Veneto: balancing growth and responsibility
is a form of development "that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs" (Note 1)
Since it was first defined in the UN's 1987 Brundtland Report, the concept of sustainability
has reached such proportions that today it is the inspiration behind policies geared towards both economic progress and towards an improvement in every aspect of people's lives, i.e. humanity's basic physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual needs.
has become a key term when describing, analysing and planning social systems at all levels of government, be they international, national, regional or local. Sustainability
is also the theme
of Veneto's Statistical Report 2011; it is a natural step from last year's theme of 'creating networks' and we will be analysing the links and dynamics between the environmental, economic and social phenomena that are compatible with improving living standards and optimising the use of natural resources.
The key to sustainability is still the need to ensure intergenerational equity, namely that future generations have the same rights as current ones. This statement, which mainly regards the environment, fuels international debate and places particular importance on rationalising resources and the impact of human actions. Protecting the environment has become a priority at a stage of history when human behaviour risks jeopardising the Earth's natural balance. The recent tragic events in Japan have highlighted how natural events such as an earthquake and a tsunami can have even more devastating consequences because humans have overexploited the land. Closer to home, in November 2010, Veneto suffered a freak flood which had a terrible impact on the local population. The flood killed one person, another is missing, injured many and made thousands homeless; it also inflicted enormous damage on local production.
Another key matter for the future generations of Western countries is an ageing population, which is due to a low birth rate and an increase in average life expectancy. A fall in the number of people of working age is destined to affect the potential long-term growth of Europe's economies; longer life expectancy, however, will lead to a rise in public expenditure, which will be geared mainly towards an ageing population.
Furthermore, this problem is coupled with the sustainability of the world's population. According to the UN, the Earth's total population will rise from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.3 billion in 2050. This growth will continue to be extremely unbalanced and the majority of births will be in Asia and Africa. In absolute values, Asia's population will increase from 4.16 billion to 5.14 billion by 2050, a 23.5% increase that will be concentrated mainly in India. In relative terms, however, the growth in Africa's population will be even more dramatic and could even exceed 100%, rising from 1.02 billion to more than 2 billion within the same period. Unlike Europe, the number of young people in developing countries is set to keep growing; as a result, the higher population will exert enormous pressure and encourage increasing migratory flows towards Italy.
and (Figure 2)
Although dealt with less explicitly, sustainability is also defined as the search for intragenerational equity, i.e. the same rights are enjoyed within the same generation of people, regardless of their political beliefs, economic or social status, and location. Take the events in Africa in the early months of 2011; Italy is currently experiencing a wave of landings on its beaches by people seeking a better way of life. Entire populations are fleeing their homes in search of safety and wellbeing, and they are willing to risk their lives for them.
The popular revolts in North Africa have focused international debate on the need for development that encompasses a more equitable distribution of freedom, democracy and justice.
These events, however, have also caused a huge wave of immigration that includes both refugees and economic migrants. We should therefore ask questions about the handling of this emergency, the EU's role as coordinator, and the function of the Schengen area, which allows people from the EU's 27 Member States to circulate freely within Europe. It also seems legitimate to ask whether a major migratory flow will ensure an adequate level of wellbeing and access to civil, social and economic opportunities for vast swathes of the local population.
Within a few short weeks, these events may have also put the dampeners on the prospects for an economic recovery, as rising petrol prices may have an effect on growth, inflation and interest rates.
The last ten years have proven to be anything but sustainable. Too much imbalance and instability led to the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing recession; monetary policy was too slack and boosted prices, in particular on the housing market. Fiscal policy was unbalanced with deficit problems even during boom years; US foreign debt and consequent reliance on foreign creditors in many Asian countries soared. The financial system was far from stable and aggravated the crisis that it had unleashed. The business cycle of the last decade has been called 'a bubble economy' and is impossible to sustain (Note 2)
. For the whole of 2010, the world's mature economies found themselves facing a series of dilemmas that had been caused by attempts to kick-start a recovery; fiscal policies were supposed to prop up a recovery on the one hand and launch budget policies that would reduce public deficits in the medium and long term. Monetary policies were supposed to restore normality on liquidity and public fund markets, and lower real short-term interest rates to near zero, but also to make the budgetary policy less onerous. Governments were also supposed to introduce stricter regulations for financial markets, bank capitalisation, and bank monitoring, but still not create additional or indeed new obstacles to financing enterprises.
The results of 2010 rewarded the efforts: world production grew by 5%, led by the recovery of international trade, +12.4%. However, the recovery has been two tiered: growth in mature economies is still fairly sluggish and unemployment is still high, whereas economies in emerging countries have proved lively. The European Union closed the year with 1.8% growth, as did the Euro Area, proof that a recovery was underway, but at different speeds; in Italy GDP growth in 2010 was 1.3% and in Veneto the recovery (Note 3)
is estimated to be at a rate of 2.1%. The 2010 forecasts are attributable mainly to a bounce back in the manufacturing industry in the narrow sense, where value added is expected to grow by more than 4 percentage points, and to a recovery of 1.2 percentage points in both agriculture and services. The construction sector is expected to narrow.
Keeping in mind that the employment cycle lags behind the production cycle, in 2010 the labour market of almost all European economies was still suffering from a crisis hangover, undoing many of the gains in employment and individual welfare made before 2008. Although still far from the Lisbon 2010 benchmarks, many European countries in the last decade have improved their initial conditions, nearing the countries which were already performing better and reducing the gap that separates them from the European average. Italy is one of these countries, even though it still has one of lowest employment rates and experienced a decrease in employment in the last year; however, between 2000 and 2010 there was a significant increase in the employment rate of 6%, going from 54.8% to 56.9%. Veneto also had good results that put it among the regional leaders for social sustainability; results were characterised principally by a low rate of unemployment, a high employment rate and a low share of inactive individuals. Specifically, Veneto had the fifth highest employment rate of the Italian regions, 64.5%, and an unemployment rate of 5.8% which, even though one of the highest in the last decade, was still one of the lowest in Italy; more importantly, unlike in other regions, Veneto's unemployed are actively seeking employment, while the number of inactive, and especially the inactive who are discouraged and have stopped looking for work, fell.
...and the challenges of the future
The concept of sustainability was taken up by the European Commission in March 2010, when it published the Europe 2020 Strategy in order to lead Europe out of the economic crisis and, more importantly, to outline a new approach and set new targets to face up to the challenges of the coming decade. Its purpose is to relaunch the economic system by promoting "smart, sustainable and inclusive" growth based on greater coordination of national and European policies. The Europe 2020 Strategy puts forward a project for a market-based European social economy which outlines three interconnected, self-reinforcing priorities:
- smart growth - developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation;
- sustainable growth - favouring a more efficient economy in its employment of resources and competitiveness;
- inclusive growth - promoting an economy with a high employment rate that supports social and geographical cohesion.
