Monday, May 19, 2008

The North-South gap in Italy continues to widen

North-South gap getting worse

Istat report shows south falling behind in all sectors

May 23, 2007

ROME (ANSA) - The North-South gap in Italy continues to widen in every social and economic sector and people from the south are once again migrating north, according to the annual report from national statistics bureau Istat.

In 2006, the report said, the number of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 holding jobs in the so-called Mezzogiorno was only one third of what it was in the north. Unemployment in the south was 34.3% of the labor force, compared to 13.4% in the northwest and 11% in the northeast.

Teh report also found that more than 25% of students in the southern regions of Campania, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia leave school with only a middle-school diploma.

Other evidence of the North-South divide highlighted by the Istat report included that 5% of people living in the south do not have enough to eat and that 70% of poor Italian families live in the south.

The average salary of people living in the south is about 75% of what it is in the north. The gap is even more extreme a regional level, with an average income in Lombardy of 32,000 euros compared to 21,000 euros in Sicily.

In the south 27.5% of families live on a single pension, compared with 21,2% in the north.

Commenting on the Istat report, Premier Romano Prodi said the situation in the south was an "anomalous reality".

"Some of these aspects are structural and place the south more on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and not on the European one," he added.

The data on the North-South gap, the premier said, "sends a clear message about which direction the government must move".

Istat's 2006 report also showed that while Italy's economy did pick up last year, its growth rate remained the slowest in Europe.


Last year Italy had the oldest population in Europe and the second oldest in the world, after Japan. There are now 141 people in Italy aged 65 or over for every 100 people aged 15 or less.

One of the key reasons for the aging of the Italian population, Istat explained, is the low birthrate. In 2006 the average Italian woman had 1.35 childrens, Istat figures showed. The birthrate would have been even lower had it not been for immigrant women who, with an average of 2.45 children each, have almost twice as many as Italians. The other main reason for the aging of the population is life expectancy, which in Italy is higher than in almost any other European country. The average for Italian women is now 84 and for men 78.3.


European Regional Press Release

Economic drivers expected to reinforce Europe’s regional divides

July 30, 2007

Europe has a core of rich regions, while poorer regions tend to be on the periphery

The regions of the EU display large wealth disparities between a core of rich regions and poorer peripheral regions. The core of rich regions starts at the river Rhein with the Dutch Randstad and Flanders, and continues to the Ruhr and Alsace into Switzerland. It then extends south through Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur into northern and central Italy; north into the south-east of England; and east into Bayern and most of Austria (see figure 1: GDP per Capita, 2005). There are only a few outliers to this core, with Bremen and Hamburg in northern Germany and the capital regions of the Nordic countries being the most obvious. On the British Isles, eastern Scotland, eastern Wales, Cheshire and south-eastern Ireland also stand out, while in north-eastern Spain (centred on Barcelona) economic growth is in sharp contrast to the rest of the country, with the exception of Madrid. Capital regions in general tend to have markedly higher GDP per capita than the EU27 average.

This core of rich regions, and the few outliers, also shape the divides in prosperity and economic performance within countries. The UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy display a north-south divide, while Germany and Austria have an east-west divide, with the most prosperous regions bordering each other. Switzerland also shows a divide, where the regions bordering Germany and France are the most prosperous. Similarly, Spain shows a north-south divide between the regions in the north-east of the country, including Barcelona, and Madrid, and the rest of the country. France on the other hand displays no clear divides, instead being polycentric (see Table 1: in link for Regional Wealth Divides Across Europe).

Meanwhile the highest concentration of disadvantaged regions is in the New Member states where GDP per capita is generally less than 75% of the average, the cut-off for receiving structural funding, and the Cohesion Fund countries, ie Spain, Greece and Portugal. In these more peripheral regions of Europe growth is centred on the capital regions. This development is beginning to spill over to surrounding regions, although in Poland regions nearer to the German border are also growing faster.

The divides in prosperity and economic performance are unlikely to narrow in the medium term

The more peripheral regions are unlikely to catch up with the rich core of Europe in the medium term. Regions with the fastest GDP per capita growth in the New Member states and the Cohesion Fund countries are experiencing catch-up growth (see figure 2: Real GDP Per Capita Growth, 2005-11). Although this might imply convergence to the EU average GDP per capita levels, the rationalisation and restructuring driving this growth is not a viable means of achieving growth over the longer term.

Growth in the medium term is more likely to take place in the already prosperous regions. This is because these regions also have higher economic potential and they will therefore continue to attract more investment than more peripheral regions further away from centres of economic activity. The already prosperous regions are better placed to take advantage of globalisation and so divergence is more likely to continue with the concentration and agglomeration of economic growth in the existing core of Europe.

This is consistent with studies of historical growth in Europe. Although convergence between countries in Europe may have taken place, there has been increasing divergence between the regions within countries.

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