Italy: an overview

Protestors against austerity measures march past the colosseum. Credit: Getty

 

Italy was ranked the eleventh most prosperous nation by purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2010. It has a population of around 61 million and the country divides roughly into prosperous northern regions and a less developed south.

The country has been at the forefront of European integration since 1999, when it joined the European Economic and Monetary Union. Italy’s economy has in large part been dependent on the production and export of high-end consumer goods. In 2010, GDP came mainly from services (72.8) and industry (25.3), with relatively little agricultural activity (1.9 per cent).

Short-term problems include the management of massive public debts, which in 2010 stood at 119.1 per cent of GDP, pushing up the cost of its borrowing and increasing its budget deficit. In November 2011 Silvio Berlusconi resigned as prime minister, paving the way for the installation of a technocratic government tasked with restoring international credibility to the nation’s finances.

Long-term problems include unemployment, corruption and organised crime, low fertility rates and the exacerbation of the north-south divide.