The progress towards the achievement of these objectives will be evaluated on the basis of five headline targets that Member States will transform into national objectives based on their respective initial situations.
The principal objectives to be achieved for smart
growth involve: promotion of knowledge and innovation and improvement of education by investing 3% of GDP in research and development (R&D), reduction of school dropout rate to below 10%, and raising levels of young graduates to 40%.
EU27 expenditure on R&D was equal to 2% of its GDP in 2009, a slight increase on the previous year. This not very robust trend was led by the performance of several of the countries of Northern Europe; Finland, Sweden and Denmark, strengthened by their significant presence in industries which operate in high-technology sectors, have already achieved the threshold of 3% set as the target for 2020. For Italy the draft of the National Reform Programme has set a target of 1.53% to be achieved by 2020. In 2009 the expenditure on R&D as a portion of GDP in Italy was equal to 1.27%, while for Veneto it was 1.05% in 2008, a figure lower than the national level, but one that had nearly doubled over the last 3 years.
As regards school dropouts, in 2009 in Italy 19.2% of 18-24-year-olds had less than an upper secondary school diploma and did not attend school or other training (25.1% in 2000), but it is still a long way from the EU27 figure of 14.4%. The dropout rate in Veneto was lower, 17%, but the percentage of young university graduates was still very low, just 17.4% of 30-34-year-olds compared to the EU27 figure of 32.3%. Against this backdrop, the reform of the Italian university system came into force in January 2011 (Note 4)
; lawmakers say that it will bring Italy in line with Europe and cut waste of resources in universities by concentrating on governance according to meritocratic and transparent criteria.
Sustainable growth targets have been set at "20/20/20" for climate and energy. For many years, Europe has been spearheading the fight against climate change and, in 2008, the European Commission approved a package that aimed to reduce pollution and safeguard the environment.
The three targets to achieve by 2020 include a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases on 1990 values, an increase in the use of renewable energy sources, which should cover 20% of final consumption, and the improvement of energy efficiency, i.e. a 20% reduction in consumption.
Concerning the first objective, Italy is not yet in line with the rest of Europe as its level of greenhouse gas emissions is more or less unchanged; however using 2005 as a base year, the situation is more encouraging as there was a 5.5% reduction in 2008 compared to 4% for Europe. For the second objective, the Italian target to be reached by 2020 is 17%, having begun with 6.8% in 2008. Finally, the third objective considers the energy intensity of GDP, which in Italy was 142.6 toe/million euro, better than the EU27 average (167.1) and on the same level as its competitors France, Germany and Spain. According to Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) and its National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), Veneto's index was a little higher than the Italian average and in line with the larger regions of the Centre-North.
The energy question is, therefore, as thorny as it is pressing. For the future, the trump card in energy policies will be a careful and responsible use of a balanced combination of sources, increased efficiency and, as a consequence, investment in research and development.
Finally, inclusive growth has two objectives: 75% of people between 20 and 64 should have a job and 20 million fewer people should be at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
Regarding labour policy, in 2010 Veneto's employment rate for 20-64-year-olds was 68.7%, therefore fulfilling the target set by the Lisbon Strategy, which calls for an employment rate of 69% for the European Union by 2010. Italy, however, was distant, as it recorded a rate of 61%, more than seven percentage points below the EU27 figure.
Considering these figures, the Italian government, faced with a new European objective, set a more realistic target for Italy, between 67% and 69%; Veneto has already reached this level and can thus attempt to achieve the European target.
Concerning poverty, Italy's commitment is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 2.2 million over the next decade. Poverty is a multifaceted phenomenon that includes other forms of exclusion not necessarily linked to income, such as job insecurity and the difficulties of daily life, which are determined by the inability of households to access certain goods and services.
In 2009 about 114 million people in Europe were in this situation (23.1% of the entire population) and, of these, 14.8 million lived in Italy.
If, on the national level, nearly one quarter of the population lived in conditions of poverty or of social exclusion, the percentage decreases to 14.1% for Veneto, one of the lowest levels of the Italian regions, after Trentino Alto Adige, Valle d'Aosta and Emilia Romagna. However, this means there are 688,000 people who cannot fulfil their basic needs adequately.
The three "Es"
The Europe 2020 Strategy focuses on the objectives that will ensure sustainable economic development that is compatible with social equity, ecosystems and the environment; in short, it must respect the three "Es": Ecology, Economy, Equity.
This Statistical Report looks at the three "Es" in three different domains of sustainability: Environmental, Economic and Social.
covers the safeguarding of the planet's ecosystem and environment quality, with both being seen as an asset that helps to improve quality of life and development. Three roles of the environment need to be safeguarded in the long-term: its role as a resources supplier, a waste receptor and a direct source of utilities. We need to make the most of the environment as it is a "distinctive local feature" by safeguarding and renewing its natural resources and heritage; pollution must be prevented and imbalances in population density, human settlements and economic activities avoided; exploitation of the soil and resources must also be limited. Last but not least, we must defend biodiversity, i.e. local genetic stock, across the planet, as well as areas of great natural beauty.
involves pursuing economic efficiency, which can be achieved in two ways: by careful management of raw materials so that they do not dry up in the short-term, leaving future generations without; and by developing in a way that regulates investments and work in order to ensure long-term sustainable intragenerational equity. Economic sustainability also means setting up a system that can ensure economic indicators grow in the long-term; it must be able to ensure in particular that income and employment are generated to sustain populations and that maximum value added is produced within an area through an effective combination of resources, so that full advantage is taken of unique products and local services.
Finally, social sustainability
is based on social equity as a principle of ethics and economics. Social equity should be pursued both within individual countries and at world level, and it must be guaranteed for future generations, who must not be left a planet bled dry of its resources. Therefore it also means ensuring that wellbeing is equally distributed by class and gender.
Something in the world is changing: what truly needs to be understood is how much human intervention is responsible for this change and how much it is due to the natural evolution of the planet. Undoubtedly, human activities have had an influence on the environment: the question is defining how much these activities are responsible for recent climate changes and what we can do at this point to reduce their impact on the planet.
Several different indicators are used to monitor the state of the environment and the evolution of the ecosystem. Analyses are generally carried out on two levels: one regarding the "causes", i.e. pressures humans place on the environment, and the other regarding observable effects and the progressive changes in the planet's characteristics.
The former includes the exploitation of natural resources, soil use, water use, waste creation, and pollutant emissions. The latter involves actual environmental impact, such as the level of pollution recorded in different areas, climate changes, as well as the life conditions of the various animal and vegetable species on our planet.
The "environmental health" of the Veneto region: improving
The health of the environment in Veneto is continuously monitored under different aspects and a study of the dynamics of the values surveyed shows that there are significant improvements underway.
