Five maps to understand the socioeconomic division of Italy

italy leads unified since 1870. At least politically, because his map continues to have important territorial fractures, so much so that one can still distinguish the old city-states in the north from the old kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the south. The northern regions of the Po basin (Padania) concentrate half of the Italian GDPwhile the southern regions share only 20%.

The map of GDP per capita in Italy

Do you want to receive content like this in your email?

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

But those are absolute figures. If we divide wealth by population, the differences are even more marked, especially due to the concentration of GDP in the large cities of the north compared to the rural provinces of the south.

Thus, while in Milan they reached around €55,800 per inhabitant in 2019, in the rural Sicilian province of Agrigento they only reached €15,700. There is a difference of €40,000, 3.5 times more between the extreme north and south of the country.

The map of innovation in Italy

Map of research and development R&D in Italy

The geographical situation of northern Italy is privileged, in the heart of Europe and fully integrated into the European blue banana. But the key to this success is in the Italian industrial districtslocated in the Po Valley, a business ecosystem very productive based on innovation and SMEs, where each city specializes in one product.

The result is a very marked gap in investment in R&D per inhabitant. While in the north €450 is exceeded in general, in the south no region reaches €275. The most evident gap is perceived between Emilia-Romagna —the heart of the industrial districts—, which reaches €761 in R&D per inhabitant, while southern Calabria does not reach €100 per capita.

The map of unemployment in Italy

Unemployment map in Italy

The result of such an unequal production system is that companies in the north quickly adapt to changes and hardly experience crises, generating stable employment and an economy with a significant industrial base. The south, however, maintains an important agrarian weight and little specialized services, and unemployment there is much higher.

Thus, the autonomous (German) province of Bolzano has full employment, with a frictional unemployment, a situation similar to that of the rest of the Italian northeast. But in the south, the Campania region, whose capital is Naples, is close to 20% unemployment. It is one of the highest in the European Unionwith an important submerged economy where they still operate the mafias.

The employment map in Italy

Activity rate map in Italy

But unemployment does not show the entire socioeconomic reality. Not in Italy. In addition to the unemployed, we must count on unemployed young people who have never accessed a first job; others who continue studying, overqualifying themselves to be able to compete; employees of mafias and organized crime; and other workers in the underground economy, rentiers, early retirees or housewives.

The Activity rate shows an even greater contrast than unemployment. In Bolzano, 70% of the population of working age does so, while in Campania, Sicily or Calabria this figure barely exceeds 40%.

The map of poverty in Italy

Poverty map in Italy

The result of all of the above is a completely different economic and social context between the north and the south of the country, where Lazio —with the city of Rome— and Abruzzo form the border between two asymmetrical realities.

In the northern Valle d’Aosta less than 10% of the population is at risk of social exclusion, and in the entire north the region that has the most problems in this regard is Liguria with 21%. However, in the south Sardinia has a third of its population at risk of poverty. It is the region with the best conditions in the area, while in Campania the figure is dangerously close to 50%.

Five maps to understand the socioeconomic division of Italy