Over the last few years, we have looked at Veneto as an area that creates value by adapting. It has striven to preserve its competitiveness (Note 1)
, a difficult feat of late, yet its efforts have highlighted the leaps in quality (Note 2)
the region is making in social and production terms.
A lesson from history
Economic history has been marked by great changes: first came the trade revolution, which led to the birth of economic rationalism; then came the industrial revolution, which turned an economy based on agriculture, artisan goods and trade into a modern industrial one. In the space of a few decades, the breakneck speed of these changes led to social upheaval and to a radical transformation in lifestyle, class relations and the appearance of towns and cities.
Despite the initial drawbacks for urban society, the industrial revolution brought well-being to increasingly larger swathes of the population in the long term. By the end of the 19th century, there had been a general improvement in sanitary conditions, a notable increase in average life expectancy and literacy, as well as a wider availability of goods and services that had been completely beyond the reach of the poorer classes in earlier times.
A decisive role was played by a wide range of major advances in technology. In just a few decades, a host of important discoveries were made in science and medicine. Inventions were introduced, such as the steam engine, railways, electricity, gas lighting, electric lighting, the telegraph, and dynamite; later came the telephone and the automobile. All of these inventions transformed the lives of the population and involved all industrialised societies, changing centuries of habit and contributing to rapid changes in people's mentality and expectations.
Another great moment in scientific progress was the astronomical revolution; it was a key cultural event in Western history that enabled society to step from medieval times towards the modern era. Galileo's ideas introduced the concept of science as experimental and mathematical knowledge that was to be broadened and mastered for the benefit of the entire human race.
In light of this, 2009 is a particular year that will focus on these issues. The United Nations has declared 2009 International Year of Astronomy as it was exactly 400 years ago, in 1609, that Galileo pointed his telescope towards the Padova sky for the first time.
"Imagine, create, innovate" is also the three-word slogan of a campaign to promote 2009 as European Year of Creativity and Innovation.
Like other great scientific, social and economic changes, the astronomical revolution led to a radical change in how people viewed the world, a change of paradigm. Its hallmark was a new language that was not directly comparable with previous ones, and at the time it brought to light a series of contradictions.
Recent great changes
Industrialisation in Italy reached completion in the 1980s when the country started to tertiarise its economy with the development of bank, insurance, commercial, financial and communication services.
In recent decades, as in the other great economic revolutions, globalisation of the economy has brought with it market integration both through increased mobility of freight and capital flows between countries and tighter integration between industry and tertiary structures, which are increasingly owned by companies from a range of countries. The main causes behind this process of supranational unification, which has progressed at an unprecedented rate for the last three decades, are the advancements in transport and communication technologies, logistics infrastructure and financial services, not to mention the major institutional changes brought about by liberalisation and privatisation, and by the evolution towards new political orders whereby the world economy is organised into large blocks.
These initial considerations lead us to the theme for this edition of Veneto's statistical report: mobility. We will be looking at the mobility of people and goods, as well as businesses that move physically or through ideas, communicating virtually as they travel along road, technology and local-area networks, as well as world, professional, and training networks, cultures and societies. As usual, this theme will focus on Veneto, its residents, territory and production units, revealing the transformations that all of them have undergone over the last few years. (Figure 1)
Veneto generates mobility
Veneto generates a considerable amount of mobility for various reasons. The first is because of its geographical position, followed by the infrastructure of inhabited areas, as well as traffic brought to the region by culture and tourism, the excellence of its hospitals, employment and educational prospects and more besides.
In terms of road mobility, the data in the report indicates that the critical areas the region needs to deal with are not caused by poor infrastructure as such, but by the high number of users (people and businesses, each with their own means of transport). On the other hand, traffic congestion is a phenomenon that everyone has to face daily in the major transit hubs and is testimony to the road infrastructure's incapacity to deal with the sheer volume of traffic caused by residents and enterprises.
In the ten years between 1996 and 2006 there has, however, been considerable development in the road infrastructure: in 2006 there were 58 km of main roads per 100 km (Note 2), compared to 55 km 10 years earlier. These figures place Veneto in line with national figures, but still behind its competitor regions.
8 February 2009: the opening of the Passante di Mestre - the new Mestre Bypass
With the opening of the new Mestre Bypass earlier this year, an important step was taken, a small great revolution that can almost be seen as the end of a nightmare that began in one of the most enlightened years for restoring freedom and democracy in 20th century Europe: 1989. (Figure 2)
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, this geographic point in Veneto became an insurmountable obstacle on the map of Europe. The 'wall' in fact moved to the Tangenziale di Mestre (the Mestre ringroad), which became the infamous Mestre Wall, where all too often freedom to travel, that freedom which we have finally won back, was impossible. On the other hand, Mestre is in a strategic position for transit at a regional, national and international level, which explains the congestion of its roads. Around 150,000 vehicles circulated on the Mestre ringroad a day (with peaks of 170,000), 30% of which were heavy goods vehicles. A total of 53% of traffic used the ringroad to join motorways, while 47% used it for moving from one place to another within the town. At rush-hour up to 4,000 vehicles an hour were using the two carriageways.
