parliamentary approval.

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 healthcare 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, past Italian governments had deployed naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea, joined by NGO vessels. Other EU countries have shown minimal willingness to accept a redistribution of migrants. The efforts of successive Italian governments to promote a common European policy to address the phenomenon have so far been ignored or opposed.
The first Conte government dramatically changed its policy course in this area. In particular, Interior Minister Salvini made it much more difficult for NGO ships carrying refugees and immigrants to win access to Italian ports, while additionally stepping up the government’s anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric, which in turn encouraged acts of violence against immigrants and foreigners. The interior minister also adopted harsh confrontational tones with other EU countries for not being willing to share the burden of immigration. The second Conte cabinet has promised to take a different approach to the problem, and to cooperate more closely with other European countries.

Safe Living

#28

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.
Internal Security Policy
6
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 rates have generally declined, and are today among the lowest in Europe. However, the rates of lower-level crimes such as theft and robbery have significantly increased, probably as a consequence of economic instability and rising unemployment. They often create a feeling of insecurity, particularly in some city peripheries. The public has a generally high level of confidence in the security forces. However, the segmentation of security forces (Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato, Guardia di Finanza, Polizia Municipale) might result in some inefficiencies and accountability issues. Italian security agencies have to date been fairly successful in preventing terrorist attacks.

The first Conte government, and especially its interior minister, exploited feelings of insecurity among some groups of the population. It additionally introduced measures to broaden the legitimacy of armed self-defense, which might negatively impact personal safety. Media reports suggest that the number of cases of xenophobic, racist and hate crimes are increasing, possibly as a consequence of the incitements to fight immigration expressed by the Northern League and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The second Conte cabinet has softened its tones, but as of the close of the review period had not changed the restrictive security norms adopted by the previous government.

Global Inequalities

#27

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
4
The Italian government’s engagement in promoting socioeconomic opportunities internationally has generally been rather limited. Over the years, Italy has provided less in international aid than most other developed countries.
Past governments had used the Italian navy to provide help at sea for illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea on unsecure boats belonging to traffickers. The first Conte government significantly reduced this effort. Seeking to address the rapid increase in immigration across the Mediterranean, along with the humanitarian catastrophes produced by this increase, the Italian government has proposed an EU “immigration compact,” which would expand 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).
The first Conte government showed little interest in international cooperation. Indeed, the frequent interference by Interior Minister Salvini in international matters made cooperation with African countries more difficult. The amount of help provided to developing countries rose in 2019 compared to 2018, but at 0.29% of GNI, remains behind the 2017 level.

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
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