Business and Economics
Today, Italy is one of the world's leading industrial
states. However, the business sector was characterized for a
long time by a slow and late industrialization.
COUNTRYAAH, agriculture remained the most important industry from the
employment point of view until the Second World War, but the
post-war period has been characterized by a dynamic, albeit
regionally uneven, industrial development. Technology- and
knowledge-intensive branches of the manufacturing industry
and the service sector have also achieved significant
success internationally. In recent years, the importance of
the country's many successful business sector's many times
for employment and flexible industrial production has become
However, the importance of small businesses as creators
of wealth varies between different countries and industries.
In addition to small business, the element of private and
publicly owned large companies is the most tangible feature
of the business structure. In parallel with industrial
development, the service sector has partly found new forms
of its operations. Not least, service related to
agricultural and industrial production has increased in
Italy has long been perceived as a country with
geographically unevenly distributed wealth, a relationship
that is usually said to reflect regional differences in
social patterns, business structure and the in many respects
the conditions for high-productivity agriculture.
Traditionally, Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria are identified
as the basis for Italian industry. Over time, however, other
parts of northern Italy have also developed an increasingly
advanced industrial structure.
The southern regions and islands, which together in
official contexts are often referred to as the
Mezzogiorno('in the middle of the day', that is, where
the sun is at 12 o'clock, 'the south'), still appears as the
most neglected parts of the country. Despite extensive
government transfers and many large-scale industrial
investments, the long-term positive effects have often been
judged to be small. At the same time, dependence on the
state sector has become considerably greater here than in
other parts of the country. But exceptions exist, and the
traditional picture of the regional oblique distribution as
a virtually insoluble north-south problem must be nuanced.
Thus, e.g. growth nodes in southern Lazio and parts of the
Campania region have managed to attract a large part of the
more viable investments that have benefited southern Italy
thanks to government regulations. The cities of Bari and
Catania have also shown an unusual dynamic for the country
During the 2000s, Italy experienced an average economic
growth of 0.3 percent per year, which is among the lowest in
Europe. At the same time, the country has the highest
government debt in the EU; expressed in relation to GDP, in
2016 it was just over 133 percent of GDP (Sweden's was 34
percent), surpassed in Europe only by Greece. The financial
crisis of 2008–09 hit the country hard, and in 2011, the
Italian government was forced to decide on tangible budget
cuts and tax and levy increases.
||Förändring av BNP (%)
||Statsskuldens andel av BNP (%)
budgetöverskottets andel av BNP (%)
||Inflation, KPI (%)
||Arbetslöshet av total arbetsstyrka
Italy does not have the best conditions for agriculture.
The peninsula is mountainous and drought occurs. The earth
is barren with the exception of the clay plains surrounding
the river Po and the nutrient-rich soils of volcanic origin
around Rome and Naples. But the climate is usually favorable
and allows you to harvest several times a year. Italy is one
of the world's largest producers and exporters of wine and
the world's second largest producer of olive oil after
Spain. Italian wines, especially the red ones, are world
famous. Agriculture differs in the north and south. In the
north, maize, rice, sugar beet, soybeans and fruit are
mainly produced, while southern Italy grows wheat and citrus
fruits. Animal production is the largest in the north.
Agriculture, which together with fishing and forestry
accounts for 4 percent of total employment, has lost ground
to other industries. Today, agriculture accounts for just 2
percent of GDP. Although Italy, together with France, is the
EU's leading agricultural country, it is not one of the
largest exporters but is a significant net importer of food.
A largely successful land reform was implemented after
the Second World War. The large goods were broken up into
smaller lots for the benefit of the previous tenants.
Overall, small units are a significant feature of
agricultural ownership patterns and over time have come to
pose a significant structural problem.
About half of the country's area is usable land. There
has been a decline in the cultivated area in recent decades.
This process has been particularly noticeable in the north,
which has gradually shifted the arable center of gravity
towards the south. Locally, land use is mainly affected by
the nature of the terrain and the climate restrictions set
by the climate. As a general pattern, it can be noted that
plains are mainly used for grain production, while sloping
terrain is usually set aside for grazing land or for
cultivation of olives, grapes and citrus fruits. One
characteristic of Italy is the mix of different types of
crops, so-called coltura promiscua.
About 35 percent of the arable land is occupied by fodder
crop cultivation, an equal share of cereal cultivation.
Wheat, which accounts for 2/3 of the grain production, is
grown in most of the country's 20 regions. On most of the
wheat area, durum wheat is grown, which forms the basis for
the production of pasta. Most of the durum wheat is grown in
southern Italy, preferably in the regions of Apulia and
Sicily. Other important field crops include maize, which is
grown mainly in the northwest, as well as bean and pea
plants, oats, barley and potatoes. Rice and sugar beet are
common crops in the river Pos valley. Vegetables are another
significant source of income for Italian agriculture.