The new 32.3 km three-lane motorway, stretching from Dolo to Quarto d'Altino, means that today it is possible to bypass the Mestre ringroad, which can now return to serving commuters. In fact the main purpose of the Bypass, a key segment in the Lisbon-Kiev corridor, is to free the ringroad of through traffic, which accounts for over half of all transit and which can now use the Bypass to cross the Mestre area without leaving the motorway network. The ringroad, meanwhile, is only for traffic to and from the Venezia-Mestre area. The first figures available for daily traffic seem to confirm this, showing that traffic on the ringroad, especially heavy traffic, has lightened considerably.
Another benefit of the Bypass will be the reduced time needed to cover some of the main routes across the region. It has been estimated that once all the planned infrastructures have been completed, the journey time from Treviso to Padova could be cut from the current 45 minutes to 20-25 minutes, and from Treviso to Vicenza could take 30-35 minutes rather than 60. As a consequence, however, there will be an increase in mobility within the Vicenza-Treviso-Venezia-Padova quadrilateral.
It should be noted that the Mestre Bypass is not an isolated project but part of the plan for an extensive network of complementary roads, with a series of ordinary roads and ringroads that aim to relieve neighbouring towns of heavy traffic and give easy access to junctions on the Bypass. When the work is complete, probably 2010-2011, and the "Bypass system" is fully functional, SocietÓ delle Autostrade di Venezia e Padova, the local motorway company, estimates that traffic flow both at the tolls and along the different sections of the ringroad will drop by over 20%, with a low of 41% at the Venezia Ovest tolls.
This section of motorway is a symbolic work, especially because along the Bypass the value of the fundamental principal of free circulation of goods will become more evident. This event will make the presence of our small- and medium-sized enterprises more significant than ever in the most diverse and structured European markets. This is certainly one of the positive factors that will help us to overcome the difficult times that we are facing today.
The deepening of the financial crisis over the course of the last year found the economies of developed countries in a slowdown; these economies, however, had already been weakened by the steep increase in the prices of raw materials in the preceding months.
In the last quarter the recession deepened in Italy, as it did throughout the euro area. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 decreased overall by 1%, and a 3% decline (Note 3)
was recorded in the last quarter of 2008 compared to the same period of the preceding year. Yet more serious was the estimate of the decline in the first quarter of the current year, down 5.9%, which would translate into an average drop of 4.6% for 2009. It is true that there have been some signs of an easing in the decline in productivity, which should be seen in the results of the coming months. A report on the international situation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) foresees the crisis bottoming out in the second half of the year and recovering in the first semester of 2010.
Economic growth has felt the markedly negative effects of both domestic and foreign demand. In the wake of falling exports, investments have also weakened further, while the uncertain prospects for demand may further reduce the desired level of inventory in warehouses, pushing firms towards more cuts in production.
In 2007, the most recent year for official regional figures, Veneto consolidated the recovery that had begun in the summer of 2005, and a rate of growth equal to 1.8% was achieved, higher than Italy's 1.6% growth. However, in 2008, the stagnation of GDP in Veneto has been estimated at -0.7% (Note 3) and the prospect for 2009 is -3.9% (Note 3). The result in 2008, a little better than at national level, can be attributed in particular to services holding their own, while manufacturing industries experienced a reduction in added value.
Last year a decline in the growth of the value of exports was also recorded, +1.4%, which corresponds to a trade surplus of about 11 billion euro, the result of a surplus with the EU (+5,795 million euro), North America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Trade deficits, however, were registered with East Asian and Central Asian countries.
Exports from Veneto recorded an increase in most economic sectors, with the exception of vehicles, processing of non-metal minerals and other manufactured goods (furniture, jewellery and sports equipment). The fashion sector also held up well and ended with an increase of +2.9% in export turnover for textiles and clothing and +1.2% for the production of hides and leather.
The year 2009 will feel the effects of the crisis to a greater extent; indeed, for Veneto a decrease of around 6 percentage points in the value of exports is forecast.
The most obvious effects
In the final months of 2008, the upward trend for Italy's employment rate came to a halt. In Veneto, on the other hand, the number of people in employment rose by an annual average of almost 2% compared to 2007. The Italian employment rate is stable at 58.7% but far from the objective set by the Lisbon Strategy, which envisages a 70% employment rate for the European Union by 2010, partially as a result of the major differences in pension laws across Member States.
In Veneto the situation is better: in 2008, 66.4% of the population aged 15-64 were in employment. That is 0.6% higher than the previous year and higher than the figure recorded for the 27 states in the European Union (65.9%).
The number of women in employment is also on the increase. In 2008, 55.5% of women in Veneto aged 15-64 were in employment, 1.5% higher than the previous year. The figure for Italy was 47.2%, 0.6% up on 2007.
As concerns unemployment, alarm bells are ringing in Italy. After a nine-year downward trend in the national unemployment rate, in 2008 it took an upward turn, rising to 6.7%, over 0.5% higher than the previous year.
Although the number of people in employment has increased in Veneto, its number of jobseekers is also rising, though to a lesser extent than in Italy, +8.2% on the previous year against the national figure of +12.3%. The unemployment rate in Veneto is also rising. However at 3.5% compared to the 3.3% of the previous year, the situation in Veneto (4th in the national ranking) is good compared to other Italian regions.
