Italy is a country marked by severe structural and economic contrasts across different areas: Italian regions greatly differ in terms of demographic patterns, economic performance, well-being and institutional quality. A deeper look reveals that in the 21st Century all Italian regions lost ground compared to the EU average (even Lombardy, economically the strongest area of the country). The Italian disparity report shows that the country has distinct geographical inequalities in terms of growth, employment chances and wealth creation.
The economic and financial crisis of 2008 and the associated austerity measures had already exacerbated these longstanding differences between North and South; now the regional impacts of COVID-19 are likely to create new fractures. The scale and severity of regional disparities, in particular with respect to the labour market, calls for a reorientation of regional policies, not only at the national level, but also at the European level, towards (i) public investment, mainly in health and education, to stimulate economic activity in the short run and to impact the potential for long-term economic growth; (ii) employment support (also through new hiring in the public sector); (iii) a new multilevel governance in which the preeminent role of central government is reaffirmed. A new approach for regional development is needed.