Alongside the agricultural land of the plains, the
cultivation of olives, grapes and citrus fruits is of
central importance to the country's agricultural sector.
These crops are major products for the vast majority of the
country's farming units and occupy about 1/4 of the
cultivated area. The cultivation is mainly concentrated on
small hilly terrain, often in the transition zone between
mountain and plain areas. Although the return per hour
worked often appears small, olive oil, wine and fruit are
also important sources of income for many small farmers.
Animal production is dominated by the regions of northern
Italy. Milk and meat production is particularly well
developed in Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and western
Emilia-Romagna. Sheep and goats are found mainly in southern
and central Italy, with Sardinia as the most important
About 31 percent of Italy's area is covered by forest.
The forest area grew by about 20 percent between 1990 and
2010. However, much of this area, perhaps as much as 40
percent, is overgrown with shrub vegetation and alpine or
similar vegetation rather than with commercially useful
stocks of trees. About 30 percent of the forest grows in
southern Italy, where deciduous trees dominate. Good-quality
coniferous forest is found mainly in northern Italy, and the
productive forest land is found especially in or directly
adjacent to the Italian Alps and the northern parts of the
Apennines. A not insignificant part of the forest area is
allocated to nature reserves or as hunting grounds.
Italy is not one of Europe's most important fishing
nations, but still has the EU's third largest fishing fleet
in terms of number of boats. Sardines, sardines and salmon
are the most commercially important fish species. But also a
lot of octopus and seafood are caught. The majority of fish
consumption is covered by imports, while exports are rather
limited. During the past decade, coastal fishing in the
Adriatic has been hit hard by algal blooms as a result of
Italy is, to a greater extent than any of Europe's major
industrialized countries, characterized by a lack of
economically useful minerals. Production and processing is
based almost exclusively on imported or recycled raw
materials. However, Italy is one of the world's leading
countries for the production of field spats, which are mined
in the Italian Alps. Other industrial minerals include
high-quality marble that is mined in Tuscany, plaster,
bentonite, kaolin, talc and rock salt. Italy is one of the
major producers of copper, crude steel and iron alloys.
Iron, lead and zinc are also produced. Before 2009, Italy
was a major producer of aluminum, but that year production
Italy is poor not only on minerals but also on energy
resources. In 2015, Italy's energy consumption was almost
completely covered by imports. Natural gas, biofuels,
geothermal energy, crude oil and water energy contribute
almost equally to the domestic energy resources. Of the
total consumption, however, fossil fuels account for just
over 95 percent, of which oil accounts for almost half. The
oil is mainly imported from the Middle East. Almost 75
percent of electricity production comes from fossil-based
thermal power plants, while 18 percent comes from water
energy, 5 percent from wind energy and 2 percent from
geothermal energy. Renewable energy types contribute about
10 percent to GDP with the goal of reaching 17 percent by
Italy is the world's largest net importer of electricity
and 10 percent of it is imported nuclear energy. The large
proportion of imported fossil energy raw materials makes the
climate targets difficult to reach and drives up the
electricity price, which is why there has been interest in
domestic nuclear energy expansion. The last of the previous
four nuclear power plants (originally planned to be twelve)
were taken out of service in the late 1980s as a result of
the Chernobyl accident. In 2009, new legislation enabled new
construction with a view to 25 per cent energy supply of
domestic nuclear energy in 2030. Following the 2011
Fukushima accident, a referendum was carried out which led
to these plans being finalized.
Italy is one of the world's leading industrial nations.
However, industrialization began late and the industry first
became a force to be expected in the country's economic
development around the turn of the 1900s. From this time
until the outbreak of the First World War, the foundations
of many of today's Italian large companies, such as Fiat
(1899), were also laid.
However, real momentum only took industrial development
after the Second World War. Especially the dynamic
development of the 1980s propelled Italy to today's
prominent position among the industrialized countries.
The lack of many essential raw materials for business has
left clear traces in Italy's industrial landscape. A modern
iron and steel industry was created just after 1900. Already
the location on the coasts of the largest steel mills (Piombino,
1903; Bagnoli at Naples, 1905) points to the importance
attributed to the iron deposits on Elba and the possibility
of supplementary ore and coal imports.. With the exception
of the steel industry center at the ore deposits in northern
Italy (Valle d'Aosta, Lombardy), coastal localization has
remained the dominant pattern for the metallurgical
Other branches of this industry have also had to adapt to
the unfavorable supply of raw materials. The deposits of
bauxite, lead, zinc and copper have led to the establishment
of facilities for primary processing or further processing.