The sorry state in which the job market has been since the end of 2008 is also shown by the increase in redundancies and the consequent rise in the number of people registered as unemployed, not to mention the sharp rise in the number of hours authorised by the Wages Guarantee Fund (WGF).
In 2008 over 19,600 workers were made redundant (Note 4)
and registered as unemployed, more than double the figure for eight years previously. The monthly analysis shows that the sharp increase in redundancies, especially from small Veneto firms, began at the end of 2008 and is continuing in 2009. Between November 2008 and March 2009, in Veneto the number of people registered as unemployed rose by 62%.
There is an increase in companies requesting intervention from the WGF, which allows firms to contain their losses through making workers temporarily redundant. In 2008 payment of 223 million hours from the Wages Guarantee Fund (the equivalent of 135,000 employees) was authorised, almost 25% more than the previous year, but still far from the figures for the economic crisis of 1993 (around 550 million hours).
In 2008 in Veneto the Wages Guarantee Fund has also been used considerably. A total of 15.5 million hours were authorised during the year (the equivalent of over 9,400 workers), almost 45% more than the previous year.
The year 2009 also began with a fair number of problems. In March of this year, almost 59 million hours were authorised for Italy by the Wages Guarantee Fund, 38.3% higher than the figure for February and almost four times higher than the figure for last year. In Veneto just under 3.5 million hours have been authorised, 44.5% more than February and almost double the figure for March 2008. In Veneto that increase depends on the rise in the number of hours authorised by the ordinary Wages Guarantee Fund, which is closely linked to the economy, assigned when a firm's crisis depends on temporary events and when production activity is expected to be resumed. This is an encouraging sign as it implicitly indicates that the firm's prospects are not too negative. Compared to March 2008, Veneto's ordinary WGF has increased by 546%, whilst the special WGF, linked to crises and corporate restructuring, has gone down by 66%. What is more between February and March there was less demand than in the first two months of the year, regardless of the kind of WFG.
The responsiveness of Veneto
We must, however, consider what John Fitzgerald Kennedy said: "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity".
The dangers that derive from the current situation are, as we have been able to see, clear to all and, in terms of employment and production, as well as socially, we are already suffering the consequences. Less attention, however, has been given to the opportunities for the future that may spring from dark times like these. "We can limit the economic and social consequences of the global crisis for Italy, and even create the premises for a better future, if we leverage on our strengths and on the most vital energies at our disposal". (Note 5)
Through the studies carried out for this report, we have been able to confirm that Veneto is more sensitive to external influences because of its greater exposure to foreign markets than the nation as a whole.
Indeed compared to Italy, Veneto has been able to react more decisively through its greater ability to exploit the opportunities of recoveries, even though at times analysis of economic cycles has demonstrated the region experienced more severe declines in times of crisis.
A more-detailed study of added value reveals that although in the last decade the region has been at a disadvantage because of the structural composition of its production, it has been able to compensate for these shortcomings through the strengths of its production system. Indeed, its system has been able to maintain a level of economic development that has been consolidated and has remained stable over time, thus providing a clear signal of high productivity.
Specifically it has been the areas linked to technology, infrastructure and logistics, to the depth of the business management culture of its firms, to access to raw materials, and to factors involving the productivity of the local workforce, that have isolated and brought to light the driving forces behind the region's development.
Crosschecking figures for the mobility of freight, markets and Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) highlights the key features and recent development of Veneto's model of internationalisation; it identifies the production units that are most actively 'mobile' and that change their strategies and structures to take advantage of opportunities for economic growth.
Over the last two decades, this model has witnessed the international integration of the local economy and in the long term Veneto has performed better on average than many of Italy's regions and the country as a whole.
Between 1991 and 2007, Veneto's exports increased by 8.7% per year, higher than the national average of 7.9%. When compared with Italy's other north-east regions, Veneto performed better than Trentino Alto Adige, and as well as Friuli Venezia Giulia and Emilia Romagna.
Regarding Foreign Direct Investments by Veneto businesses, 1991-2007 saw a rise in production activities abroad, which went from very low levels in the early 1990s (70 interests in foreign manufacturing companies, including about 8,300 employees) to much higher figures at the beginning of 2007 (968 foreign interests, including more than 103,000 employees).
During the same period, the value of imports into the region rose at an annual average rate of 8.4%, which was also higher than the national average of 7.5%. The number of foreign businesses investing in Veneto firms also grew, in the manufacturing sector in particular. The number of employees in Veneto businesses in which foreign MNEs held a stake increased by more than 80% between 1991 and 2007, in comparison to a fairly stable level of -0.5% nationwide.
Despite slower growth in recent years, Veneto is still among Italy's top exporters. The ratio between exports and industrial added value is higher than the national average (100 is the national average and Veneto stood at 124 in 2007) and in line with the North East. Its strong growth in multinational expansion in the 1990s was not, however, enough for Veneto to become one of Italy's leading regions for multinationalisation via FDIs, and the number of Veneto businesses abroad is below the national average.
In recent years, larger businesses have increased their share of overall value in the region's exports, which confirms the importance of business size on the world market. Businesses that manage to compete on the global market have become bigger and have optimised their financial structure, taking advantage of the long string of low interest rates that are thanks mainly to the introduction of the euro.