There has been a slight improvement in air quality: the average values of the concentration of fine particles throughout 2009 in almost all of the areas where samples were taken were below the 40 ?g/m3 required by Ministerial Degree DM no. 60/2002. However, a more critical value regards the number of times the average values exceeded the daily limit of 50 ?g/m3, which is not to be more than 35 days a year. In 2009, the sampling station in Belluno was the only one where the number of days was within limit of 35 days required by law. Nonetheless, the trend over time is positive. If 2005 is taken as a starting point, in almost all cases there has been a significant decrease in the number of days when the 50 ?g/m3 limit of PM10 was exceeded. This indicates that the environmental protection policies enacted and efforts taken to reduce emissions have begun to have some effect.
Another element that characterises the territory in Veneto has always been water. From its lakes to its dense river network, from its long coasts along the Adriatic Sea to its subterranean waters, the region owes part of its wealth to this precious natural element. Therefore, water protection is a fundamental aspect of territory management and, for this reason, the quality of Veneto's diverse water resources are continuously monitored.
There are 167 sampling stations to monitor the bathing waters; they take samples that analyse the chemical, physical and microbiological characteristics of the water. In 2009, nearly 86% of the sampling stations proved that the water was safe for bathing, with improvements over time in Lago di Santa Croce and Lago del Mis; though starting from a negative situation in 2005, suitability for bathing was finally achieved in these lakes in 2008 and re-confirmed in 2009.
As far as drinking water is concerned, the monitoring systems indicate full compliance with the law and consistent improvement in quality. From a quantitative point of view, i.e. water reserves, which are measured by the so-called "piezometric level", the situation is reassuring as it has remained consistent over time and, in 18 of the 119 sites monitored, it has even increased.
The state of Veneto's land is also important; indeed, over time more and more attention has been given to this aspect as we have gained more understanding of the risks of a non-rational use of this resource. One general indicator is the percentage of urban land use. On a regional level, the provinces with the highest degree of urban land use are Padova (19.4%) and Treviso (17.6%). An analysis of the evolution of this indicator over time from 1983 to 2006 shows that the areas with the highest percentage variation were Verona (+25.6%) and Venezia (+21.9%); this increase in the province of Venezia was mainly due to the development of seaside areas and resorts.
Extraction activities are also related to land use. These activities are strictly controlled by Regione Veneto and the number of quarries has decreased: from 367 in 1990 to 233 in 2009. One last aspect regards industrial activities that are at risk of causing significant environmental damage: currently there are 100 plants at risk on record, most of which are located in the province of Venezia.
When discussing the environment, it would be impossible not to deal with the issue of waste as well. In 2009, there was a decrease in both the overall quantity of urban waste, about 2% less than the previous year, and the amount of waste generated per capita (-2.6%). It is worth pointing out that amount of waste produced in Veneto is among the lowest in Italy, even though it has a high GDP and more than 60 million tourist nights spent each year. An analysis of waste management also reveals that progress has been made in waste sorting, with a regional average of 56.3% in 2009 (double the 2000 figure, making Veneto Italy's leading region); progress has also been made in waste recycling, in particular for energy production.
The "Santi" flood
The flood that struck Veneto between 31 October and 2 November 2010 shows how important environmental sustainability is. During those three days, the rainfall levels set extremely high local records, with more than 500 mm of rain in the Upper Piave Basin and the Upper Brenta-Bacchiglione Basin. Even the average areal values of rainfall in various areas were very significant, demonstrating that particularly heavy rainfalls influence vast areas and not just limited local areas. Comparing some historical data, this flood can be considered among the two or three largest and most serious events that have struck the subalpine and foothill areas of Veneto in the last 50 years. Furthermore, some of the river level measurements surpassed the maximum historical values on record, such as the 7.15 metres measured for the River Bacchiglione in Pontelongo, which was 1.21 metres above the level recorded during the terrible flood of 1966. To sum up, the levee breaks along the rivers, the hydrological instability caused by the transportation of solid material downstream and the resulting flooding of about 140 km2, some of which lasted more than a week, created significant challenges for people, families, companies and administrations.
Fortunately, the warnings provided by the Civil Protection Department and the great solidarity shown by the many who offered initial assistance to flood victims allowed the situation to return to normal as quickly as possible. Finally, the significant generosity of institutions, companies and citizens not only from the region, but from all over Italy, led to the collection of more than 5 million euro.
Fields hold the answers to the latest challenges
The EU's Europe 2020 Strategy contains a revised version of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The objectives are to preserve Europe's food production potential, support rural communities and preserve their livelihood.
The proposals put forward for the new CAP so far confirm that agriculture is an essential feature of Europe's economy and society, but that it is going through tough times. Many areas are at risk due to hydrogeological instability because the land has been neglected and abandoned, especially in disadvantaged areas such as the hills and the mountains. Furthermore, agriculture revenue fell in Italy between 2009 and 2010, yet it rose in EU27. This is a sign of the difficulties Italian agriculture is undergoing; it continues to be affected by volatile prices, market instability and economic investments that have not yet been converted into value added on production.
Nevertheless, in 2010, the value of Veneto's agricultural production made a significant recovery; it is estimated that it touched 4.8 billion euro, an annual growth of about 7%. This recovery was not due to increased production, but to a major comeback in the prices of many agricultural products which had plummeted in 2009. The driving forces were the price increases for cereals and industrial crops on the main regional goods exchanges; the prices of fruit and vegetables also rose. The only exceptions were the prices of rice and durum wheat.
Despite the economic crisis, Veneto's wine-growing industry was once again the driving force behind the region's agriculture; it experienced a slight increase in production and Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) and witnessed a recovery in the price of wine grapes (+14%). These rises strengthened Veneto's leading position in the national rankings for both the domestic and international markets.
...in the hands of agri-preneurs
It is undeniable that agriculture has a major effect on the resources of an area and its environment; it shapes the landscape, culture and history. Veneto is strongly influenced by its farming activities. The future of agriculture lies in the hands of agri-preneurs who seek to safeguard and promote it without compromising income or productivity.
Over the last few years, there has been a move to reduce the use of fertilisers and phyto-pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, the fertilisers allowed by organic farming have increased by 4.4%, proof of the success of the EU's programme to support eco-compatible and organic farming. The main aim of organic farming is to be environmentally friendly, observe natural balance and biodiversity, and protect the health of both workers and consumers. It also aims to ensure that the agricultural holding itself has a positive effect on the environment. In recent years, consumption of certified organic produce has increased more than proportionally when compared to traditional produce, despite the economic crisis. North East Italy, in particular, increased its consumption by 20% in 2009, the highest rise in Italy. Nevertheless, organic farming in Veneto is not as developed as it is in the rest of the country.
