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Italy Economy


Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capital output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed agricultural south, with more than 20% unemployment.

The Italian economy has changed dramatically since the end of World War II. From an agriculturally based economy, it has developed into an industrial state ranked as the world's fifth-largest industrial economy. Italy has few natural resources. With much of the land unsuited for farming, it is a net food importer. Proven natural gas reserves, mainly in the Po Valley and offshore Adriatic, have grown in recent years and constitute the country's most important mineral resource. Most raw materials needed for manufacturing and more than 80% of the country's energy sources are imported. Italy's economic strength is in the processing and the manufacturing of goods, primarily in small and medium-sized family-owned firms. Its major industries are precision machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, and fashion and clothing. Italy's agriculture is typical of the division between the agricultures of the northern and southern countries of the European Union. The northern part of Italy produces primarily grains, sugarbeets, soybeans, meat, and dairy products, while the south specializes in producing fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wine, and durum wheat. Even though much of its mountainous terrain is unsuitable for farming, Italy has a large work force (1.4 million) employed in farming. Most farms are small, with the average farm only seven hectares.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$1.24 trillion (1997 est.)

GDP-real growth rate: 1.5% (1997 est.)

GDP-per capital: purchasing power parity-$21 500 (1997 est.)

GDP-composition by sector:
  • Agriculture: 3.3%
  • Industry: 33%
  • Services: 63.7% (1994)
Inflation rate-consumer price index: 1.9% (1997 est.)

Labor force:

Total: 22.851 million

Unemployment rate: 12.2% (December 1997 est.)


Revenues: $416 billion

Expenditures: $506 billion including capital expenditures of $47 billion (1996 est.)

Industries: tourism machinery iron and steel chemicals food processing textiles motor vehicles clothing footwear ceramics

Industrial production growth rate: 0.5% (1996 est.)

Electricity-capacity: 57.186 million kW (1995)

Electricity-production: 225.179 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity-consumption per capital: 4 509 kWh (1995)

Agriculture-products: fruits vegetables grapes potatoes sugar beets soybeans grain olives; meat and dairy products; fish catch of 525 000 metric tons in 1990


Total value: $250.8 billion (f.o.b. 1996)

Commodities: metals textiles and clothing production machinery motor vehicles transportation equipment chemicals

Partners: EU 53.4% US 7.8% OPEC 3.8%


Total value: $190 billion (c.i.f. 1996)

Commodities: industrial machinery chemicals transport equipment petroleum metals food agricultural products

Partners: EU 45.5% OPEC 4.8% US 4.3%

Debt-external: $45 billion (1996 est.)

Economic aid:

Donor: ODA $3.043 billion (1993)

Currency: 1 Italian lira (Lit) = 100 centesimi

Exchange rates: Italian lire (Lit) per US$1—1 787.7 (January 1998) 1 703.1 (1997) 1 542.9 (1996) 1 628.9 (1995) 1 612.4 (1994) 1 573.7 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year

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