In the last four years, the number of companies in the region declaring more than 20 million euro of exported goods has increased by 92 units (from 356 in 2004 to 448 in 2007), and their contribution to the share of exports has risen from 51.7% to 57.2%.
The sectoral composition of MNEs in Veneto mainly benefits the region's most competitive exporting sectors. Figures for the major foreign-invested companies in Veneto suggest that they have a positive dual role. Firstly, many of these enterprises are strongly export-oriented and in some cases their role as a hub in a production and international trade network makes them more inclined to export, with results that are sometimes better than those of other local businesses. Secondly it is likely that their presence stimulates local businesses to look abroad, creating a local export spillover as skilled resources and expertise are shared and transferred to foreign markets. This process fuels both learning and imitation, both through horizontal competition and vertical relations between client and supplier.
International size and innovation
As well highlighted by literature, there is a close link between a business's international outlook and its propensity towards innovation. The market's selection process ensures that the most dynamic and innovative businesses will manage to compete successfully on international markets. Technological innovation also improves a business's chances of survival, which increase with business size. This means that larger exporting enterprises operating in the high-tech sector are more likely to survive.
One of the region's peculiarities is that there has been a drop in the number of both low-tech and high-tech businesses, which means that Veneto's manufacturing industry develops on mid-range products, but ones that are highly specialised and require high-level techniques rather than high technology.
Overall figures confirm the strength of Veneto's business fabric: at one year the rate stands at about 92%, at two years it is higher than 85%, at three years it is almost 80%, and at four years three out of four businesses are still active. The most developed trends in manufacturing stem from the food, metal and mechanical sectors, which vaunt survival rates consistently above the regional average.
The key to survival
Businesses that innovate manage to survive and grow stronger. It is innovation in products, processes, commerce and technology, rather than in marketing, that enables product ranges and business services to be overhauled and broadened. An important role is also played by developing new commercial concepts and by introducing new methods and processes of business organisation and management, production, supply and distribution.
The trend towards innovation, which also involves small and very small enterprises, is one of the main reasons behind the positive performance of the region's economy. In Veneto, 40.9% of businesses claimed they had introduced some form of innovation during the three-year period 2005-2007, a figure that is much higher than the one recorded for the rest of Italy (31.2%). At both regional and national level, there was a positive correlation between company size and drive towards innovation, but there was also significant activity in even the smallest businesses. The contribution innovative products make to turnover seems extremely high, which confirms that Veneto is an innovative area that contributes a significant amount to the creation of wealth in the manufacturing sector.
Although Veneto is starting to show some dynamism in this field, it is emblematic of the Italian model of "innovation without research and development". Figures show that regional expenditure on research and development is lower than the Italian average, which is already modest by European standards, both in terms of its percentage of Gross Domestic Product and its number of researchers.
In Veneto this form of investment has developed in recent years, and there was a 22.7% increase in expenditure on R&D in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available. There was also a particular increase in the number of people employed by business in R&D, which rose by almost 50%.
Progress from unreasonableness
Never more than today, in the midst of the economic crisis, is it necessary to remember that often from great changes we can expect improvements that redraw and prefigure various potential paths of development, although they involve clear breaks that are reflected in daily life. The future of the economy, like that of society, is ever more influenced by the creativity and the ability of people who do not remain immobile, but change, propose new ideas and thus innovation. Quite pertinent is the declaration that "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress relies on the unreasonable man" (Note 6)
. For this reason, especially today, we hope there will be some originality in the vision and ideas that guide Veneto in a direction that maintains its distinctiveness, history, values and sense of place.
We can certainly expect the best ideas to come from those who dedicate themselves to intellectual pursuits and who continue their education, especially in the universities.
In Veneto educational opportunities are ever richer, drop-out rates lower, and attendance on the increase in its university system. Between 2001 and 2007, an increase in people going on to higher education was recorded in all the regions of Italy: in the last year for which data is available, in Italy there were about 5 new graduates per 1000 residents, two more than at the beginning of the millennium. At the top of the list for the number of students per 1000 residents that graduated in 2007 are the regions of the Centre and South. It is harder to find a job in these areas and so it has become necessary to focus on obtaining a university degree, in the knowledge that higher levels of education often correspond to lower risk of social disadvantage. Veneto is mid-list with a figure equal to 4.5, a point and a half higher than the figure recorded in 2001, and higher than the figure for its regional competitors (Toscana and Lombardia 4.3, Emilia Romagna 4.1 and Piemonte 4).
In 2007, there were roughly 21,600 new graduates in Veneto, about 59% more than six years earlier and equal to more than 7% of the national total. In general, for some years, Veneto's high-level human capital has left university for the most part after studying in the fields of economics and statistics, or engineering: respectively, 14.8% and 13.4% of all new graduates were trained in these fields in 2007. These figures are fundamental, as reflected in Europe's strategies, if we are to live better in our more technological, innovative and complex society. To participate in European development, it is necessary to focus on a solid grounding in scientific and technological studies, and so to push for an increase in graduates in these disciplines.
