SMEs and startups behind industrial resurgence in southern Italy

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SMEs and startups behind industrial resurgence in southern Italy
Wine bottles wait to be washed and filled by an industrial machine at a factory in Sicily. File Photo: agiampiccolo/Depositphotos"

Southern Italian industry has continued to grow, registering a 0.9 per cent increase in 2016 according to a Confindustria report. Four out of five indicators however remain below pre crisis levels.


Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose 0.9 per cent in southern Italy in 2016, according to a report by Italy's largest business association Confindustria, matching the average growth in the same year across Italy. 

More than 8,000 start-ups were born in 2016, a 0.5 per cent increase on 2015. This trend is seen as especially positive given the 0.3 per cent reduction in active companies across the national average. 

The 29.7 per cent increase in the number of innovative start-up companies established in the first quarter of 2017 meant the south also trumped its northern counterparts in yet another economic index. More than 1,000 online businesses were also opened in the space of six months south of Rome. 

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recorded a 0.6 per cent increase in profits too: SMEs constitute 90 per cent of all southern industry. 

Exports from the south in the first quarter of 2017 were also stronger than compared with the same figures from the first quarter of 2016, with an increase of 12.6 per cent for a total value of €10.6 billion. Refined resources, chemical products, pharmaceuticals and large machinery constitute the bulk of goods sent abroad. 

Tourism has also played its part. In 2016, more than 10 million tourists visited southern Italy and spent €3.6 billion. Cultural landmarks in the south registered a 19 per cent increase in the number of visitors too.

While the latest Confindustria figures point to a small resurgence in the south's economy, the numbers are still well below the pre-crisis figures from before 2008. Total investment in the economy remains 44 per cent lower than 2008, according to the report. 

Unemployment remains an uncomfortable index too, down 1 per cent but still averaging 21 per cent across all southern regions. Youth unemployment is a bigger problem: 56.3 per cent of young people in the south remain unemployed, more than twice the average in the north. 

The south in fact still remains burdened by its inability to compete with the northern industrial belt on several levels. Infrastructural investment in the south remains far lower; industrial output, on the other hand, is much higher in the north. 

The report states that the key challenges will be to continue to favour the growth and financing of start-ups in innovative and creative industries and strengthen the ability of existing companies to streamline and internationalize. 

Italy's GDP is expected to grow 1 per cent overall in 2017, according to forecasts by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

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