The production of renewable energy brings benefits when the resources used are produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. This result needs to be achieved by safeguarding food security; by observing good agricultural practices; by collecting biomass locally without increasing environmental pressure on the soil and water resources; and by respecting the biodiversity of forests and farmland. Energy supplied by agriculture, forests and Trees Outside Forests (TOF) is growing in economic importance on account of the demand for eco-sustainable energy produced by wood biomass fuel, crops, agricultural by-products and waste.
Italy started to certify the quality of its agricultural produce some time ago, and it has by far the highest number of Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (STG) produce in Europe, ahead of Spain and France. Modern farming, however, is geared towards providing standardised products that meet the needs of consumers who tend to purchase the first thing they see on the supermarket shelf. The current system is based on using an increasingly limited range of plants and animals characterised by high yields. This clashes, however, with the safeguarding of rural biodiversity, which aims to diversify production by ensuring an area's native genetic patrimony stays as high as possible; this includes native animals, as well as fruit and vegetables, that are processed and used according to traditional methods. Native breeds must not be safeguarded simply for the sake of it or through nostalgia for times gone by, but because they can be used to benefit producers, processors and consumers.
The key role of forests
Mountains also play a role in environmental sustainability. Forests are an integral part of global sustainable growth: not only do the economic activities related to forests influence the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, but forests also play a fundamental role in protecting biodiversity and limiting the effects of climate change.
The main objective of forest policies is to guarantee and improve the sustainable management and the multifunctional role of forests, in order to ensure the continued presence of people in the mountains; this has always been considered to be a fundamental part of safeguarding the environment from the most common risks of deterioration and guaranteeing the continuation of the cultural traditions related to the historical heritage and natural beauty of these areas.
Mountain farmers, in addition to working on their own business, have always contributed to protecting the territory, as these aspects are clearly related. Whenever agricultural and forest farmers have abandoned their farms, there has been significant deterioration of the areas they used as they no longer provide continuous maintenance. This leads to overall conditions of instability which carries with it a significant loss in biodiversity caused by an extreme simplification of agricultural and forest landscapes. In this context, the United Nations proclaimed 2011 the "International Year of Forests", which aimed to promote the sustainable management, conservation and growth of forests all around the world.
Forests cover about 23% of the Veneto region; this percentage increases in the mountains and hills, where coverage can reach 60%.
It is well known that human activity in mountainous areas is restricted. In the mountains, daily life is more difficult than on the plains: the roads are less accessible, services and utilities cost more, and activities in the primary sector are not very productive, as well as being difficult to mechanise.
Since the 1951 census, mountain areas have continued to record a decrease in population. This has led to a reduction in agricultural activities and, consequently, a decrease of more than 36% in Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) between 1970 and 2000.
Mountain policies since the end of the Second World War have tried to offset these difficulties by providing economic and social support with the aim of helping to make the quality of life in the mountains comparable to that on the plains. Although the mountains have been recognised in recent years as an important resource for all, the geographical challenges these areas present continue to lead to a difference in costs compared to life on the plains.
Moving around while respecting the environment
The expression "sustainable mobility" is used to refer to an urban transport system which, while it guarantees everyone the right to move around and provides an adequate transport service, does not cause too much harm to the environment, meaning that atmospheric and noise pollution, as well as traffic congestion, can be kept under control. Part of this concept includes the tendency to use vehicles which respect the environment as much as possible and for citizens to use public transport instead of private vehicles wherever possible.
In recent years certain factors have affected the levels of traffic: the enduring financial crisis has caused a reduction in the mobility of both people and goods, while high fuel costs may make public transport popular again. The problem does not simply consist in abandoning private vehicles for public transport however, but in restoring the balance between road and rail within public transport. If the aim is to incentivise reasonable changes in daily habits and alternatives to the private car, then the public transport system needs to be high quality and competitive.
Every year, from 2008 to 2010, the average number of daily commutes, the distance travelled and the time dedicated to travelling decreased; however, most journeys continued to be undertaken in motor vehicles. The average travelled every day was 36.4 km in an average of 62 minutes; in 78% of cases the journey was made in a motor vehicle.
In 2009 public transport in the municipal capitals in Veneto carried 252 passengers per inhabitant overall, a slight increase on the previous year.
In terms of demand for public transport, in 2009, for the first time in many years, the vehicle stock decreased slightly, whereas the increase in the use of motorcycles continued unabated: in 2009, there were 86 motorcycles per 1,000 inhabitants (4 more than in 2008), adding up to a total of 420,000 motorcycles.
In Veneto in 2009, 35% of cars complied with the Euro 4 and Euro 5 standards on emissions of polluting substances, and 49% with the Euro 2 and Euro 3 standards. Only 9% were Euro 0 standard.
What styles, what type of quality and what tendencies do Veneto citizens have with regards mobility?
In 2009 73.6% of the population aged between 14 and 80 years old used a car habitually; following far behind was the use of a bicycle (27.8%) and a lot fewer people took the bus (8.7%).
Veneto people are happier with their own means of transport (motorbike, car and bicycle), but in recent years, and above all when compared with other regions, Veneto has distinguished itself for its regard for collective forms of transport: 40% of people interviewed in Veneto state that they would like to use more public transport in future, while 35% would like to cut down on the use of their cars. In 80% of cases the choice whether or not to use public transport is governed by the "accessibility/convenience" factor.
The increase in city traffic due to people preferring to take their car rather than public transport, plus the lack of information or the misinformation on sustainable means of transport such as car pooling, car sharing or bike sharing, mean that too many citizens spend their journey to work stuck in traffic.
Fortunately, municipalities are showing an ever-greater interest in promoting sustainable mobility, not only for people but also for goods, as demonstrated by the adoption of the Urban Mobility Plans. Padova and Vicenza were the first municipalities to have launched a project to rationalise the distribution of goods by filling vehicles up more, with the aim of reducing the number journeys carried out to transport the goods. Moreover, the vehicles used run mainly on methane.
Rationalising public finances
An end to the downturn in the economic cycle in mid 2009 and the current recovery now enable attention to be focused on how the recession has affected public finances and how to ensure that they are sustainable.
At European level, the situation in Greece, which shot into the news in spring 2010, revealed how urgent it was to deal with the Euro Area budget, and indeed that of the entire EU; it also focused attention on the soaring public debt of Europe's governments and fears for their solvency.
When the European Commission presented its Europe 2020 Strategy in March 2010, one of its immediate priorities to beat the crisis and face the challenges of the next decade was "to pursue the reform of the financial system, to ensure budgetary consolidation for long-term growth, and to strengthen coordination within the Economic and Monetary Union." (Note 5)
Within the EU, net borrowing, which was 0.9% of GDP in 2007, soared to 6.8% in 2009; it was 6.4% of GDP in 2010 and is estimated to be 6.5% in 2011. Public debt, which was 59% of EU27 GDP in 2007, reached 74.4% of GDP in 2009, 80% in 2010, and is estimated to be 83.8% in 2011.