Skills on the move
Once they have graduated, it is often difficult for young people to break into the job market. For this reason, many of them decide to move away, hoping to find better job prospects and more opportunities to make a decent wage.
A closer look at a combination of place of residence, studies and work (Note 7)
shows that there are differences in terms of geographical mobility between graduates from the North, the Centre and the South. Students living in the North who graduated in 2003, before the university system was reformed, were interviewed in 2008 (i.e. five years after graduation). More than 93% of them had studied and then worked in their home area. The only significant instances of mobility registered regard the 3% or so who moved abroad. Young people from the Centre were slightly more mobile, although most graduates (almost 83%) never left their home area and only 1.7% went to work abroad. Graduates from the South moved around much more than the others, although only 1% actually left Italy to look for work. Veneto graduates are the most inclined to move of those in the North in general: five years after graduating, according to the 2008 survey, 89% had studied and currently worked in their home area. This is more than four percentage points below the figure for the North of Italy overall. Furthermore, 2.8% of Veneto graduates who had studied in their home region worked abroad; almost 7% had moved to other regions in the North to work; just 1.2% had moved to the Centre; and very few to the South (0.1%). A higher wage was almost always the main reason for graduates changing cities.
The social ladder
Education plays a fundamental role in social mobility. On one hand it provides a means for social improvement as having a good qualification, such as a degree, can help open the doors to the most prestigious professions; on the other, education opportunities are strongly influenced by the individual's starting point, i.e. their social background. The considerably quick rise in the level of education of women has enabled them to catch up with and overcome the competitive and occupational advantages held by men in just a few years.
A person's social background determines their educational career from high school on. It also has an effect on their success at school and their future job opportunities. Students from a higher social background, whose parents have a higher level of education, are more likely to go to an upper secondary school and then on to university. Once they have entered the job market they continue to hold an advantage in terms of career and financial satisfaction. Despite reforms to increase levels of schooling and to free up entry to the university system in order to reduce its elite nature, higher education has still not managed to provide a direct route for social improvement.
Italian society is still fairly static, especially compared to other European countries. In Veneto though, social advancement depends less on family background, meaning more equal opportunities for success. It can be said that increased demand for ever better qualified professional figures, especially in the service sector, has certainly created new opportunities, also benefiting those from the lower social classes.
In 2007 almost 40% of employed persons in Veneto were from working-class backgrounds (in 1971 this figure was over 50%); 35% were white collar middle class (16% in 1971); 18% lower middle class; and just 7% were upper middle class. Like in other small business areas, the biggest group is the urban working-class, the smallest is the upper middle class and the white collar middle-class.
Around 36% of Italian and Veneto offspring find themselves in the same social class as their fathers, while 30% have managed to climb the social ladder. The tendency towards mobility depends on social class; those who appear to be more constrained by their social class are the children of working-class parents, followed by those from an employed middle-class background.
Promoting social mobility can certainly provide a way to reduce social inequality. Higher levels of inequality tend to be more tolerated if society can prove itself to be flexible and able to guarantee everyone has the same opportunities for social improvement. Italy compares less favourably to other European countries in this sense, as its reduced social mobility combines with higher levels of inequality, also in terms of income. In Italy the income of the wealthiest 20% of families is five times that of the poorest 20%; in Europe on average this proportion is 4.8 times.
In Veneto there is less of a difference between incomes, and only Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige can boast of better equality. Veneto families declare themselves more satisfied with their financial situation on average, as they have to face fewer problems and make fewer sacrifices in everyday life. There is a much lower percentage of poor families too (3.3% compared to 11.1% of Italian families).
Foreign residents have more problems in terms of social mobility. There are around 457,000 foreign residents; this is 9.3% of the population in Veneto, which was 4,832,340 people at the end of 2007 and heading towards 5 million by 2012. Overall foreign residents in Veneto tend to be well settled and socially integrated, and Veneto is one of the top eight regions in Italy in terms of social integration of foreign residents. Even if they have a high level of education, foreign residents in Veneto still mostly do lower level jobs. Around half of immigrants aged 15-64 have a degree or a high-school diploma, a percentage similar to that for Italians. Despite this, almost three quarters of foreign residents work in factories or in jobs which require no qualifications. Less than 10% manage to get a job in professions which require higher qualifications. These people include owners of small businesses, shop-, bar- and restaurant-owners and managers, nurses, teachers and translators. Entrepreneurship can provide an opportunity not only to earn a higher wage, but also a chance to break free from a position of working for someone else, especially if this is socially as well as financially dissatisfying.
The children of foreign residents aspire to a different future. Compared to their Italian peers, many immigrant children come from families with low to medium financial means, but their expectations are the same as the Italians'. This is a sign of their desire to break free from restraints and to become integrated into their new social situation. They are not lacking in faith either, as 9 young immigrants out of 10 believe they have a good chance of achieving their aims.
Foreign residents are more mobile in terms of living arrangements than Italian citizens: once they have reached Italy they do not settle down immediately but continue their journey in order to find better living and working conditions. In this sense, the local population of Veneto also move around a lot; they are happy to move house over short or medium distances, mostly within the region, but are not so inclined to move to different regions. The reasons people move tend to differ: in general, medium- and long-range moves (between regions and abroad) are mainly linked to study or work, whereas moves over a shorter distance (within regions and provinces) are more often connected to personal events, such as marriage, separation or leaving the family home, which lead to changes in living arrangements.
