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Financial Participation

The current level of employee financial participation in Italy is one of the lowest in Europe. Although several reforms during the 1990s tried to overcome the main obstacles to a more widespread implementation of financial participation in Italy, the unanimous attitude towards such systems on the trade unions’ side and existing company legislation tend to hinder such developments. Although the plan for a new law on workers’ participation was discussed in Italy in 2011/2012, it has still not been implemented.

The practice of workers’ financial participation is closely linked to the privatization process in the 1990s. Whereas the time between 1920-1980 was marked by ever increasing state-controlled economy and state-run enterprises, the financial crisis of the 1990s and new European directives fostered the transformation of state-run enterprises into public limited companies (società per azioni, spa) and their alienation on the capital market. In 1998, the government and the social partners agreed to favour employees’ financial participation.1

According to the results of the “European Company Survey“, a survey of more than 27,000 HR managers in Europe conducted in 2009, a mere 3% of private-sector Italian companies with 10 or more employees offer their employees a profit-sharing scheme. This puts Italy in bottom place, well below the 30-country European average of 14%. The prevalence of employee profit-sharing schemes in Italy does however rise in line with company size. 2% of companies with 10-49 employees, 10% with 50-199 employees, and 17% of companies with more than 200 employees have a profit-sharing scheme.2 Looking at the prevalence of share ownership schemes, the same survey sees Italy (4%) slightly below the European average (5%). The findings of the Annual Economic Survey of Employee Ownership in European Countries in 2012 show that just 28% of the largest Italian corporations offer comprehensive (share-based) ownership schemes covering the whole workforce (European average: 53.3%).3

Wilke, Maack and Partner (2014) Country reports on Financial Participation in Europe. Prepared for www.worker-participation.eu. Reports first published in 2007 and fully updated in 2014.