Why Italy's saving rate became (so) low?

Luigi Pierfranco Campiglio

Risultato della ricerca: Working paper

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explain why a low and declining saving rate should be a problem in a world of free capital flows and increasing wealth. In Italy consumer households’ saving have been the main driver of economic stability and growth, funding investments and public debt, and despite international turbulences Italy was acknowledged as a high saving country until the early 1990’s. Ever since, however, households saving rate plunged, in spite of an increasing financial wealth, and our aim is to explain why: we suggest two main causes. The first is related to the economic policies implemented to deal with four major economic events, prompted by economic misalignments: a) the 1992’s currency crisis, b) the run-up to the Euro, c) the 2006’ turning point, preceding the 2008’s crisis, and d) the 2009’s public debt crisis and the following policy of fiscal consolidation. These four events were dealt with economic policies which overlooked the huge income and saving shifts from households to government and private sectors: rising tax burden, especially indirect taxes, freezing of nominal public expenditures and falling real wages were the main policy instruments, while a decreasing households’ income and saving was a primary consequences. Households have been struggling to smooth their standard of life drawing on their saving and wealth, but the effort became all the more difficult as the saving rate was falling below a critical level, increasing the probability of negative saving and debt. Gross national saving turned less than aggregate investment, prompting an increasing borrowing from abroad and a corresponding negative current account. The second cause is structural and covers two crucial issues: the first is the deep economy impacts of a changing age structure, as a consequence of a sudden fertility drop. The second issue is related to the falling households size composition jointly with the rising share of quasi-fixed costs necessary for a decent life. We show how and why a well designed Welfare State could help to restore income stability and saving, tackling the widespread problem of changing age structure in most countries.
Lingua originaleEnglish
EditoreVita e Pensiero
Numero di pagine53
ISBN (stampa)978-88-343-2500-1
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2013

Keywords

  • Italy
  • crisis management
  • distribution
  • personal income
  • saving
  • welfare programs

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