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Politics as a Profession in Italy

MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN SENATE AND PARLIAMENT TEND TO BE OLD, MALE PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS, LEAVING WOMEN AND THE YOUNG GENERALLY UNDER-REPRESENTED. A BOCCONI STUDY PAINTS AN UNFLATTERING PORTRAIT OF A SYSTEM THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE

The latest report by the Bocconi Observatory on Change in Public Administration tries to sketch a profile of Italian parliamentarians, by drawing upon secondary sources to look at the individual characteristics of MP's and Senators over the last 10 legislatures.

Results show that the typical Italian parliamentarian has significantly aged over the last 35 years. In the VII legislature the average age of senators and representatives was 49.7, while in the last (XVI) legislature considered, the mean age had risen to 52.8.

In particular, younger generations are grossly under-represented. While the share of the Italian population having less than 40 years of age is 23.6%, in Parliament only 8.4% of members are youngish.

And it's not because experience counts. Only about half (45.6% over the whole sample) of parliamentarians have previously served in lower-level institutional posts. But once elected, it's likely the MP will stay in the House for additional legislatures: senators stay on average for two terms, and representatives even more than that (2.26).

Another aspect concerns gender and income differences among parliamentarians. The research study highlights the fact that the share of women in Parliament has only reached 20% in the last legislature, while of course women are more than 50% of the Italian population. Women are even more under-represented in Italian businesses: in corporations with sales over €10 million, women comprise only 14% of those sitting on company boards.

Lastly, apart from gender factor, the study highlights the fact that working as parliamentarian can bring gross earnings of as much as €200,000 (including bonuses and reimbursements). Paraphrasing Max Weber, it seems that in Italy Politik als Beruf is eminently possible: Italian parliamentarians can make a living off politics (so “plutocratic” recruitment of the political class seems a distant possibility), but in certain sectors of the population (youth and women) the sentiment of disaffection toward politics seems to be growing, limiting their willingness to pursue political careers, even for a limited period of time.

The reasons for this phenomenon certainly depend on the existing mechanisms to select the members of the Italian political class (both in terms of training and electoral processes). As these are seriously biased, there needs to be reform and renewal concerning these crucial aspects.

 



by Alex Turrini and Giovanni Valotti, Universita' Bocconi
Translated by Alex Foti


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