Citizens have the right to be guaranteed the supply of social services in order to reach acceptable living standards. Therefore, economic investments are necessary to ensure these services. Against this background, the social protection statistics help to understand and quantify the dimension of the financial needs, measuring the amount of expenditure for the whole sector and the kind of services provided. In particular, the expenditure for social security and assistance provisions accounted for an important share of the total social protection and assistance expenditure.
Social protection includes social security, assistance and health care (for further details see “Health Care” section).
In 2018, Social protection expenditure, including health care, accounted for 29.0% of GDP. Over the period 2014-2018, it has slowed down by 0.9 percentage points. The expenditure for social provisions was mainly assigned to old age (48.8%) and sickness functions (23.1%).
In 2017, the expenditure for social provisions provided by social security institutions recorded a slight decrease compared to 2016, going from 18.8% to 18.7% of GDP. Instead, the per capita social benefits were rising (5,327.0 euros per year in 2017 compared to 5,250.6 euros per year in 2016). The expenditure for social provisions was only partially financed by social security contributions, as shown by the rate of social security coverage equal to 75.5%, whose growth has been recorded since 2015.
In 2017, the incidence of pension payments, excluding the share paid to people who moved abroad, was equal to 16.5% of GDP. Compared to the previous year, the decrease confirms the downward trend observed since 2015, when it was equal to 16.9% of GDP.
Individual or associated municipalities must guarantee social services and benefits to citizens, according to the Framework Law on Assistance (n. 328/2000). In 2017, the municipalities' expenditure for social services, net of users’ contributions and National Health Service’s spending, amounted to approximately 7 billion and 234 million euros (0.41% of GDP). The per capita expenditure for territorial welfare amounted to 119 euros, compared to 116 euros in 2016.
In 2017, 38.2% of the resources spent by Municipalities for social services was allocated to families with children, 25.9% to the disabled, 17.9% to the elderly, 7.4% to fighting poverty and social exclusion, 4.8% to immigrants and 0.3% to drug and alcohol addictions. The remaining 5.5% of the municipalities' social expenditure was allocated to general, organizational and "multi-user” services.
Among the services supplied to families with children, there are nurseries and other socio-educational services for early childhood. In the 2017/2018 school year, the Italian municipalities supplying at least one service including nurseries, small nurseries and other socio-educational services for early childhood accounted for 58.3% of the total.
During the 2017/18 school year, the recovery of the public supply of early childhood services - started in the previous year - was confirmed. In fact, the percentage of children under the age of three enrolled in the public or State funded structures had decreased from 14.0% in 2010/11 to 12.6% in 2014/15, despite the parallel reduction in births and potential beneficiaries. On the contrary, in 2017/18 the indicator rose to 13.5%. Moreover, in the 2017/18 school year, out of a total of over 194,500 children using municipal facilities or facilities supplied by structures affiliated with municipalities, 92% were enrolled in nurseries and 8% in family nurseries or other supplementary services.
Social provisions and contributions depend upon the demographic and productive structure of the Country. In 2018, in the South the rate of social security coverage (51.3%) was lower than the national figure (76.5%). The highest values were recorded in the North, where Lombardia, the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano/Bozen and Lazio showed values higher than 100%, while the lowest value was observed in Calabria (40.7%).
The expenditure for pensions to GDP was lower in the North-East (15.2%) than in other areas of the country, while the South (20.8%) was the only area, which recorded a higher incidence than the national average.
Municipalities' expenditure for social services to GDP was higher on average in the North-East (0.50%), while it was lower in the Centre and in the South and the Islands (0.43% and 0.41% respectively). The lowest values were recorded in the North-West (0.37%). At regional level, the highest shares of GDP allocated to social services were observed in Sardinia (1.16%), the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen (1.14%), the Autonomous Province of Trento (0.70%) and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (0.88%). Instead, in Calabria a value equal to 0.13% of GDP was registered, while in Basilicata it was equal to 0.26% of GDP.
In the South, the per capita expenditure was lower than in the Centre-Northern regions, except for Sardegna, where Municipalities spent 243 euros per capita (above the national average). In the other regions of the South, per capita expenditure went from 22 euros in Calabria to 82 euros in Sicilia. In the Centre-Northern regions, the per capita expenditure for social services (accounting for 78% of national expenditure) went from 94 euros in Umbria to 540 euros in the autonomous province of Bolzano/Bozen.
At regional level, the diffusion indicator of the public supply of socio-educational services for early childhood showed very significant changes: in the 2017/2018 school year, it went from 100% of municipalities supplying these services in Valle d’Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste to 19.2% of the municipalities in Calabria.
On average, in the regions of the North-East a higher number of childcare services is recorded, which were public or financed by the public sector. The average distribution of the municipalities supplying these services amounted to 84.3%. Instead, the Centre (55%) and the South (47.6%) recorded lower values than the national figure (59.6%).
Recently, in the South a slight improvement was registered: Municipalities supplying childcare services went from 35.4% in 2014/15 to 47.6% in 2018/2019.
However, the ratio of users to resident under the age of three children still showed a regional gap. In the 2018/2019 school year, the percentage of children who used childcare services was higher than 20% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Toscana, Valle d'Aosta/Vallée d'Aoste and the Autonomous Province of Trento, while in Calabria and Campania it amounted to 2.2% and 3.9% respectively. The regional gap was evident comparing the values of the indicator in the Centre-North (18.6%) and in the South (5.9%).
The level of social protection expenditure is affected by the welfare model adopted, the level of income and the structural characteristics of the population (expenditure is higher in countries where the population is polarised into young and/or elderly age groups).
In 2018, the per capita expenditure in Italy, equal to 8,455 euros per year, was just above the EU27 average (8,435 euros) and Italy confirmed its ranking (twelfth among the 27 European countries). Italy ranked eighth for the social protection expenditure to GDP ratio (28.8%), getting a higher rank, above the EU average (27.9%). In Europe, the expenditure to GDP was rather variable; it varied from the minimum recorded in Romania (14.2%) to the maximum in France (33.7%).