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Long-run trends in Italian productivity


  • Claire Giordano

    () (Bank of Italy)

  • Gianni Toniolo

    () (Luiss University and CEPR)

  • Francesco Zollino

    () (Bank of Italy)


Based on updated datasets of value added and of labour and capital inputs, this paper provides a reassessment of the proximate causes of Italy’s economic development since its political unification in 1861 to 2016. Italy’s pre-WWII economy featured weak productivity growth, with the exception of the Giolitti era and the 1920s. Italy then embarked on an exceptional catching-up process relative to the technological leaders during the Golden Age. Compared with the pre-WWII years, when the Italian economy was held back by slow productivity growth in the large agricultural sector, the catching-up process during the Golden Age was propelled by the rapid shift of labour out of agriculture. As in many countries, this rapid growth in productivity could not be sustained after 1973, but the further slowdown since the 1990s has been more pronounced in Italy than elsewhere. The disappointing performance of the Italian economy since the early 1990s is largely explained by slow labour productivity growth in the now dominant services sector and by sluggish aggregate total factor productivity. Labour productivity developments actually turned negative during the protracted crisis following the global financial turmoil, due to the decline in capital accumulation and in total factor productivity. Since the start of the recovery in 2013, while total factor productivity has returned to a moderately positive trend, the capital stock has not fully overcome the legacy of the crisis.

Suggested Citation

  • Claire Giordano & Gianni Toniolo & Francesco Zollino, 2017. "Long-run trends in Italian productivity," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 406, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdi:opques:qef_406_17

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    Cited by:

    1. Carlo Ciccarelli & Matteo Gomellini & Paolo Sestito, 2019. "Demography and Productivity in the Italian Manufacturing Industry: Yesterday and Today," CEIS Research Paper 457, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 16 May 2019.
    2. Alessandro Mistretta & Francesco Zollino, 2018. "Recent trends in economic activity and TFP in Italy with a focus on embodied technical progress," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1204, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    3. Fidora, Michael & Giordano, Claire & Schmitz, Martin, 2017. "Real exchange rate misalignments in the euro area," Working Paper Series 2108, European Central Bank.
    4. repec:spr:italej:v:4:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s40797-018-0072-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Matteo Bugamelli & Silvia Fabiani & Stefano Federico & Alberto Felettigh & Claire Giordano & Andrea Linarello, 2018. "Back on Track? A Macro–Micro Narrative of Italian Exports," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 4(1), pages 1-31, March.
    6. Bańbura, Marta & Albani, Maria & Ambrocio, Gene & Bursian, Dirk & Buss, Ginters & de Winter, Jasper & Gavura, Miroslav & Giordano, Claire & Júlio, Paulo & Le Roux, Julien & Lozej, Matija & Malthe-Thag, 2018. "Business investment in EU countries," Occasional Paper Series 215, European Central Bank.

    More about this item


    labour productivity; sectorial reallocation; growth accounting;

    JEL classification:

    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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