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Italians and Europeans – Unemployment and economic situation, immigration and, with less affluent yet present, environment. These are the priorities of Italian citizens compared to other European peoples, sometimes similar in other different cases, while still maintaining our unenviable record. In fact, we are still the most pessimistic people in Europe (at least 1 Italian out of 2 thinks it) also as regards our children and the least optimistic about the future of the EU even if this does not translate into an idea of ​​escape (the Italiaexit touches the mind of just 11 /% of our compatriots). An emotionally negative spiral that does not abandon our country, certainly motivated by concrete and indisputable factors. The first half of 2019 still shows clear signs of economic stagnation and if the very recent birth of a new government after a sudden political crisis in mid-August suddenly changes the scenario, the expected change in GDP at the end of the year also in its most optimistic version is it stands just above 0 (+ 0.1%), although it could do better next year, reaching out towards 2020 (+ 0.7%). On the other hand, the factors of uncertainty linked to the current trade wars, the phenomenon of deglobalization and a monetary policy that seems to have exhausted the arrows at its bow are further threats on the horizon that cannot fail to hit Europe but also and above all our Country.

We are in fact the only one of the big ones (and with us only Spain which, however, boasts quite another economic vitality) that has not yet managed to raise per capita income to pre-crisis levels: a gap of 9 percentage points still in the first quarter 2019, while the European average is above more than 3 points (with Germany rising 13, France 7.3 and the United Kingdom 5.4) and it is no coincidence that already in 2018 after 5 years of increases, albeit moderate, have witnessed a reversal of the average household expenditure, which marks + 0.3% at current values, but taking into account inflationary dynamics in real terms, the contraction is equal to -0.9% with large territorial gaps (10,000 euros per year separate the monthly consumption of the families of the North West from the families of the islands and of the south with the 3020 euros of the Lombards at the head compared to the 1902 euros of the Calabrians). Spending also stops in food after 3 positive years and stops at almost 5 percentage points below pre-crisis levels. Moreover, the dynamics of food prices both last year and in the first seven months of 2019 remain perfectly aligned with general inflation and looking at the medium term, Italian food prices have grown less than the European average. Prudent and cautious, the Italians not only direct their main items of expenditure to basic necessities and services (64% say they “spend only for what is necessary”), but have loosened financial investments by favoring bank deposits and fueling their liquidity reserves. There is more money circulating than in the pre-crisis period and household savings rates continue to increase; it was 7.8% in 2017, 8.1% in 2018 and already 8.4% in the first quarter of 2019.

On the labor front then if it is true that the employment forecasts continue to be albeit minimally positive (unemployment rate which in 2018 was 10.6% in 2019 and in 2020 it is expected to be 10.2%) it is a fact that today it is the quality of the work that generates the most frustrations. We work quantitatively as in other Mediterranean and Eastern European countries but considerably more than in Northern Europe, but we definitely earn less than all of them and hold the negative record of labor productivity. “Poor” work brings dissatisfaction with it in several directions; on the one hand 66% of part-time workers aspire to full-time (50% more than Germany) on the other 32% compared to a European average of 20% do not believe they have achieved a balance between life time and time of work. And in fact, 50% would like a more flexible job that is better able to reconcile with personal life.

Those who are middle class, those who travel against the trend, those who are afraid – Frustrated by work and economic difficulties, but also conditioned by a media agenda aimed entirely at the news, Italians feel insecure and eager for new reassurances. Even if the crimes are decreasing and in any case well below the European average, only 19% (33% of Europeans) are fully convinced of living in a safe place, and consequent behaviors derive from this concern: in 18 years they have grown by more than 20% of the alarm systems installed in homes, in 2018 there are + 50% on Google searches by Italians for “weapons for personal defense”, while licenses for firearms grew in the same period of time as a + 13.8%. The manifest inability to manage the immigration phenomenon and the completely missed integration in our country is blowing on this fire. Here too perception overwhelms reality; stable immigrants are now 5 million and represent 8.5% of the population, about 1 foreigner for every 11 Italians, but the perception of their presence is equal to 3 times the real figure. And not only that: according to the Nim index which records nationalistic, anti-immigrant and anti-religious minority sentiments, we outclass all other European peoples by approaching the peoples of the Visegrad pact (Poland, Hungary, etc.) in this regard. On the other hand, however, the country’s natural balance is in deep red (the number of births in Italy has plummeted by 50% since the 1970s) and the demography of Africa is destined to explode. Over the next 30 years, the population of this continent will grow by 3 billion people.