However, as in the steel sector, profitability problems have
often been serious. During the 1970s and 1980s, therefore,
large parts of the metallurgical industry underwent a
far-reaching structural transformation. Several of the
country's leading metallurgical industrial centers
(including the Liguria and the Naples region) were affected
by closures or sharply reduced employment.
The chemical and petrochemical industries are also
dependent on the import of raw materials. With the exception
of knowledge-intensive sectors such as pharmaceuticals and
sulfur-based processes, Italy has no prominent comparative
advantages in the chemical field. Nevertheless, it is one of
the most important industries in terms of value added as
well as employment. However, the necessity of importing most
of the oil demand has meant that coastal location is also
common here. Artificial fertilizers, plastics, paints and
synthetic fibers are important products that are often
manufactured in direct connection to existing refineries or
in the country's leading industrial center.
Workshop industry is at the heart of Italian industrial
production. The mechanical industry is multi-faceted and is
well advanced in terms of quality and production volumes.
Transport, tools and agricultural machinery as well as
durable consumer goods are examples of industrial production
that has achieved success even outside the country. Weapons
and defense systems, ball bearings, electrical products and
precision instruments are other important commodity groups.
Most of the mechanical industry's production takes place
within the Turin-Milan-Genoa triangle, and not least the car
factories established in the region (such as Fiat) are among
the country's largest individual employers. In the 1970s and
1980s, however, a shift occurred to northeastern Italy and
to the middle parts of the country.
The textile and clothing industry, whose roots go back to
the late medieval wool industry, is concentrated in northern
Italy, with a primary center in the Milan area. Thanks to
its prominent position in fashion and design, Italy is
regarded as the world-leading nation in the field of
clothing. Many companies in these industries today enjoy
The production of building materials and food is more
clearly focused on the national market or regional markets.
These industries are also represented in all regions of the
country and often form the basis of local business in places
outside the major industrial concentrations.
Food production is comparable in size to e.g. manufacture
of means of transport or wooden products and furniture.
However, this relatively limited contribution to total
industrial employment hides the versatility and local
importance of the industry, not least in regions with an
otherwise poorly developed industry.
Italy accounts for just under 3 percent of total world
trade. A long period of trade deficits surpassed 1992-2004.
Thereafter, the country again had a period of trade deficit
until 2012 when the trade balance again became positive. The
negative trade balance is mainly due to an increased oil
Fuels, ore and other mineral raw materials as well as
sawn timber and pulp are among the most important import
goods. Chemical products and workshop products (including
industrial equipment, agricultural and office machinery and
appliances), transport equipment, textiles and foodstuffs
are also among the largest import groups in terms of value,
but in Italy Italy has significant own production and also
exports. As a rule, therefore, a significant surplus is
recorded in trade in the products of the engineering and
textile industries, while exports of chemical products,
motor vehicles and foodstuffs do not fully offset imports.
Other important export goods are plastic and rubber
products, clothing and footwear and non-metallic minerals.
Italy's main trading partners are Germany, France and China.
Italy is one of the EU's least dependent countries on the
common market. Only 57 percent of Italy's exports go to EU
Tourism and gastronomy
Italy ranks fifth in the world as a tourist country with
just over 50 million tourists arriving in 2015. The country
has hotels with a capacity of just over 2 million beds,
which is complemented by the same number of beds in private
rooms, hostels and campsites. Revenue from tourism from
abroad is approximately US $ 45 billion per year. Most
tourists come from Germany, France and the UK. The cultural
cities of Rome, Florence and Venice are popular tourist
destinations, as is the scenic Naples Bay with the islands
of Ischia and Capri. Along the Adriatic Sea, the Italian
Riviera and on the many islands are several famous seaside
resorts. During winter, resorts like Cortina d'Ampezzo and
Misurna in the South Tyrol attract many skiers.
It is common but not correct to talk about Italian
cuisine as each region has its own kitchen. A rough
generalization of the Italian regions reads as follows: in
the south, the pasta, olive oil, tomato, olives, sardines,
simple and strong pots with beans and pork, seafood, citrus
fruits, herbs, eggplant and figs. In the Roman region, lamb,
bird, domestic food, deep-fried fish and artichokes are
often offered, in the fertile Tuscany fruits, vegetables and
beef. Bologna's charcuterie and butter-stuffed pasta is
replaced in Venice by fish and dishes inspired by Austrian
cuisine, in Lombardy by butter-dripping risotto dishes,
vegetable soups and osso bucco (veal stew).
See also Italian food and Italian wines.