In 2010, Italy's public debt reached 119% of GDP, but its net borrowing fell to stand at 4.6% of GDP.
Europe is clearly worried about the vulnerability of Italy's public finances, especially since it has an ageing population. In the next few decades, factors such as low birth rates, increased life expectancy and a plummeting working-age population will only be partially counterbalanced by migratory flows; therefore the age of Europe's population will change. All of these factors will have major repercussions on public finances and on the social and economic situation.
In order to face this challenge and ensure long-term sustainability in accordance with the 2005 Stability and Growth Pact, the European Commission (Note 6)
made long-term budget projections for the entire EU by taking in account "age-related expenditure", which includes pensions, health, long-term care and unemployment benefit. According to these projections, if current policies are maintained, age-related expenditure will increase in the next 50 years by 4.6% of GDP for the entire EU and by 5.1% for Euro Area countries. Italy's Ministry of Economics and Finance (Note 7)
calculated that the ageing population would have similar effects on Italy's public finances; it forecast that age-related expenditure would rise by 2.1% of GDP, but total expenditure would fall by 3.2% of GDP.
Italy has taken measures to consolidate its public finances and they are expected to improve further with the introduction of fiscal federalism. Fiscal federalism is expected to be a turning point in the rationalisation of Italy's expenditure, as it plans to apply standard costs, streamline local bureaucracy and decentralise operations for some regions and autonomous provinces. It is also expected to improve revenue as it fights tax evasion with a sharing scheme for any recovered tax that should encourage local governments to take a more active role.
New balances in the geographical structure of international trade
To support the economic stability of the European Union, the Europe 2020 Strategy makes foreign trade essential for reaching its objectives. The European Union is closely linked with the rest of the world and has to exploit this advantage to increase its competitiveness while dealing with increasing competition from both developed and emerging economies.
In 2010, both exports from the most industrialised countries, the volume of which grew by about eight percentage points, and the foreign sales of the new economies, which recorded an increase of about twelve percentage points, contributed to the growth in world trade.
In 2010 in Italy, significant increases were recorded both in national exports (+15.7%) and imports (+22.6%). In 2010 Veneto consolidated its second place in Italy's regional rankings for the total value of exports (45.6 billion euro, a 13.5% share of the national total). After a decline of 21.5% in 2009, the performance of Veneto's exports (+16.3% compared to 2009) was better than the national average. The leading sector remained the mechanical industry (18.9% of regional exports), followed closely by fashion (18%). Some products, such as furniture, jewellery and sporting goods, had a share of 13.4% of Veneto's exports, while metal products accounted for a little more than 11%.
Analysis of the trend to specific markets highlights how Veneto's exports increased primarily towards countries outside the EU (+20% compared to 2009 and a regional share of 40%), with particularly significant increases to the United States (+30.9%), China (+49.8%), Russia (+18.6%), Hong Kong (+34.0%), Switzerland (+25.9%) and Turkey (+24.4%). Even though the emerging economies of the BRIC countries (Note 8)
still represent a small share of the market, Veneto's exports to these areas have recorded a significant increase: +32.2% in 2010. Two sectors have been driving growth in this area: the mechanical industry, which generated about 32% of growth, and the fashion sector, with its trade directed primarily to Russia.
In the next few years, the growth in international trade will be on the markets of emerging countries, especially those belonging to or near the BRIC area. These countries will have favourable demographic trends and consistent increases in disposable income; what is more the consumers in these new markets will be on average younger than those of Western countries. Domestic demand there will tend to increase quickly and the growth of the middle class may become the powerhouse of the world market for luxury goods.
The role of SMEs in the economic recovery
In the definition of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Commission provides precise instructions on how to overcome the international crisis. Among the priorities, it identifies 'sustainable growth' and indicates small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the main targets of policies on which an efficient, sustainable and competitive economy can be built in terms of resources.
Two concepts that were apparently incompatible up until some decades ago - competitiveness and sustainability - now build off each other's strength. For an enterprise, sustainable growth means reconciling quality of life with economic development and with making profits. The company has to guarantee that the resources used are renewable, the environment respected and that world social dynamics are kept in balance.
From a company's standpoint, profits and ethics can be combined if ethics becomes a guide for corporate choices. It is a view based on the social integration of an enterprise, which is laid out and accounted for by Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It is clear that no one business is able to solve all of society's problems, nor to deal with the costs involved in doing so, but all of them should choose and deal with the questions which are most relevant to their specific area of business with a sense of social responsibility. Traditionally considered the prerogative of large enterprises, Corporate Social Responsibility is now also fundamental for SMEs and constitutes an essential objective towards the improvement of the Italian and European economic systems (Note 9)
In Veneto in 2008 there were 406,011 small and medium-sized enterprises, excluding the agricultural sector; they make up 99.8% of the whole business system. Large firms, despite the fact there are no more than 800, nevertheless constitute 18.7% of private employment in Veneto. More than 92% of SMEs have fewer than 10 employees and less than 2 million euro in turnover per year, putting them into the category of micro-enterprises. Micro-enterprises provide employment for 42.4% of all workers in Veneto.
There are 26,793 small enterprises in Veneto, 6.6% of SMEs; half of these have a turnover of less than 2 million euro a year, but they do have more than 10 employees; 23.5% of employed persons in Veneto work for a small enterprise. Medium-sized enterprises account for just 1% of enterprises, with a share of 15.3% of total Veneto employees.
A more competitive, sustainable tourism
The sustainability of tourism (Note 10)
, as outlined in the Europe 2020 Strategy, covers a range of aspects: "the responsible use of natural resources, taking account of the environmental impact of activities (production of waste, pressure on water, land and biodiversity, etc.); the use of 'clean' energy, protection of the heritage and preservation of the natural and cultural integrity of destinations, the quality of customer care."
Regione Veneto has set in motion policies that are in line with the rest of Italy and with Europe. It has adopted the "Regional plan for the development of sustainable and competitive tourism", giving incentives to local authorities and accommodation establishments that can acquire environmental certification. It has also adhered to numerous projects for the promotion and development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism (Note 11)
. It is also the pilot region for the experimentation of sustainable tourism practices in Europe. Moreover, in May 2011 Draft Law PL no. 170 "Development and sustainability of Veneto tourism" was presented to the Regional Council. It identifies the medium- and long-term aims and strategies for the economic development of the sector, paying attention to a balanced evaluation of the use of the territory by the local authorities concerned.