New patterns of mobility
The traditional "home-work-home" model of commuting is being worn down by the disjointed nature of reasons for moving, the progressive segmentation of the job market (more self-employment, more 'unusual' positions, less job stability etc.), the broadening of relationships (real and/or virtual) and the breaking up of models of consumerism. The traditional model focused on the single commuter-a full-time employee who went to work every day, taking the same route with one means of transport, usually a car or public transport. The so-called working-urban class is strongly represented in Veneto, as in the rest of Italy. This group is characterised by a model of consumption which is typical of the city-dweller: short and repetitive scattered journeys, made for different reasons (work, family, leisure) with a personal means of transport that makes it possible to get anywhere in the shortest amount of time.
'Virtual' mobility, provided by new technologies, is no less important. The ever-increasing use of laptop computers and the newest generation of mobile phones means people can work from home, buy from shops without having to actually go to them, book trips from the comfort of their own sofas, keep up with friends and relatives using email and video calls, manage bank accounts and contact the public administration.
Unfortunately, however, these opportunities are not being made the most of yet in Italy, not only because of a lack of infrastructure but also because people lack training in the use of I.T., and new communications technologies have not yet become part of the culture. In the second quarter of 2008, 94% of the Italian population had ADSL coverage, but only 18% of the population actually used it.
Data on the use made of internet indicates, however, that people are starting to utilise the opportunities that new technologies provide for 'virtual' mobility. People in Veneto use the net for sending or receiving emails (76.5%), for looking up goods and services (70.9%), for learning (55%), for research and information (54.1%), for booking holidays (45.5%), for reading or downloading newspapers (38%), and for home banking (35%).
Opportunities, lifestyle choices and new types of social behaviour all lead to increased mobility, and technology and progress are fundamental parts of these processes.
The mobility paradox
Despite the fact that technologies and methods of communication have increased exponentially, leading us to presume that there would be less need to move around physically, the demand for mobility continues to increase.
Compared to ten years ago, the number of vehicles per 100 residents has increased by 9: ten years ago it was 78 (79 in Italy), and it has increased to 93 (95 in Italy), but this is if we only count the adult population. Furthermore, data on motorway traffic in Veneto over the last ten years shows a significant increase in heavy and light vehicles, both in terms of the number of vehicles (i.e. the number of vehicles that joined the motorway, however far they travelled along it) and the quantity of vehicles per km (i.e. the total kilometres travelled by vehicles on the motorway).
It seems the increase in 'virtual' mobility, combined with that in actual mobility, is an unstoppable phenomenon. On the one hand this phenomenon needs to be backed and encouraged, but at the same time it also needs to be slowed down.
Stopping to think
A first step towards "slowing down" in our opinion would be to stop and think about the beauty of Veneto. It is no coincidence that the region always obtains exceptional results in the tourism sector as it is appreciated by tourists from all over the world for its variety and quality, plus the hospitality on offer. It has held the record in Italy for years, counting 14.7% of arrivals and 16.3% of nights spent in the whole of Italy in 2007.
It can be said that there is a particularly large and diversified range of cultural places in Veneto. In 2006 in Veneto there were 327 non-state-owned museums and galleries, 7.2% of the Italian total. To these can be added a further 14 state-owned museums and groups of affiliated museums, monuments and archaeological sites. Veneto's total value of income from entrance tickets to these places, not including state heritage, makes up 22.7% of the Italian total.
Veneto is also the Italian region with the most heritage buildings. This phenomenon started and grew during the centuries of the Most Serene Republic; at the moment Veneto villas make up part of a promotional plan which was conceived to help develop the tourism sector and which aims to put the 'cultural product' that is Veneto villas on the main tourist markets. Within the region there are around 3,791 buildings or complexes which qualify as Veneto villas. Of these, around 300 can be visited and around 25 are used for educational purposes by schools.
The offer in terms of live shows in Veneto is also excellent, as is the quality of cultural activities available?music, opera, theatre, dance, visual arts and cinema?while all aim to involve and please an ever-increasing number of users. More than three million spectators attended the theatre and music concerts?classical, pop and jazz?in Veneto in 2007.
Culture, entertainment and natural beauty have all meant the continued development of the tourism sector, despite the negative circumstances and problems on an international scale seen throughout the year. This sector's results for 2008 were more or less in line with 2007; the number of arrivals in accommodation establishments was stable (-0.2%), while there was a slight decrease in nights spent (-0.9%), which confirms the general trend for shorter holidays.
A total of 58.9% of tourists to the region come from abroad; these are the consumers who have been most affected by the difficult economic situation. Bookings decreased by 1.2% compared to 2007 (which, however, was a record year) and the number of tourists decreased by 2.2%. In terms of domestic tourism on the other hand, the number of nights spent was fairly stable (-0.5%) and the number of arrivals increased (+3.1%).
Compared to international tourism in general, Veneto has actually managed to cope fairly well and has faced fewer reductions than the rest of Italy and its European competitors, such as France and Spain (Note 8)
. The number of Veneto citizens spending their holidays within the region (the second biggest group of tourists in Veneto after the Germans) increased even more in 2008 (+6.4%) although the average length of stay decreased.
