Politics and Ideology in the Italian Workers' Movement: Union Development and the Changing Role of the Catholic and Communist Subcultures in Postwar Italy

By Gino Bedani | Go to book overview

15
Changes in Economic Patterns and Employer
Behaviour in the 1970s

Economic Trends

The unions emerged from the early 1970s less divided than at any time in their movement's postwar history, well-established in the institutional fabric of Italian society, and with a strong sense of strategic purpose. These changes had been accompanied by the profound transformation of Italy into an advanced industrial nation. For the whole of the 1960s the country had sustained an impressive growth rate in GDP of 5.7 per cent, higher than West Germany and the United States. 1 A rapid growth of consumption continued throughout the sixties until 1970, 2 by which time, in manufacturing industry, real wages per unit of production were the highest among all the advanced western economies. 3 Until 1969 wage increases had been matched by productivity, but subsequently this state of affairs was not maintained. Throughout the 1970s hourly wages, and from 1973 the rate of inflation, rose on average twice as much as in other western economies. Such domestic difficulties occurred, moreover, at a fundamental turning point in the world economy. The ensuing economic problems require some comment if we are to understand their effect on the movement's strategic and ideological development.

By 1970 the sharp increases in wages had completely eliminated one of the major advantages enjoyed by much of Italian

____________________
1
See United Nations, 1981 Statistical Yearbook, Table 30, pp. 140-3.
2
See statistics per capita and per family, Tables 4 and 15, 'Appendice statistica', Fanfani, Scelte politiche e fatti economici, pp. 245-70. In the 1960s private consumption more than doubled by comparison with the previous decade, i.e. it increased from 10.6 to 25.1 billion lire. See Istat, Sommario di statistiche storiche dell'Italia 1861-1975, table 116, p. 154.
3
See statistical table in P. Frigerio e G. Zanetti, Efficienza e accumulazione nell'industria italiana, p. 73.

-197-

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