Veneto, which stands out for its culture of hospitality and the variety and quality of local tourism, has always been geared towards a demand which is constantly changing and for which constant renewal of its supply is necessary. As well as the traditional destinations, there is alternative tourism, whereby tourists discover places, villas or historic buildings, local traditions, craft products, food and wine. Tourism sectors that are seeing a sharp rise are those connected with sports holidays, such as cycling, motorbiking, golf, horseriding, but also with wellbeing, conference tourism, etc. And it is because of this variety of supply that 2010 saw an increase in the number of tourists, after a halt following the economic crisis which began at the end of 2008. In 2010 there were over 14.5 million tourists, up 600,000 on the previous year (+4.6%). The recovery corresponds to a smaller increase in the number of nights spent (+0.6%), which reached over 60.8 million, revealing a reduction in the average number of nights spent in holiday destinations (4.2 days). Positive signs were shown by Veneto's famous historic cities, which made a good recovery although they had been hit by the greatest difficulties in 2009; they recovered the sharp upward trend seen in previous years (+9.8% of arrivals and +4.5% of nights spent).
The green economy...
Veneto has embarked on the long road to recovery that will hopefully restore its business population to pre-crisis levels. In 2010 the number of Veneto's active enterprises (457,225) stayed more or less the same: 0.2% compared to the previous year. If we exclude the primary sector then the variation of active enterprises from 2009 to 2010 was positive at +0.3%. The two sectors which shrank the most in 2009 due to the problems with the market, agriculture and industry, were not able to make up for lost ground in 2010 either: the primary sector lost 2.8% of its active enterprises in the last year, industry in the narrow sense lost 1.5% and construction 0.9%. At the same time the services sector proved particularly healthy. Enterprises in this sector grew by 1.3% in 2010, continuing towards consolidating the position of services in Veneto; in 2010 services made up 53.3% of Veneto's total enterprises.
If responsible behaviour by companies is essential in order to inspire faith in the market economy, then identifying specific investment and employment strategies is also necessary. What is the solution? Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, writes that "the answer is to find common solutions to the grave challenges facing us. And when it comes to two of the most serious - the financial crisis and climate change - that answer is the green economy."
The green economy is, as a matter of fact, a development model which focuses on the creation of jobs, the promotion of sustainable economic growth, and the prevention of environmental pollution and of global warming through efficient use of the available natural and other types of resources. An integral part of the green economy are those components of the traditional economic sectors which aim to reduce their use of traditional energy sources in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases into the biosphere.
By cross-checking energy consumption during the production process with atmospheric emissions, waste production and the share of waste recovered, a classification was made of the national manufacturing sectors based on their impact and green development (Note 12)
. Based on this classification, 62.1% of Veneto enterprises are fairly well placed both in terms of environmental impact and of sustainability.
Enterprises which contribute towards eco-friendliness guarantee their own survival and development in the long term and can take advantage of eco-efficiency to increase their competitiveness. It is for this reason that enterprises are becoming more aware of the need to work towards the environmental certifications. In December 2010 there were 82 sites and 60 organisations registered with EMAS in Veneto (Note 13)
. in the same year there were 12,371 production sites in Italy and 1,032 in Veneto with ISO 14001 (Note 14)
The green economy also corresponds to a new lifestyle which is changing people's habits and which will enable new professional figures to be created. This is where green jobs come in; these are the professions which can contribute towards the promotion and protection of the environment. In the renewable energy sector alone European projections envisage the creation of one million new jobs in the next ten years.
According to Italy's Institute for Professional Employee Training (ISFOL), green workers have increased by 41% in the last fifteen years in Italy; they are employed above all in the areas of farm forestry (36% of total green employees), waste (24%) and environmental tourism (14.5%).
Veneto enterprises are also opening themselves up slowly to the green economy and from 2005 to 2009 it is estimated that the number of green employees in Veneto grew by almost 5%. In four years the number of employees working in the pollution management and resource management sectors increased in particular, to the detriment of sectors related to clean technologies and products. The pollution management sector was the largest and in 2009 accounted for 57.6% of employees in the green sectors in Veneto. Vocations vary in the Veneto provinces: in the provinces of Venezia and Verona the energy sector has a larger share of green employees (37% and 30% respectively), higher even than the regional average, while Treviso and Vicenza are more involved in pollution management. Padova and Rovigo, on the other hand, are more involved in resource management (recycling materials, supplying and purifying water and saving energy).
As far as green professions are concerned, by cross-referencing employees in the green sectors with green or potentially green professions, an estimate can be obtained of the number of workers who carry out a profession directly or indirectly linked to the environment and who work in a green sector. In Veneto in 2009 this estimate equalled almost 109,000 people (excluding the primary sector), more than 8% higher than in 2005 and more than 5% of total employees. The highest share of potentially green jobs is to be found in Belluno: 7.8% of employees; Padova follows with 7% and the biggest growth since 2005.
The employees are almost all men, and young ones at that: overall 6.4% of 15-29-year-olds and 5.5% of 30-39-year-olds work for the sustainable economy compared to 4.6% of the over-40s. This is a sign of the openness of the Veneto job market and of the desire to create an ever more sustainable economic system.
The consumer also has an active role to play in the development of a green economy: new consumer models are becoming popular, models which focus on quality and sustainability; they often rely on short distribution channels where there is a direct transaction between the producer and the consumer, thus providing the most ecological means of consumption possible.
Ethical Purchasing Groups provide one example of responsible consumption. Through these groups, consumers can purchase goods from small local producers who respect both people and the environment. In this way, there is no need for intermediaries and group members benefit from the advantages of being part of a group in terms of organisation, saving money and time and not having to seek out suitable producers. In January 2011 Veneto had 68 Ethical Purchasing Groups forming part of the national network. These groups are mainly to be found in the provinces of Vicenza and Verona, followed by Padova, Venezia and Treviso.
For some years now farmers markets have also moved into the city centres. These markets provide an opportunity for producers to sell their produce, which is either fresh or processed within the holding itself, directly to the consumer.
Lastly, in December 2010 there were 20 organisations running Fairtrade shops in Veneto, forming part of the retail distribution network which promotes Fairtrade and which is registered in the regional list of Fairtrade organisations (Regional Law LR 22 January 2010, no. 6, arts. 4 and 9). The shops are mainly to be found in the provinces of Verona, Vicenza and Venezia.
Today's consumer is aware of the importance of social responsibility, a very interesting development for an economy like Veneto's where trade is the leading production sector within its tertiary industry: in 2010 active trade enterprises made up 43.1% of service enterprises and 23% of all production businesses in Veneto. Value added to base prices in the trade sector in Veneto was more than 11% of overall value added produced in the region, where this sector provides work for more than 14% of all employees.
Innovation: a guarantee of more efficient development
"The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones, the Iron Age because we ran out of iron, [...] They ended because humans came up with something new, something better [...]," wrote Indian economist Indur Goklany (Note 15)
. The history of humanity has always been marked by progress, innovation that has changed every feature of society, from population trends to economic cycles and culture.
