“The National Reform and Resilience Plan (PNRR) is based on a balanced assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Italy’ economy and society.” This is the starting point for the Italian government to benefit from the 209 billion euro that the EU has made available in its Next Generation EU programme to support economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The guidelines will steer the work of the CIAE (the Inter-ministerial Committee for European Affairs) whose task it is to pare down the list of over 500 plans presented by the various ministries. By October 15, the draft will be sent to the EU and then the negotiations will start with the final official plan to be presented by April 2021.
Italy will bring a number of key points to the negotiation table and, though somewhat general, they focus on investments in education, innovation and employment. The details of these key points rest on three corner stones: modernising the country, ecological transition and social inclusion. On innovation, the guidelines highlight the need for Italy to catch up with the European average “especially in terms of R&D spend, the ability to attract and retain talent, education programmes, the coverage and speed of network connections, digital skills and services easily accessible online (with particular reference to Public Administration).”
The government is aiming to accelerate its development of the concept of digital identity. This is the keystone for a new relationship between public administration and the population/business world which should speed up its services and reduce red tape. For this to happen, users will need to be digitalised and investments made in infrastructures such as data centres, the cloud, electronic payment systems, optical fibre and 5G technology. These are essential drivers for a production system with the ambition to (at least) maintain its ranking as “Europe’s second industrial power” and become “the leader in cutting-edge technologies” by strengthening its SMEs via “processes to merge and increase the capitalisation of micro and small enterprises, encouraging the creation of networks to facilitate the spread of technological know-how.”
The three corner stones: modernising the country, ecological transition and social inclusion. To bridge Italy’s considerable gaps
On education and training, the guidelines also aim to align with European parameters, with a focus on the ratio of students and teachers per class, supporting the right to an education (to increase the number of graduates and avoid an upsurge in the number of NEETs) and the technology available in schools and universities (with a special focus on e-learning which became key during the lockdown).
There is no shortage of references to improving school buildings (upgrading electrical systems and earthquake proofing) and retraining teachers so that education matches the changed needs of the economy as part of a lifelong learning mindset. The acronym to watch out for is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), in other words those subjects which will require specific secondary school courses and more vocational university courses. “Innovation eco-systems will be created” the text outlines, “places that bring together advanced education programmes, research, public-private workshops and the non-profit sector to improve the social and economic impact of research work.” The goal is clearly to bring academia closer to the world of work.
The cluster called “equality, social and geographic inclusion” also has a focus on the world of work. Work and employment are the bridge which will allow Italy to achieve greater gender equality and reduce the north-south divide, which will lift the country out of the lower positions in European rankings – mainly due to its female and youth employment figures. So, the focus is once again on active labour policies and measures to combat undeclared labour. What is the ultimate goal? To increase the employment rate by ten percentage points through micro-credits, incentives to hiring in the south, and tax reforms (such as the Family Act in conjunction with personal income tax reform).