The continued reduction in the average length of stay in holiday destinations is part of a new trend. The actual length of the holiday becomes less important and the traditional long-holiday is often replaced by short trips and/or weekends away spread out throughout the year. Other trends are apparent in the choice of accommodation establishment and demand in hotels seems to have moved towards higher quality establishments. As well as wanting to stay in a comfortable environment, tourists appreciate the opportunity to take walks amidst nature, do sport, relax, have fun, and get to know the local traditions, history and features of the place being visited. Consequently we need to make the most of Veneto's parks and agrotourism establishments, which are becoming increasingly attractive to tourists.
The wealth of the land
Indeed, over the last 25 years, while seeing a 'revolution' that is moving agriculture towards new scenarios (a decline in the number of farm businesses and a related increase in size), there has been a growth in the multifunctional nature of farm businesses, which are diversifying their activities with agrotourism, and educational and nursery farms; they are also producing and selling typical and quality products, promoting eco-sustainable agriculture, as well as using and producing sources of renewable energy.
As for the specifics of farm businesses, it is clear that organic farming is no longer a novelty or a fashion in Italy: this is confirmed by Italy's consolidation of its primacy in Europe both for surface area utilized, with over a million hectares, and more than 50,000 farm businesses, ranging from cultivation to production; this trend is also confirmed by a continuous growth in the consumption of organic food, which saw an increase of 4.5% in 2008 compared to 2007.
Nor has Veneto stood still: the surface area involved (both being converted and already dedicated to organic farming) recorded an increase of 37% between 2000 and 2005, reaching a total of 18,000 hectares, and the number of farm businesses grew by 24% between 2000 and 2007 with more than 1,500 units.
Typical food products have played a particularly important role in Italian history as they have created and maintained a diverse range of farming, gastronomic and cultural traditions. Within the European Union, Italy ranks first for certifications of quality, with 177 Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication products (in Italian DOP and IGP respectively); Veneto makes its own contribution with 26 certified products. In light of its qualities, and bearing in mind the ever more important link between territory and product, wine and typical product roads have been created; today 19 wine-related itineraries wind their way between vineyards and vintners, which form the landmarks of this emerging type of tourism.
It is in the sphere of wine that Veneto has produced record results: it ranks first for the production of Controlled Designation of Origin and Typical Geographical Indication wine (in Italian DOC and IGT respectively), and it is first among the regions of Italy in wine exports, with over 25% of the national total.
Certainly the quality and safety of what is put on the table cannot be overlooked: in Italy and Veneto, thanks to the "food-safety package", each year the entire food processing system is scrupulously monitored to ensure the top quality of everything that is destined for the table.
Likewise, in recent decades forests have taken on a crucial role in environmental policy by becoming a resource for the solution of environmental problems, such as the loss of biodiversity and global climate change. Veneto's woodlands cover 414,894 hectares, as surveyed in 2000, and are equal to 22% of its total surface area. For some time they have been protected by measures such as water management, soil and natural-environment conservation, enhancement of woodland pastures, timber production, landscape protection, as well as reclamation of impoverished and worn-out soils, in order to ensure harmonious socio-economic development, quality of life and collective safety.
In this context Veneto's new Regional Territorial Coordination Plan (RTCP) (Note 9)
, drafted twenty years after the last, aims to interpret the changes that the region has undergone over the years and has set some major targets in terms of layout and exploitation of resources which offer prospects for the future.
The report verifies that Veneto is a reference point of great importance for the entire country, not only because of the significant contribution it makes to the production of national wealth, or because of its extraordinary natural, historical and cultural heritage, but because it is one of the regions that most directly takes up the new challenges of modernisation. These challenges concern its ability to provide answers to new needs in a profoundly changed context, both in relation to the general features and to the evolution of local society.
In regard to land use policies, that translates first into a vision which is able to deal with the complex nature of these on-going processes, where well-conceived and coordinated answers are provided to new questions that concern the continually evolving interrelationships between space, the economy and society.
The RTCP begins by considering Veneto's territory not only as the result of fifty years of accelerated economic and urban development, but as the culmination of the centuries of values surrounding its use: this change in perspective, which helps establish how these transformations have affected the region, can only highlight the unique features of Veneto's identity.
The future lies in sustainability
As the RTCP lays down guidelines for Veneto to achieve its goals, today it is our duty to recognise, analyse and deal with the critical points of the situation we are facing. Mobility in the strictest sense, namely the traffic on Veneto's roads, is one of the main causes of pollution in the region's cities. One emblematic case in these times of crisis is FIAT, which has increased its share of a European market in decline. The key, however, was a strengthening of its position in America where an international jury in New York declared the FIAT 500 "2009 Design Car of the Year". Agreements are now being made with German and American car manufacturers, which is good news for producers of smaller cars with lower emissions.
