“An expanding sector.” Giorgio Alleva, President of Istat, the Italian National Institute of Statistics, left little room for doubt when presenting an updated census of Italy’s non-profit organizations. After all, the figures speak for themselves. As at 31 December 2015, Italy’s non-profit organisations could count on the support of 5,528,760 volunteers and 788,126 employees. The number of employees, in particular, grew by 15.8% between this census (2015) and the previous one (2011), while the number of institutes with employees rose by 32.2%. In absolute terms, 55,196 entities have employees on their books (788,000 in all), and these account for 16.4% of those operating in Italy (over 336,000, up 11.6% compared to the 301,000 registered in 2011).
On average, the staff of non-profit organisations comprises 16 volunteers and 2 employees. In the health sector and in the field of economic growth and social cohesion, the average number of employees is much higher (respectively, 15 and 14). At the local level, the areas with the highest concentration of employees in non-profit institutions, in absolute terms, also recorded a higher percentage of human resources employed in this sector compared to the resident population. North-Eastern and Central Italy have the highest ratio of volunteers (respectively, 1,221 and 1,050 per 10,000 inhabitants), while the highest ratio of employees is registered in the North-West and North-East (respectively, 169 and 156 per 10,000 inhabitants). Compared to 2011, the South has registered particularly significant growth, both in terms of employees (+36.1%) and of volunteers (+31.4%).
“This particularly dynamic sector has grown significantly, despite the recession,” added Mr Alleva.
“From the point of view of employment, the non-profit sector recorded a growth of 2.8% per year over the 5-year period examined, in line with previous years,”, observed Paolo Venturi, director of Aiccon (Italian Association for the Promotion of the Culture of Co-operation and Non-profit), one of the industry’s think tanks, promoted by the University of Bologna and by the Alliance of Italian Cooperatives.
And the recession? “I can’t say the sector hasn’t been touched by it, but it has come out of it with a surplus of jobs,” replied Mr Venturi.
New innovators work towards the general interest, even without the explicit commitment of the Public Administrations
Indeed, about 25% of non-profit organisations active today were established after 2011. This means that expansion in this sector has been considerable. “The 1990s were all about religion; then, between 1990 and 2000, came the era of social healthcare; between 2000 and 2010, the sector was driven by solidarity and the promotion of human rights. Today, we are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs devoted to promoting social awareness, not only in the health and social-healthcare sectors, but also in the realms of culture, tourism, agriculture and urban regeneration. Deposits of (often unexploited) assets in the territory, and the increasing impetus provided by unmet needs (not only in terms of healthcare, but also community areas and services), give rise to a demand that a new generation of companies is seeking to meet through social innovations with a high technological content; innovations that work towards the general interest, even without the explicit commitment of the Public Administrations (with which they interact only marginally).”
“The territory thus becomes a place”, commented Mr Venturi, “in which to try out new forms of space regeneration, production chain enhancement, social inclusion and environmental solutions, in which the social aspect focuses specifically on social impact”. In this broad meaning, welfare becomes “a new means of doing business, offering the market experiential, community-driven services with a high social content,” concluded Mr Venturi.