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Italy’s Productivity Conundrum. A Study on Resource Misallocation in Italy


  • S. Calligaris
  • M. Del Gatto
  • F. Hassan
  • G.I.P. Ottaviano
  • F. Schivardi


This paper provides a detailed analysis of the patterns of misallocation in Italy since the early 1990s. In particular, we show that the extent of misallocation has substantially increased since 1995, and that this increase can account for a large fraction of the Italian productivity slowdown since then. We gather evidence on the evolution of firm level misallocation both within and between various categories of firms, in particular those based on geographic areas, industries, and firm size classes. We do so both for firms in manufacturing and for firms in non-manufacturing. Overall, looking at the distribution of firm productivity, we uncover a thickening of the left tail as the share of firms with low productivity has increased over the period. This implies not only a decrease in average firm productivity, but also an increase in its dispersion. We show that the increase in misallocation has come mainly from higher dispersion of productivities within different firm size classes and geographical areas rather than between them. Crucially, we highlight that rising misallocation has hit firm categories that are traditionally the spearhead of the Italian economy such as firms in the Northwest and big firms. We also produce evidence that, while the 2008 crisis seems to have triggered, at least until 2013, a ‘cleansing effect’ of the least productive firms in the manufacturing sector as a whole, in non-manufacturing industries one observes the survival of firms with even lower productivities than they used to have. Finally, we propose a novel methodology to assess which firm characteristics are more strongly associated with misallocation. In particular, we investigate the role of corporate ownership/control and governance, finance, workforce composition, internationalisation, cronyism and innovation. Together with the other findings already highlighted, the analysis of those ‘markers’ provides the ground for a policy-oriented discussion on how to tackle the Italian productivity slowdown.

Suggested Citation

  • S. Calligaris & M. Del Gatto & F. Hassan & G.I.P. Ottaviano & F. Schivardi, 2016. "Italy’s Productivity Conundrum. A Study on Resource Misallocation in Italy," European Economy - Discussion Papers 2015 - 030, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  • Handle: RePEc:euf:dispap:030

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    Cited by:

    1. Di Mauro, Filippo & Hassan, Fadi & Ottaviano, Gianmarco I. P., 2018. "Financial markets and the allocation of capital: the role of productivity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 91676, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Jan Hagemejer & Peter Szewczyk & Joanna Tyrowicz, 2018. "Misallocations go a long way: evidence from firm-level data," GRAPE Working Papers 31, GRAPE Group for Research in Applied Economics.
    3. Fabiano Schivardi & Enrico Sette & Guido Tabellini, 2017. "Credit misallocation during the European financial crisis," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1139, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    4. Giovanni Dosi & Dario Guarascio & Andrea Ricci & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2021. "Neodualism in the Italian business firms: training, organizational capabilities, and productivity distributions," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 57(1), pages 167-189, June.
    5. Aleberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini & Francesco Trebbi, 2017. "Is Europe an Optimal Political Area?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 48(1 (Spring), pages 169-234.
    6. Fabiano Schivardi & Tom Schmitz, 2020. "The IT Revolution and Southern Europe’s Two Lost Decades [Lack of Selection and Limits to Delegation: Firm Dynamics in Developing Countries]," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 18(5), pages 2441-2486.
    7. Oreste Napolitano & Mariafortuna Pietroluongo & Konstantinos Kounetas, 2018. "Stochastic Convergence or Divergence of Total Factor Productivity and GDP of Italian Regions. Re-examing the Evidence," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 38(4), pages 1857-1863.
    8. Giuseppe Berlingieri & Patrick Blanchenay & Chiara Criscuolo, 2017. "The Great Divergence(s)," CEP Discussion Papers dp1488, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    9. Matteo Bugamelli & Francesca Lotti & Monica Amici & Emanuela Ciapanna & Fabrizio Colonna & Francesco D�Amuri & Silvia Giacomelli & Andrea Linarello & Francesco Manaresi & Giuliana Palumbo & Filippo , 2018. "Productivity growth in Italy: a tale of a slow-motion change," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 422, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    10. Bruno Pellegrino & Luigi Zingales, 2017. "Diagnosing the Italian Disease," NBER Working Papers 23964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Dino Pinelli & Roberta Torre & Lucianajulia Pace & Laura Cassio & Alfonso Arpaia, 2017. "The Recent Reform of the Labour Market in Italy: A Review," European Economy - Discussion Papers 2015 - 072, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    12. Caglayan, Mustafa & Flamini, Alessandro & Jahanshahi, Babak, 2021. "Hindering human capital accumulation: A hidden cost of the silent mafia?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 828-845.
    13. Guarascio, Dario & Gualtieri, Valentina & Quaranta, Roberto, 2018. "Does routinization affect occupation dynamics? Evidence from the ‘Italian O*Net’ data," MPRA Paper 89585, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Fazio, Giorgio & Piacentino, Davide, 2018. "Convergence analysis for hierarchical longitudinal data," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 89-99.
    15. 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.
    16. A. Arrighetti & F. Landini, 2018. "Eterogeneità delle imprese e stagnazione del capitalismo italiano," Economics Department Working Papers 2018-EP01, Department of Economics, Parma University (Italy).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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