Rescued by Europe? Social and Labour Market Reforms in Italy from Maastricht to Berlusconi

Rescued by Europe? Social and Labour Market Reforms in Italy from Maastricht to Berlusconi

Rescued by Europe? Social and Labour Market Reforms in Italy from Maastricht to Berlusconi

Rescued by Europe? Social and Labour Market Reforms in Italy from Maastricht to Berlusconi

Synopsis

As a result of its political and economic turmoil for much of the postwar period, Italy was considered the "bad seed" in the European community. Harsh ideological divisions, chronic executive instability, inefficient bureaucracy, uneven socio-economic development, organized crime, and unbalanced public finances all contributed to this negative perception of the nation. Yet a massive economic and social overhaul was launched in the 1990s as part of Italy's efforts to meet the famous Maastricht requirements in order to join the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

This book examines the processes Italy underwent to become part of the integrated European community and skillfully analyzes the consequences of the "Maastricht process" by exploring the effect it had on governmental and social actions and modes of orientation. Rescued by Europe? offers sharp insights into the importance of welfare state reform to current Berlusconi government, and how the weakening of the European Union's constraints has renewed the resistance to further changes. Ferrera and Gualmini ultimately argue that the constraints and opportunities linked to European integration have been the driving forces behind Italy's positive expansions, yet even with these reforms, there is still a long road ahead for European integration and Italy's political future.

Excerpt

For much of the post-war period, Italy was regarded as the sick man of Europe. the Italian disease had both political and economic components: harsh ideological divisions, chronic executive instability, an inefficient bureaucracy, uneven socio-economic development, organised crime and unbalanced public finances, just to mention the most emblematic symptoms.

In the course of the 1990s, some encouraging signs of a healing process have, however, appeared on the scene. the most visible and relevant indicator of this is certainly Italy’s entry into the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) by the established deadline of 1998, at the same time as the other ‘core’ European countries. At the beginning of the decade, this event seemed almost unimaginable to any observer gifted with some realism. Meeting the Maastricht criteria would in fact have required a massive effort of macroeconomic adjustment, which in turn would have needed both a stable politics and coherent policies: two items which had always been in very scarce supply south of the Alps.

But the entry into the emu was only the tip of the iceberg. in addition to macro-economic adjustment, the 1990s witnessed a multitude of other reforms – some quite big, some small, but nevertheless significant – which have slowly redesigned the country’s institutional fabric, enhancing its political and policy capabilities. the budgetary process has been incisively changed, allowing a more effective management of public finances. a new framework has been put in place for industrial relations and ‘social concertation’ between the government and the social partners. the national executive has been re-organised and strengthened. Innovation has been particularly important in the sphere of the welfare state (broadly conceived): important changes have been introduced in the pension and health care systems, while the highly rigid regulatory framework of the labour market has finally started a much-needed process of defrosting. Change has affected not only benefit formulas and service standards, but also organisational designs and decision-making procedures.

Internationalisation – but especially the dynamics of European integra-

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