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169 Working Paper

Italy: the uneasy co-existence of different social models

2009 – Sabrina Colombo and Marino Regini


The "European social model" includes a welfare regime with generous social expenditure; high employment or income protection; a well-developed system of industrial relations; and involvement of social partners in policymaking. Within the Italian social model, however, one can find three major dividing lines. The first one stems from the coexistence of different models in different areas of the country. Second, an occupation-based principle in pensions and in unemployment benefits coexists with a citizenship-based one in health and education. Finally, core workers enjoy high job and income security, whereas outsiders are highly dependent on the market. These three dividing lines substantially endanger the legitimacy and social acceptance of the Italian social model: each of them profoundly affects the perceptions of workers and citizens, leading to widespread criticism of even those aspects that clearly benefit them and, at the same time, to fierce opposition to the several attempts at reforming it.