With a GDP of 1819 billion dollars in 2015, the Italian economy is eighth on a world scale and fourth in Europe. In the same year the GDP per capita amounts to about $ 35,665 in terms of purchasing power. The current condition is the result of the exceptional growth experienced following the Second World War, when the country went from a state of semi-backwardness and an economy based mainly on agriculture to an industrialized economy with an advanced service sector. In 2015, the weight of agriculture on GDP it is only 2.2%, a slight increase compared to 2014 data. Furthermore, despite a sharp decrease in the first decade of the century, production is fragmented into a myriad of small-sized (mostly family-run) companies. This leads, compared to other European countries, to lower profitability and a series of dysfunctions. Among the small businesses, a growing percentage carries out collateral activities to agricultural production, such as agritourism and the processing of agricultural products. Also in 2015, the data confirm the growth trend already started in 2009. Employment in the sector is equal to 3.7% of the total workforce. As far as the secondary sector is concerned, industry accounts for just under a quarter of GDP and it employs nearly five million people (plus about two million workers in the construction sector). The composition of the sector includes more than one million companies, of which about 95% are small and medium-sized enterprises, mainly located in the northern regions. After relative growth in 2006 and 2007, the 2008-09 crisis resulted in a significant contraction of 10.4% in two years, far above the European average. This was followed by a proportionately lower reduction in employment, equal to 3.5% (many companies have in fact managed to contain the number of layoffs by resorting to layoffs). Finally, moving on to the tertiary sector, it generates around 74% of GDP, employing 68.5% of the workforce. This category includes commercial, tourism and service businesses for people and businesses. According to Istat surveys, the service sector also suffered a setback following the crisis: although limited, the contraction of the sector in Italy is in contrast with the European average. As regards trade flows with foreign countries, the main trade partners are the European states and, to a lesser extent, the United States, Brazil, China and Turkey.
In 2015, the value of exports reached the figure of approximately 528.3 billion euros, marking an increase compared to previous years, after however it had collapsed by 20.9% on an annual basis in 2009. Similarly, also imports they are now registering a recovery compared to 2009, for an absolute value of around 471 billion euros, a slight decrease compared to 2014. Until 2014, the Italian economy still bore the signs of the 2008-09 recession. In fact, in 2014 the growth rate was still negative, settling at -0.2%. For the first year, in 2015 the ‘minus’ sign disappeared, leaving room for a growth of 0.8%. The unemployment on the other hand, it is still high (12.2%). Since 2007, the youth unemployment rate in Italy has risen from 24% to almost 40% in 2015. The main challenge for the government is therefore to reduce the debt and the public deficit with restrictive measures, without however undermining the fragile economic recovery. So far, although the previous governments of Monti and Letta have managed public finances with caution and rigor, little has been done to improve growth prospects in the medium and long term, as structural constraints on the country’s productivity remain, such as a relatively less flexible labor market compared to trading partners, low competition in non-marketable services, excessive fragmentation of production in small and medium-sized enterprises and a high tax burden.
To cope with the long-term components of the weak recovery, the Monti government would have liked to introduce a series of reforms for the liberalization of the labor market and services. However, as these are highly political measures, the technical government has preferred to leave them off the agenda and focus on tax levers. To ensure stability and prevent any speculative attacks, the public deficit has been reduced, and public debt must be limited, which in 2015 is still above 130% of GDP.. To stimulate economic growth, however, it will be appropriate to combine macroeconomic policy with measures to support Italian companies towards markets that have been less affected by the crisis (particularly in the Far East). Although the Italian economy before the crisis witnessed a greater degree of internationalization, currently the import-export focuses on the geographically closest areas.