The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Italy's medium-term economic performance has raised "standard" competitiveness concerns as unit labor costs surged, and real export growth fell. But the recent economic upturn, low current account deficit, and robust nominal exports argue for less pessimism. An empirical analysis confirms the standard concerns, but also suggests that "residual" factors, which partly reflect nonprice economic restructuring, have supported Italy's real exports after 2005 (as in Germany but less so in France or Spain). An investigation of selected structural trends over the past decade offers some substantiation to Italy's "restructuring story," including quality upgrading, geographical trade diversification, and outsourcing. But sluggish services, low FDI, and modest "technological" upgrading indicate limits to Italy's restructuring.