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Rescued by Europe?

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

Maurizio Ferrera
Elisabetta Gualmini
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Rescued by Europe?
    Book Description:

    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. 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 those processes and skillfully analyzes their consequences by exploring the effect they had on governmental and social actions. "Two of Italy's foremost public policy specialists, Ferrera and Gualmini are well placed to tell the story of how Italian political élites, long oriented towards buying off opposition and vested interests by expanding a bloated public debt,were finally confronted with reality by EMU membership criteria. Rescued by Europe is both a fascinating narrative of how governments, employers and unions responded to the EMU imperatives, and an in-depth analysis of how Italy's idiosyncratic labour markets and welfare system function, both for good and ill." Martin Rhodes Professor of European Public Policy, European University Institute, Florence, Italy Maurizio Ferrera is professor of social policy at the University of Pavia, Italy, and a member of the Italian National Commission on Social Exclusion. Elisabetta Gualmini is professor of administrative science at the University of Bologna, Italy. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0528-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-12)

    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...

  5. I Adjusting to Europe: a Learning Perspective
    (pp. 13-30)

    The experience of the 1990s has shown that welfare reforms are daunting balancing acts, especially from a political point of view. Observing the way in which the various European governments have coped with this challenge, one is tempted to quote the lapidary comment that Samuel Johnson once made about a dog walking on its hind legs: ‘it was not a good walk, but what is surprising is that it managed to do it somehow’. This comment sounds especially appropriate for the Italian case. Italy’s adjustment and this country’s entry into the emu were definitely not a good walk. The pace...

  6. II The Scene in the 1970s: Light, Shadow and Thunder
    (pp. 31-56)

    For Italy’s political economy the 1970s were a complex decade, characterised by at least three intertwined dynamics: 1) the institutional completion of the Keynesian welfare state (in its widest sense), in many respects accomplishing what had been prescribed by the 1948 Constitution; 2) the gradual appearance of endogenous strains, largely connected with some peculiar characteristics of those accomplishments; 3) the sudden break of an exogenous crisis, linked with the well-known turbulences of the world economy. The first dynamic culminated in 1978 with a sweeping social reform establishing the National Health Service. The second dynamic became overtly visible in 1974, when...

  7. III The Winding Road to Adjustment
    (pp. 57-86)

    At the end of the 1970s, Italy had built up an extended and articulated system of social guarantees, after a prolonged and sustained period of economic growth. The parallel development of particularistic and distributive social policies, on the one hand, and a highly protective labour market regulation to the advantage of the employees, on the other, had resulted in an internally coherent welfare system, with high levels of satisfaction among its beneficiaries. This system appeared closed (if not impermeable) to the external challenges, completely absorbed by the ups and downs of domestic politics, and rather insensitive with respect to the...

  8. IV The Cycle of Reform
    (pp. 87-120)

    The internationalisation process and European integration have spurred a decisive wave of reforms not only with respect to the overall management of public finances (illustrated in the preceding chapter), but also in welfare and labour market matters. In order to correct the financial disequilibria, several old schemes and programmes had to be revised and restructured, also in order to respond to new challenges: chronic structural unemployment and the need to extend social protection to marginal groups while at the same time keeping costs under control.

    As elsewhere in Europe, the 1990s have brought about fundamental structural social policy changes in...

  9. V Reforms as Outcomes of Institutional Learning
    (pp. 121-148)

    In Chapter 1 we already presented the analytical perspective that we find most promising for explaining the sequence of reforms that took place in Italy during the 1990s. While we recognize that such a sequence rested to some extent on the traditional logics of ‘political exchange’, i.e.quid pro quobargains struck between governing authorities and the social categories most affected by the reforms, we wish to emphasise in our explanation the role played by learning dynamics, i.e. processes through which salient policy actors come to modify their preferences under the spur of unforeseen events, past policy failure, sudden constraints,...

  10. VI Rescued, but Still Free to Harm Itself
    (pp. 149-170)

    If what matters, in the history of a country, are the big turning points, i.e. the evolutionary junctures through which a specific path is chosen instead of another one, then the turbulent 1990s were a successful decade for Italy. Through an impressive sequence of reforms, the country was able to improve the conditions of its battered public finances and start an incisive modernisation of its backward bureaucratic apparatus, its rigid labour market and its unbalanced welfare state, without jeopardising either social peace or the overall competitiveness of its economy in the global context. The dynamics of internationalisation and (especially) European...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-178)
  12. References
    (pp. 179-191)
  13. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 192-192)
  14. Index of Names
    (pp. 193-196)
  15. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 197-200)