Business statistics show the fundamental characteristics of the national economy and allow depicting an overview of the Italian productive structure. In particular, we may observe a consolidated system strongly focused on self-employment and very small enterprises, more oriented towards manufacturing activities (despite a late but fast development of the tertiary sector) and more specialized in the “made in Italy” sectors.
In 2018, the Italian productive structure showed an increase in the number of enterprises for the third consecutive year, which rose to 72.9 per thousand inhabitants. The average number of employees by enterprise, a proxy of the productive structure of the economic system, was substantially stable (below 4 employees). In the service sector, the micro enterprise dominated the panorama of the Italian business framework. In fact, the number of more complex organizations (from small to medium size) increased, against a reduction of industrial intensity (large companies with a large number of employees).
In Italy, the high proportion of self-employed workers persisted in enterprises (28.0%), although it was decreasing.
As for enterprise demography, the dynamism of the Italian economic system and the survival capacity of new initiatives in the relevant markets showed a reversal trend compared to the last five years, when a constant decline in indicators has been observed. Indeed, gross turnover rate exceeded 14.5% (14.3% in 2017), and the enterprises survival rate (five years after birth) raised to 42.3, highlighting a greater capacity to survive of the Italian companies.
In 2018, wage adjusted labour productivity in Italian enterprises confirmed its increase for the fifth consecutive year. Italian enterprises produced, on average, about 133.1 euros (124.6 in 2012) of value added per employee for every 100 euros of unit labour costs.
In addition, in 2018, the number of non-profit institutions have showed a positive trend over the last twenty years: their number amounted to about 60 institutions per 10,000 inhabitants, compared to 39 in 1999.
In 2018, almost all the Italian regions showed a stable number of enterprises per thousand inhabitants, with the exception of Lazio, Marche and Molise, instead affected by a significant companies decrease. The regional gap between the Centre and North, characterized by a very high ratio of enterprises and a number of employees higher than the national average, and the South and Islands, which showed fewer and smaller companies, persisted. In Calabria and Molise, medium-sized enterprises registered a lower number of employees (respectively 2.4 and 2.6, compared to the national average (3.9 employees).
On the other hand, the regional analysis showed that the share of self-employed working in enterprises reached the maximum value in the South and Islands (35.1% employees), while the minimum was registered in the North-West (24.5%). The Italian productive structure was quite heterogeneous: in the South and Islands, micro enterprises prevailed, both in the service and industry sectors; the largest service enterprises, instead, were registered in the North-West and the Centre, while in the Northeast, a prevalence of micro and small enterprises was observed in the industrial sector.
The number of enterprises in the South and Islands was more unstable, characterized by higher birth and death rates.
The enterprises five-year survival rate was starting to rise, over the last five years, in all the Regions with the exception of Molise and Calabria. The Italian production system was characterised by a significant fragmentation, due to the specialization of micro enterprises operating in the service sector, which employ around 30% of workers. In particular, micro enterprises showed a higher mortality rate because it was more difficult for them to receive financial credits or loans from external sources and cope with unexpected events.
In 2018, the North-West Regions showed, on average, the highest cost competitiveness levels (137.8), while the lowest levels were recorded in the South and Islands (120.9). In particular, the analysis at a sectoral level showed that the lowest competitiveness for all the activities was observed in the construction sector. The greatest regional gap was registered in the services sector, between the North-West and the South and Islands (with values respectively equal to 133.5 and 116.9).
In 2018, the highest number of non-profit institutions per inhabitants was recorded in the North: the Autonomous Province of Trento, the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen and Valle d’Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste ranked at the top (respectively 119, 112 and 106 per 10,000 inhabitants). Among the regions of the South and Islands, which showed lower values than the North, the figure of Sardinia, Basilicata, Molise and Abruzzo stood out. The lowest value was registered in Campania (36 non-profit institutions per 10 thousand inhabitants).
In 2018, 48.5 industrial and service enterprises per thousand inhabitants operated in the EU, with a highly variable density among the 28 countries. Although the Italian economy suffered more strongly from the 2008 economic crisis than European partners did on average, Italy ranked among the top five countries for the density of its production activities. However, a greater fragmentation of the Italian production sector emerged, showing an average enterprise size far below the European figure: 3.9 employees by enterprise in Italy compared to 6 in EU, on average. Among the 28 EU countries, Germany and the United Kingdom showed, on average, larger enterprises and at the same time lower shares of self-employed, a sign of a prevalence of corporate-type organizational forms.
Italy showed a very high share of self-employed workers in enterprises (28.0%), more than double the EU average (12.7%). Italy ranked at the top of the European ranking, followed by Greece and Slovakia; while, Germany and France, the major economies, recorded shares equal to less than 9%.
The Italian business statistics showed the peculiarities of some economies of the Mediterranean area, where forms more linked to the typical characteristics of the territory such as micro service enterprises prevailed, while the presence of industry is stronger in Eastern Europe.
In 2017, EU enterprises produced on average about 149.4 euros of value added per employee for every 100 euros of unit labour costs. The indicator highlighted the difficult situation of Italian enterprises; Italy ranked fourth from last place in the decreasing ranking (132.1 euros). In addition, enterprises operating in Ireland (€ 329,1), Malta (€ 221.1) and the United Kingdom (€ 193.1), as well as in Eastern Europe appeared to be very competitive, able to better exploit the advantage offered by the lower unit labour costs. A lower enterprises’ competitiveness was observed in Greece (€ 120.6), Sweden (€ 124.6) and France (€ 126.6).