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Northern vs. southern Italy – An insight into the economy of the nation

The subject of northern vs. southern Italy has long been a topic of discourse. To understand the tapestry of Italian culture, it is imperative to be aware of this dichotomy.

A mere century and a half ago, the Italian peninsula was dotted with numerous small kingdoms, and despite unification in 1861, remnants of regionalism persist as a testament to the strong local identities held by many Italians.

It is not surprising, then, in a nation so newly formed, to find disparities that stretch from one end of the country to the other. 

Present-day Italy can be divided into three parts: the northern, central, and southern regions. The latter occupies 41 percent of the nation’s territory.

Despite the expected differences, it is still shocking for somebody traveling from north to south to see the level of incongruence. It is such that one may think it is two different countries.

Looking back a few years

In 1951, the per capita GDP in the South was 52.9 compared to that of the North and the Center. In other words, the South had half the nation’s GDP. In 1973 it reached 60.5 (almost eight points higher than in 1951). However, gone are those days that portrayed these outstanding numbers.

The following decades

Despite the numbers in 1973, the decay took place fast. Concerning population, the South is not a minority partner. So, can a nation call itself such if one-third of it is in a radically different condition from the other two-thirds? No, it cannot be for moral, civic, or minimum fairness reasons. However, Italy exists. And the consequences are clearly seen in the economy. The nation is economically interdependent. So, the backwardness of one part results in a reduction of national wealth, and it reduces the development horizon.

If the south recovers the path of growth and reaches the performance of the other two parts, Italy would again become a leading nation in the world economy. Growing the South is a bargain for the Italian economy! So, Italy’s cohesion should be the goal when carving economic reforms.

Germany is a good example of what Italy should do

A good example is to look at what happened in Germany after reunification. Germany has invested almost five times more in its East in 30 years than Italy has in about 60 years in the South.

Germany’s investment in its East compared to Italy’s investment in the South

In thirty years, Germany has invested between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion euros.

The South of Italy, in 58 years, from the start of the Cassa del Mezzogiorno from 1950 to 2008, has received 342.5 billion euros as an investment.

So, you can start to see how much it takes to level up a region. In eastern German, an average of 70 billion euros a year can be contrasted with the Mezzogiorno 6 billion a year investment.

20 different healthcare systems around Italy

In 2020, Italy “celebrated” 50 years since the birth of the Region arrangement. However, there is very little to celebrate, in our opinion. One of the most resounding consequences of Italian-style regionalism is the 20 different healthcare systems around Italy. Today, what should be the same health treatment and prevention translate into 20 different responses.

Thus, common Italian citizenship does not translate into equal healthcare facilities, care, and capabilities. These change drastically depending on the territory in which Italians live and reside.

50 years after the birth of the Region arrangement

No region in the South in 50 years caught up in income and production with North-Center. And digging a bit deeper reveals that the gap is not just economic. There is a noticeable difference in services too. 

People in the South die earlier!

So, it must not surprise us that the difference in economies translates into social implications. In Naples and Caserta (South), life expectancy is 80.6 years. In Rimini and Florence (North), it is 84 years. 

South average is 79.8 for men, and 84.1 for women. Trento’s numbers are 81.6 for men, and 86.3 for women. 

Wrapping Up!

The underestimation of social infrastructure and services is a recurring theme. And after all these years, the bet for fanciful and wishful regional development programs has proven to be a mistake.

The solution to the southern question needs a different approach. In other words, entrustment to the regions is not the solution.

What did you know about this social issue before reading this post? Would you like to continue diving into Italian culture? Learning the Italian language is one of the best ways to have first-hand insight into all these issues. Click here if you are interested in test-driving an Italian language podcast-style course for free.

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  1. I did not know there was such a disparity in investment between northern and southern Italy. Based on my first-hand experience in Italy, the differences between the north and south are noticeable. But I never imagined the gap would be so big!

  2. I have been to Italy twice. The first time, I stayed for a month in Rome.

    I have not been to the South. But I knew about these differences. However, some of the numbers you shared were shocking.

    In Romania, sadly, something similar happens between regions. I hope that current programs focus on this development issue.

    Thanks for this informative post.

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