NEW COMMUNITY’S INQUIRY ON ITALIAN HOUSEHOLDS’ ECONOMIC SITUATION

The recovery is in place but it seems I am not involved. This is the most widespread perception among Italian households, which, in the past few years, seem to have absorbed some of the difficulties experienced since the beginning of the economic crisis 10 years ago. Not every family is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in which they entered in 2008: some (few) have seen their economic condition enhanced, some (the majority) believe their income remained stable; some (several) have embarked on an economic lift with a declining path. Their forecasts for this year are split between the ones believing they left the worst time behind and the ones envisaging uncertain prospects. It seems like the Italian society leaving is split into two while it leaves darkest economic time behind.

BankItalia’s figures are a proof of the fact that the slight enhancement is not only based on perceptions. In 2016, Italian households’ average annual income was equal to 31,469 euros, with a slight increase compared to what was recorded in the previous two years (+3%). However, the figures are far from reaching the 36,142 euros threshold registered in the years before the economic crisis (2006). GDP figures and its forecasts – not only made by the Government but also by other national and international Institutes – are also supporting the national economy’s overall enhancement, recording an increase in our production system.

However, despite being a slow increase compared to our European peers, it still has a positive sign over time.

Nevertheless, the new economy’s momentum needs time to be concretely seen in the resources available to households (wages). The crisis, as we all know, has eroded a big part of Italian households’ economic resources, with the consumptions drop being its biggest consequence. More in general, the economic crisis has also fostered an impoverishment sense, which has become an effective and objective poverty condition for a part of the citizenship. Furthermore, for some families it has become a form of relative deprivation: the hurdles of keeping the same lifestyle they used to have, which mainly had an impact on the middle class.

This is where the sense of cautiousness and uncertainty for the future felt by the Italian citizenship comes from: on the one hand, Italian families are resilient to economic difficulties, which they dealt with their own savings, undermining their assets; on the other hand, they have a more wait-and-see approach to the future, despite institutional indicators’ positive signals. These are the main outcomes of the latest survey conducted by Community Media Research for La Stampa, on the economic conditions of Italian citizenship and their future prospects.

Undoubtedly, compared to four years ago (2014), it can certainly be said that Italians’ income has not worsened: more than a half of respondents (56.6%) declare their income has remained stable over the last three years, a higher percentage compared to one recorded in 2014, when the threshold stopped at 44.7%. One-fifth (19.1%) of respondents believe they have a better economic situation compared to a few years ago (8.7% in 2014). Conversely, there also is a drop of those seeing their resources’ decrease, from 46.6% in 2014 to 24.3% nowadays. It is a significant drop, but it still involves a quarter of the population. As always, the average figure hides the differences that are actually relevant at a territorial level. While in the Northeast, over the last three years, 25.8% of people have seen their household income improve, the percentage in the South stands at 13.7%. This figure is once again remarking Italy’s territorial division.

These first signs of a slight improvement of Italian families’ economic conditions meet an initial reverberation in the future’s outlook. If in 2015 we saw a slight trend’s inversion compared to the previous year, perceptions became more consistent after a three-year period. Almost a quarter of the Italian citizenship (23.0%) thinks the crisis is now over and signs of recovery are evident. In 2015, only 8.0% of respondents shared a similar view.

Thus, the opinion on future prospects is significantly improved, although this is limited to a still contained part of the population. However, there was a higher increase in the number of people expressing uncertainty rather than a growth of those who temporally prolong the economic difficulties’ end: from 13.6% in 2015 to 28.5% in 2018, resulting in a set of uncertain people higher than those who imagine the country already out of crisis. In addition, in this case, territorial divisions are quite evident. The Northern part of the country (25.1%) already senses the crisis’ exit, while the Central-Southern part (30.0%) is still at the mercy of a strong uncertainty.

In this regard, it is important to consider which areas are set to experiment economic growth in the near future. Italians think that the economic improvement will mostly affect the territory in which they live (37.2%), Italy in general (42.0%) and Europe to a higher extent (59.5%), rather than their own economic condition and their families’ ones (27.3%). Therefore, positive expectations about the future are more foreseeable for the external context and would marginally involve the respondents.

It seems like the recovery is taking place outside their homes. Such outcome is well expressed in the confidence on the future index: the ‘optimists’, that is to say, those who express essentially positive assessments for all the considered areas, are 15.0%, a marked decline compared to previous surveys. Furthermore, the ones with a ‘wait-and-see approach’ grew (51.3%), whose outlook appears to be more cautious; the ‘worried’ (23.1%, negative evaluations on the future prevail over the positive ones) and the ‘pessimists’ ones (10.6%, whose opinions are completely negative) remain stable.

Italian households’ economic conditions record a slight increase compared with few years ago but the wounds of a long crisis are not fully healed. A large minority of Italian households perceives a continuous worsening of the economic resources available. The tough time from which Italy is slowly recovering is leaving at least two different sharpening divisions behind: one is social, while the other one is territorial. The new Government’s political agenda should factually ask itself on those topics.

Research methodology

Community Media Research, in collaboration with Intesa Sanpaolo for La Stampa, carried out a country-wide survey called Indagine LaST (Laboratorio sulla Società e il Territorio) from January 9th to January 22nd, on a sample of the whole Italian population over 18 years old. The methodology aspects and the outcome have been studied by Questlab. 1,482 people in total (out of 13,384 contacts) have been surveyed. Data analysis was re-balanced according to gender, territory, age groups, working condition and education. The margin of error is about +/-2.5%. The survey was a visual one using the main social networks, with a casual sample reachable with CAWI and CATI systems. To download the full survey please visit www.agcom.it and www.communitymediaresearch.it