To gain a better insight into the impact of the transport industry on the environment, we need to look at both the amount and the type of traffic on the roads. A report on the vehicles in circulation reveals that in 2006 17% of the traffic on Veneto's roads met the Euro 4 emissions standards, while Euro 2 and Euro 3 vehicles accounted for 57.5%. A comparison with nationwide figures shows that Veneto is modernising its fleet of vehicles more quickly than Italy. Euro 4 vehicles make up 16% of the national total and Euro 0 vehicles, i.e. those with the highest emissions, 18% whereas Veneto has a figure of 14%.
The emissions standard categories for commercial vehicles, however, differ to the figures for cars. Euro 0 vehicles account for 29% in Italy and 22% in Veneto, a much higher rate than that for cars. Clearly, the differences between the two vehicle categories should be taken into account, especially as the average life of commercial vehicles is longer than that of cars. Both Italy and Veneto show peaks in figures for Euro 2 and Euro 3 commercial vehicles in 2006, which suggests that there was a major turnover in commercial vehicles during that year. Buses have similar figures, yet we need to note that in 2006 many of the old Euro 0 buses were still in circulation; this emissions category is still the largest in both Italy's and Veneto's bus fleet.
These figures show that older categories of vehicles still need to be replaced with newer designs with lower emissions. Progress, however, is also being helped by incentive campaigns to scrap vehicles that no longer comply with modern standards and to encourage people to purchase newer, less-polluting vehicles.
Work towards sustainable mobility is being helped by boosting local public transport, building bicycle lanes, introducing Restricted Traffic Areas (ZTL), and promoting car-sharing (Note 10)
and car-pooling (Note 11)
; all of these are initiatives that make a tangible contribution to improving the quality of the air we breathe.
Over recent years, other measures have been introduced in an attempt to reduce vehicle pollution; these include partial or total traffic bans during certain times of the day, as well as "Ecological Sundays" when no petrol and diesel vehicles are allowed on the roads.
Regione Veneto is also introducing incentives for zero-impact vehicles by financing bike-rental schemes in municipalities. Local municipal administrations are being funded to purchase bicycles and equipment that can then be rented from key points around towns, such as railway stations, park-and-rides, and bicycle lanes. The aim is to promote smart mobility in town centres and to help reduce Particulate Matter (PM).
Figures for town and city centres reveal that Veneto has raised awareness of environmental issues in recent years, although it still has a long way to go.
In 2007, the amount of pedestrian areas and bicycle lanes in Veneto's provincial capitals varied widely. If we exclude Venezia, which has a density of pedestrian areas much higher than the norm, Padova stands out with its 81 mq per 100 residents. This figure has increased by more than 52% since 2000, making it the only city in Veneto above the national average of 32.4 mq per 100 residents. Second place in Veneto's ranking goes to Belluno with 31.2 mq per 100 residents.
In 2007, the municipality of Padova also had the highest density of bicycle lanes in the region, over 114 km per 100 kmq, thanks to its promotion of the bicycle as an alternative means of transport. This density contrasts sharply to the 2000 figure, which did not even reach 36 km. The trend in the other provinces also leaned towards the bicycle as a means for getting around town. Compared with 2000, there was an increase in the areas devoted to the bicycle throughout the region. In general the density of bicycle lanes in Veneto's cities and towns was higher than the Italian average; the only exception was Belluno, but although it had a relatively low density of bicycle lanes in urban areas, across the province it has the longest and most panoramic bicycle routes in the whole region, including the pista ciclabile delle Dolomiti, which links Belluno and Bolzano.
In recent years, Restricted Traffic Areas (ZTL) have sprung up across the country, especially in historical centres. In 2007, Italy's ZTL covered an average of about 0.5 kmq per 100 kmq of municipal area, a 38% increase on 2000. In Veneto municipal administrations have different policies, which is probably due to the characteristics of individual areas and their specific needs. At one end of the scale, Padova had a ZTL density of 1.4 kmq per 100 kmq-more than double the national average-a 111.4% increase from 2000-2007. At the other end were Belluno, which had 0.01 kmq per 100 kmq, a figure that did not change over the seven years, and Vicenza where the ZTL density actually fell slightly.
The revolution lies in smart development
Nowadays many companies have also embarked down the road towards sustainability. Some have even raised their turnover targets by launching sustainable products that reduce CO2 emissions, save energy, reduce waste and consume less water. These sustainable policies have changed the very way products are designed in terms of materials and manufacture, distribution and daily use, as well as recycling.
The economy, business and products are being increasingly rethought with the result that we are heading towards a green economy.
Today, 17 years after the Earth Summit in Rio laid down the guidelines for sustainability, this vision is becoming a key factor in competitiveness. Yet designing sustainable new products and services is not enough to save the planet in that the system also needs to be changed. Emissions of CO2 could be reduced if all cars went electric or hybrid, but if the car were our only form of transport, we would still have to endure gridlocked cities and spend our lives in queues. Consequently we need to rethink our attitude towards the appearance of cities and the habits of their residents. Incentives need to be introduced to promote more rational and efficient life-styles, including ideas such as Slow Food, an Italian invention that has left its mark on the world.
In theory, making more sustainable products costs that little bit extra, but businesses are discovering that using less water, energy and packaging brings benefits to everyone and also improves corporate image. Scientific research has made a major contribution to sustainable business policies.
We are, in effect, redesigning the economic system and creating a new way of life: the world needs people, ideas, and plans for a smarter tomorrow.