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The indicators presented here - in addition to showing the fundamental characteristics of the national economy - allow to illustrate the general framework of the Italian businesses. In particular, in the Italian case, we can see the consolidated trend to configure a system that is strongly focused on self-employment and on 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 2017, the Italian productive structures showed an increase in the number of enterprises for the second consecutive year, which rose to 72.6 per thousand inhabitants. The average number of employees by enterprise, a summary measure of the production structures of the economic system, remained substantially stable below four employees. In the service sector, the micro enterprise dominated the panorama the Italian economic system activities; in fact, the greater presence of more complex organizations of small to medium size manifested and industrial intensity decreased, or large companies with a large number of employees.
In Italy, the high proportion of self-employed workers persisted in enterprises, which, although it was decreasing, was 28.5%.
With regard to enterprise demography, the degree of dynamism of the Italian economic system and the resistance of new initiatives on the relevant markets, the gross turnover rate in 2017 decreased (14.3%), compared to the previous year (15.4% in 2016), while the enterprises survival rate of five years after birth remained down: it dropped from 47.5 to 41.1 in the last five years.
In 2017, wage adjusted labour productivity in Italian enterprises confirmed its increase for the fourth consecutive year. Italian enterprises produced, on average, about 132.1 euros (124.6 in 2012) of added value per employee for every 100 euros of unit labour costs.
In 2017, non-profit institutions also showed positive signs, showing constant growth in the last twenty years: in relation to the resident population, their number was about 58 institutions per 10,000 inhabitants, compared to 39 in 1999.
In 2017, almost all the Italian regions showed an increase in the number of enterprises per thousand inhabitants, with the exception of Valle d'Aosta/Vallée d'Aoste and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. From the regional distribution point of view, the clear distinction remained between the Centre and North, characterized by a very high ratio of enterprises and with a number of employees higher than the national average, and the South and Islands, that had fewer and smaller companies. Calabria and Molise were the regions with enterprises of a smaller average size in terms of employees, respectively 2.4 and 2.6, compared to the national average (3.9 employees).
On the other hand, the territorial analysis showed a share of self-employed workers in enterprises that reached the maximum value in the South and Islands (35.5% of employees), while the minimum was found in the North-West (25.1%).
The business statistics of the Italian economy appeared to be highly diversified at a territorial distribution level: in the South and Islands, micro enterprises prevailed, both in services and in industry; the largest service enterprises, instead, were present in the North-West and the Centre, while in the North-East the micro and small enterprises of the industry were present.
With regard to enterprise demography, the number of businesses in the South and Islands was more unstable, characterized by higher birth and death rates. The enterprise five-year survival rate continued to decline in almost all regions, with the exception of Molise and Abruzzo; among the main causes, there was a notable fragmentation of the Italian production system, also due to the specialization in the segment of micro enterprises operating in services, which employ around 30% of workers everywhere. It should be specified that micro enterprises were more subject to a high mortality rate because, given their size, it was more difficult for them to receive financing or loans from external sources to cope with unexpected events of various kinds.
In 2016, the North-West Regions had, on average, the highest cost competitiveness levels (135.3), while the lowest levels of the indicator were recorded in the South and Islands (119.9). In particular, the analysis at a sectoral level showed that the lowest competitiveness for all the Departments was in the construction sector. The greatest difference among the subdivisions was recorded in the services sector between the North-West and the South and Islands (with values respectively equal to 131.6 and 115.5).
In 2017, the highest number of non-profit institutions in relation to inhabitants was recorded in the North: the Autonomous Province of Trento, Valle d'Aosta/Vallée d'Aoste and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen were in the top three positions of the ranking with values respectively equal to 116, 109 and 106 per 10,000 inhabitants. Among the regions of the South and Islands, which had lower values than the North, the figure of Molise, Basilicata, Sardegna and Abruzzo stood out. The region with the lowest value was Campania (36 non-profit institutions per 10 thousand inhabitants).
In 2017, 47.4 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 the average of its European partners, Italy ranked among the top five countries for density of its production activities. However, the greater fragmentation of the Italian production sector emerged, with an average enterprise size far below the European figure: 3.9 employees by enterprise in Italy, compared to 6 for the European average. Among the 28 EU countries, Germany and the United Kingdom had, 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 had a share of self-employed workers in enterprises (28.5%) that was second only to Greece and more than double the EU average (12.9%); in particular, among the major economies of the area, Germany and France recorded shares of 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 2016, EU enterprises produced on average about 149.4 euros of added value per employee for every 100 euros of unit labour costs. The indicator highlighted the suffering situation of Italian enterprises, in fourth from last place in the decreasing ranking (with a value of 131.3 euros). In addition to enterprises from Ireland (€ 292.6), Malta (€ 205.2) and the United Kingdom (€ 197.5), also Eastern European enterprises appeared to be very competitive, able to better exploit the advantage offered by the lower cost of unitary work. Low cost wage adjusted labour productivity was found for enterprises in Sweden (€ 126.8), France (€ 124.8), and Greece (€ 109.6).