At this point in history, innovation is a key strategy that will launch mature economies towards a recovery so that they can leave behind the difficult times that have marred investments and competitiveness once and for all. In order to launch a new cycle of growth, however, it is vital that innovation policies are based on sustainability; they must be supported by adequate resources that have been designed to last long-term. In the Europe 2020 Strategy, 'smart growth' promotes knowledge and innovation as the driving forces behind future growth. The EU promotes innovation and knowledge transfer throughout Europe, the optimal use of Information and Communication Technologies, and promotes the transformation of innovative ideas into new products and services. It is well-known that to face future challenges, such as energy efficiency and population change, today's society will have to invest more in research and innovation, so that it can ensure a more efficient and sustainable future, both for society and the planet.
In 2008, Veneto's expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) amounted to 1,542 million euro, which placed it in fifth place in Italy's regional rankings behind Lombardia, Lazio, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna. Veneto's R&D expenditure, however, did increase by 24.1% on 2007 compared to a national growth of 5.9%. Widespread investment in R&D, even by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), contributed to an increase in overall R&D expenditure, especially in situations where SMEs were at the heart of Veneto's production industry; the highly promising trend in Veneto's overall expenditure was indeed fuelled by the major contribution of its business activity, which grew by 36.4% in the last year.
Over the last few years, the drive towards innovation has also involved Italy's Public Administration, which is attempting to slash the red tape involved in public services and processes. Basic IT facilities are today commonplace at all levels of Italy's Public Administration: Regions, Provinces, Municipalities and Mountain Communities. In 2009, almost 100% were equipped with Internet, 98% had an email system and 91% had a website. In Veneto the situation is even better: 100% of its administrations have Internet, 99% have email and 98% a website. A good range of online services is also available, although interactivity levels vary. In Veneto the websites of 85% of local authorities have a page for the payment of municipal property tax; 65% for the payment of waste-disposal services; and 64% for the declaration that production activities have started.
The size, structure and characteristics of a population influence the sustainability of long-term development. According to the latest Eurostat projections, in 2060 the total population of the European Union will be more or less the same as today, although there will be differences from country to country; the population will, however, be much older. An ageing population is one of the main challenges that the European Union must face, especially as the baby-boom generation gets closer to drawing its pension. Today, there are four people of working age for each person over 65; in 2060 this ratio will be a mere two to one.
EU policy encompasses five long-term headline strategies to deal with the ageing population and to turn it into an opportunity for growth: promote demographic renewal, more jobs and longer working lives, higher productivity, integrating migrants, and sustainable public finances.
Supporting birth rates, and therefore demographic renewal, is to be achieved by introducing family-friendly policies and by reconciling work and private lives. An increase in employment must cover all age brackets, including older workers; they should be given adequate and more flexible working conditions so that they will decide to postpone drawing their pension and remain in the labour market. Active ageing is the aim of this strategy, which is geared towards improving the quality of life for elderly people; they will be encouraged to stay active in the labour market, participate in social life and keep healthy, both mentally and physically. Against this backdrop, the European Commission has decided to raise awareness by declaring 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity, in order to highlight the contribution that both young and not so young can make to society.
The elderly: a vulnerable category
Today Veneto has more than 975,000 over 65s, 20% of its population. This number will grow by 45% in the next twenty years, and forecasts state that this rise will be as high as 67% for the over 80s.
Longer life expectancy will bring major social and economic changes that will require attention. The areas where the population is falling and is mainly elderly will have to review their supply of basic public goods and services, such as health, transport and residential care; they will also have to take into account changing family situations and an increase in the number of elderly people living alone.
The elderly are vulnerable in financial terms. In Veneto 16.5% of elderly people are at risk of poverty, more than the overall population (9.7%). Elderly women are at greater risk (one in five) as on average they have lower pensions.
On average, an elderly Veneto resident lives on a pension of 11,300 euro a year, not even 1,000 euro a month and a little below the national level.
Looking beyond pensions, the ageing population is also drawing attention to the sustainability of public health finances, especially for long-term assistance. Although average life expectancy is longer, it is also true that in the last part of their lives, elderly people will not be self-sufficient; indeed, the time between loss of self-sufficiency and death is set to grow longer as time goes by. In Veneto, 68% of over 75s have at least two chronic degenerative illnesses, while 46% of people aged 65-74 years old have a number of chronic illnesses.
The future of health expenditure therefore not only depends on ageing, but also on the incidence of elderly people with disabilities and on an imbalance between formal and informal treatment, not to mention on the type of services that the health system intends to provide: residential care, semi-residential care, and home care to be provided as financial support or as services.
Veneto's network of care for non self-sufficient elderly people is the result of policies which, over the years, have led to a range of action geared towards a complex social and healthcare situation. Furthermore, as it is important that elderly people stay within their family, home or social environment, the orientation of regional policies is to ensure they stay at home so that residential care is kept aside for people who have no other options.
In 2010, Veneto's Regional Fund for the Non Self-sufficient amounted to more than 704 million euro, a 3.5% rise on the previous year. Although the majority of resources are earmarked for residential care (65%), regional policies have increased funding for home care assistance in recent years and today it accounts for 13% of resources.
The migrant population, both entries from abroad and new births, helps to re-establish the demographic balance of a country like Italy, where the young population is decreasing. There is a considerable amount of immigration to Veneto. A total of 11.3% of immigrants in Italy have chosen to settle in Veneto, making it the third most attractive region to migrants. There are currently 480,616 foreign residents in Veneto who make up 9.8% of the population, as opposed to 7% on a national level. According to ISTAT forecasts, by 2030 there will be over one million, making up 19% of the population.
A distinctive feature of the phenomenon is their wide range of origins. Veneto is beginning to look like a puzzle of different ethnicities. Over the years there has been a change in the migratory flows, both in terms of quantity and nationalities. Today there are representatives from all five continents and a total of 169 nationalities.
Alongside voluntary migration there is a more forced migration, people who have had to leave their land of origin due to persecution, ethnic rivalry or armed conflict. Recently Italy has had to manage the emergency immigration of citizens from North African countries who, together with others from the Arab world, are escaping from an extremely difficult political and social situation. Italy has committed to receiving and hosting them in the various centres across the country. The distribution of these displaced people across regions is based on the resident population, which means that 93 of every 1,000 are accommodated in Veneto. According to continuously updated data supplied by the Civil Protection Department of the Veneto Region, since 16th May 2011 about 700 people have arrived.
There are also many unaccompanied minors coming to Italy, also amongst those who have arrived in Veneto not out of choice but of necessity. Minors are the new protagonists of migration. The number of these young people has drastically increased and they make up a significant part of the asylum-seeker population. According to Italy's Comitato per i Minori Stranieri
, (National Authority for the Protection Foreign Minors), the share of unaccompanied minors in Veneto is on average between 4% and 5% of the 300 reported every year. In the first six months of 2010, 267 were counted, almost half of whom were in the province of Venezia alone.
