It is known as the "White Economy", and includes the entire health services and personal care sector, ranging from the sick to people with disabilities and the elderly. It is a highly structured production cluster that comprises the pharmaceutical, biomedical and diagnostics industries, as well as the personal care assistance sector, both private and public.
According to Censis, in Italy alone, health related activities have reached a total value of €290 bn, equal to 9.4% of the country’s overall production. This is second only to trade, and ranks higher than key sectors such as transportation and construction. As average life expectancy increases, with people seeking to reach old age in good health through improved health, welfare and social security, this value is destined to grow.
As needs increase, however, neither our social system nor family welfare can hope to have sufficient resources to cover demand. Today, public welfare responds to the needs of less than 20% of Italians. Elderly care is primarily entrusted to private carers paid by relatives. Furthermore, healthcare expenditure has suffered consistent cuts since 2010. More than half of households with a low socio-economic status are convinced that any increase in welfare costs would be incompatible with their disposable income. The answer, therefore, lies in integrating the public and private sector, mixing the services offered by companies, cooperatives, insurance firms, public bodies and industry associations.
This sector is an important asset for Italy’s economy as a whole. According to the latest figures, the white economy currently employs 3.8 million workers, accounting for 16.5% of employees in Italy. 42.2% of production value is attributable to health services, 17.9% to public management and control of health, welfare and social security services, 17.7% to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, 10.6% to supplementary pension schemes and health insurance, 10.4% to personal care, and 1.1% to university education.
Moreover, productivity in this sector is very high. Every "White Economy" operator generates an added value of €60,000, higher than that recorded in agriculture, construction, trade and catering, and second only to the quaternary service sector and certain manufacturing sectors. According to Censis, the "White Economy" is "a formidable asset for the country’s development", with multiplier effects on Italy’s entire economy. Including employment.
Every €100 spent or invested in the "White Economy" generates €158 of additional income in the country’s overall economy. Furthermore, for every 100 new jobs created in the "White Economy", another 133 are created in the Italian economy as a whole.
For every 100 new jobs created in the "White Economy", another 133 are created in the Italian economy as a whole.
In an ageing country, therefore, any growth in welfare and the connected economy is likely to have an impact both of a social and of an economic nature. And with youth unemployment still stubbornly high, this may become a privileged channel of employment for many young people. Today, the "White Economy” (together with the digital and technological sectors) is one of the most important markets that young Italian graduates can look to for employment.