Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Italy: The Nation That Crushes Its Young"

Nothing like a snappy op-ed title! Italian columnist Beppe Severgnini covers a lot of ground in a 10/30 op-ed in the NY Times, which is at least dually focused on the costs of old-age support (pensions) and young unemployment and out-migration faced by modern Italy. He also cites Haiti and Zimbabwe as being the only two economies that had grown less rapidly than Italy's between 2001 and 2011.

The weirdest part to me was how at the end he seems to be calling for older workers to retire, presumably in order to open up job vacancies for younger workers to fill, while at the beginning he motivated the concerns by citing how "old-age pensions swallow 14 percent of country’s gross domestic product and 57 percent of all social spending." Surely a concern, but it would not be helped by more retirement.

I was surprised by his growth statistics, but it looks like his point is basically right, if perhaps oversold. The Penn World Table v.8 places Cote d'Ivoire, the Bahamas, Zimbabwe, Barbados, and Guinea below Italy, which averaged 0.2% annual growth between 2001 and 2011.  (Haiti didn't make the cut presumably because of data quality or availability issues.)  But the very next country is Japan, at 0.3%, and 13th lowest out of the 167 countries in the database was the United Kingdom, at 0.9%. The U.S. was 23rd on the list at 1.4%.