Fighting inequality among families
Wealth contributes to the progress of a society, but this development is sustainable only if it guarantees equally distributed growth throughout the population. Italy is not far off the European average. Its GDP per capita in purchasing power terms was 26,000 euro in 2008 and its inequality index stood at 5.2, meaning that the richest 20% of the population had a total income share that was five times higher than that of the poorest 20%. In Veneto income inequality appears to be more contained than elsewhere (inequality index 3.9) with families earning just over 3,100 euro a month. Compared with other regions, this allows them to have a good quality of life and to survive the problems caused by the recent financial crisis, thanks also to dual or multiple incomes. In fact 46% of families have two incomes and 17% have three or more, whilst the figures for the Southern regions are 37% and 15% respectively. Moreover, within individual families, the ratio between the number of income earners and dependents is more balanced than in the average Southern family.
Being able to count on a stable income, which is sufficient for the size of the family and its desired lifestyle, gives a sense of security and passes the desire to make plans on to future generations. Not all families, however, can afford a decent standard of living and the problems that they face change over the years, something which also depends on how the family evolves. Single-parent families and elderly people living alone face greater hardships. The trends are variable, on the other hand, for single people and young couples, as they have not yet reached economic stability, something that is also influenced by the trends of the labour market. Families with children face greater difficulties, especially if they have more than two. On the other hand, mature couples whose children have left home have greater economic stability. On the whole, Veneto residents are not entirely satisfied with their financial situation, unlike levels of satisfaction for interpersonal relationships and health conditions.
The financial crisis saw a 4.7% drop in family consumption in Veneto, with average monthly spending of 2,800 euro. This, however, is higher than the national average (around 2,400 euro). It has become necessary to prioritise when budget-making, taking into account the limits set by certain essential expenses. Of all these, the home is the main cost and accounts for a considerable share of family spending, 16% of total income.
The labour market: support and opportunities
To get out of recession and grow in prosperity, we need to offer a more sustainable way of life to every citizen and to do what is necessary to ensure equal opportunities for everybody at work; thus increasing participation of women, young people, older people and immigrants in the labour market plays a key role.
The situation in Veneto is better than in Italy: the female employment rate is equal to 53.3% in Veneto compared to 46.1% at national level. The population aged 55 to 64 performed well in terms of employment. In the last ten years, employment in this bracket has increased by 10 percentage points and stood at 35.4% in 2010. However, young people still encounter too many difficulties. In the labour market, the gap between foreign and Italian workers is still too wide, especially as far as unemployment rate and contract conditions are concerned. Though labour market conditions in Veneto are better than in other Italian regions, youth unemployment is rising, as nearly one out of five young people aged between 15 and 24 is unemployed. There are fewer young people employed on open-ended contracts and many of them have jobs that are below their qualifications. Moreover, few migrants are employed on open-ended contracts compared to Italian workers. Many of them are also employed in jobs for which they are overqualified. Finally, in Veneto the migrant unemployment rate is 11.5% compared to 3.9% for Italian workers.
The wages guarantee fund plays an ever increasing role in supporting families, as it guarantees income to people who are made redundant or work on the basis of a lower number of hours. In this way, the companies' professional know-how is safeguarded and depressive effects on consumption are avoided. In 2010, 1.2 billion wage guarantee fund hours were authorised in Italy, approximately 32% more than the previous year and the highest number in Italian history. In Veneto almost 125 million hours were authorised, 54.3% more than those granted in 2009, the worst result recorded since at least the early 1990s. Differently from data relating to 2008 and 2009, in both Veneto and Italy, the demand for the ordinary wages guarantee fund decreased sharply, while the extended wages guarantee fund accelerated as expected, partly because many companies moved from the former to the latter.
It should be noted, however, that a large amount of the hours requested is not actually used. This indicates that it is a precautionary action on the companies' part. Data relating to the wages guarantee fund in 2010 show that real use amounted to 48.2% of the hours requested by companies. This amounts to a total of 580 million hours, compared to 65.4% in 2009 (about 598 million) and 76.5% in 2008 (174 million).
The importance of education
The new European strategy confirms the key role of education and training systems and the improvement of their quality in order to assure young people and adults greater benefits and opportunities.
As well as reaching established targets, one of the objectives of the European strategy is to improve key competences in reading, maths and science, reducing the share of pupils with insufficient results to less than 15% by 2020. Results in Veneto are satisfactory and in 2009 the targets for reading (14.5% of fifteen-year-old school pupils had insufficient results) and science (11.7%) had already been met. Maths is not far behind (15.9%). Italy, however, is further from the targets, with over 20% in all three areas.
Families' social status is still important in determining choices, educational pathways, learning and the future of young generations. As parents' qualifications and jobs get higher, the percentage of young people who choose a vocational or technical school decreases and the preference for lyceums increases. In Veneto 33% of young people with low-educational backgrounds choose vocational schools and only 14% opt for a lyceum. On the other hand, the share of young people in Veneto with higher profile families choosing lyceums is 60%. Furthermore, regardless of the type of school attended, over 64% of young people with low profile families go to work after finishing school, while young people with more well-off families go to university.
Overall, educational attainment in Veneto is higher than the national average: 74.3% of those enrolled in the first year subsequently gain their school-leaving diplomas, compared to a national average of less than 71%. But things change according to the school chosen. Lyceum pupils obtain the best results, while those enrolled at vocational schools have considerable difficulty.
Lifelong learning for adults is also fundamental, and the objective is to reach 15% by 2020. In Italy and Veneto this figure has been around 6% for years. Training in the environmental field has become the new bastion of the modern economy. Veneto provides 12.1% of Italy's environmental training, the second highest share among regions after Toscana, which is top with 14.7%.
Giving value to Veneto's roots
Italy celebrated the 150th anniversary of its national unification on 17 March 2011, an important event that enabled the country to relive its history and take pride in its art and culture. The anniversary came at a time when it is important for Italy not only to look at its past achievements, but also to look towards the future with a shared aim to ensure the country grows and develops. The year 2011 also sees Italy's fifteenth population census, proof that statistics has accompanied and supported the country since its birth.
A look at the demographic future of Italian society has aroused curiosity about the country's roots. Ever since the first census in 1871, findings have revealed that Italy has undergone major transformations: administrative, territorial, demographic, social and economic. Veneto was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866 when it had a population of just under 2.2 million people and 500,000 families. As the number of people and families in Veneto rose, age and family type changed. Achievements in education proved decisive not only for Veneto's economic development, but also because they improved living standards. Since Italian Unification, Veneto, once a region of illiterates and farmers, has become a thriving economy and culture at the heart of Europe.