Despite these difficulties, however, 1 out of 2 Italians if questioned does not hesitate to self-locate in the middle class (it is the highest share in Europe with a differential of 5 percentage points compared to Germany and 13 compared to France), even if paradoxically this is a middle class in which more than half (52%) complain of difficulty reaching the end of the month, 25% are more unhappy than their European peers and are unconvinced to be able to improve their lives if not relying on independent factors by their will as being born in a wealthy family, having good knowledge acquired or even relying on luck. Want to take refuge in a new “medium”, in a halo of normality and this renewed spirit of belonging explains some, increasingly popular, purchasing behaviors. The middle class, which represents half of the Italian population (at least the one that declares it), is the same one that wants to buy a house but at lower prices, chooses the small car as the family car (the Panda is the best-selling car in 2018), makes vintage the fashion of the moment, decrees the success of the discount store (main architect of the improvement of large retailers in the first half of the year compared to retail), tries to find online ways to save on holidays or pizza with friends.

On the margins of this exercise of social resistance of the Italian middle class, new social subjects also emerge. This is the case of the perennials and the Greta generation. The first are the new “ageless” Italians who, after 40 years of age, do not resign themselves to the passage of time and reinvent themselves every day in the body and spirit are characterized by an open mental attitude, of a curious disposition, in good physical condition; 44% of them are optimistic, in their behavior they are even greener than millennials. The Greta Generation, on the other hand, are those young people (at the antipodes of Neet) who are most aware of the climatic risks and are committed to protecting the environment (82% are willing to minimize waste), also engaged in politics and in the defense of rights (70% volunteer) and in any case sensitive and aware of the difficulties of the labor market but not resigned.

The green antibodies of the Italians – Three degrees higher in temperature (expected by the end of the century) bring with them a loss of 23 percentage points of GDP per capita, a marked concentration of wealth in favor of some countries (in the North) at the expense of others (those of the southern hemisphere) with all the consequences that follow. An estimated 143 million are the only so-called environmental refugees who by 2050 (especially) from Africa, Asia and Latin America will head north. In this scenario, Italy is among the 5 most vulnerable countries in Europe and climate change has already generated important effects; in the last 15 years in our country 1 out of 3 fruit trees have disappeared, 500 hectares between Sicily and Calabria are already used today for the cultivation of exotic fruit, while the rising temperatures have increased the concentration of mercury in fish (in 30 years + 27% for example in tuna). Evidence that filters into the collective consciousness of Italians and breaches their life and consumption behavior. Many dream of an eco-sustainable home (55%), increasingly buy clothes (13% today and 28% in the future) and green cars (albeit still a niche but the sale of hybrid cars is growing + 30% and especially electric + 148%), turn to green cosmetics (1 woman out of 4 chooses it and in just one year in 2018 over 13,000 products were launched in the sector with claims related to sustainability equal to + 14.3% compared to the previous year ). Be it pragmatism or adherence to an ideal of life, all the expenditure items associated in various ways with sustainability are growing. All products that have a certification associated with the theme show a positive change in the first six months of the year; this is the case of the UTZ + 21.5%, the Friend of the Sea + 2.8%, the bio which continues its unstoppable and acclaimed rise + 4.6% and responsible daily attitudes persist. So 88% of our compatriots do meticulously sorted waste collection and 77% use low energy appliances. Having a brand linked to sustainability is currently recognized by Italian consumers as an added value together with a few other shared reference criteria. Sustainability is a fundamental component of corporate reputation, in a context where loyalty and desire for change reign supreme if it is true that 9 out of 10 Italians admit to cheating in the shopping cart and 87% abandon more and more often the proposed loyalty programs.

The new food trends: fast, protein, sustainable – Ecologists who are also convinced in food where 68% believe it is favorable to charge a supplement for disposable plastic products so as to discourage their purchase. An attitude that does us honor if we think that every week we inadvertently ingest 5 grams of microplastics with food, or the weight of a credit card (1 bottle of water can contain up to 240 microplastics per liter). Committed to chasing work and managing personal life, Italians abandon their home stoves in spite of their passion for cooking, (in 20 years we have halved the time spent cooking every day and now we only dedicate 37 minutes to it). This leads us to increase the expenditure for non-domestic catering (83 billion the expenditure for food consumption outside the home of Italian families in 2018) and also when we eat at home we prefer ready or quick food to prepare. It is booming for food delivery which is now used by 26% of Italians. And even in shopping at the supermarket, instant food wins (+ 9.3% in a year) and among the new trends that have arrived, even in large retailers, a space dominating the sushi offer is carved out; 42% of Italians are a regular buyer. It is no coincidence therefore that while for the first time spending on smartphones is reduced (-1.6% from January to July 2019) the phenomenon of instant pots, electric pots explodes (+ 72.8% sales in the first 7 months of the year), which promise instant culinary successes. In this gastronomic revolution we also lose sight of the concept of “course” and for the first, traditional second course we favor snacks (sweet or savory, it doesn’t matter, they both grow in double figures), fruit and vegetables better if already packed, the bars meal replacements and anything that can represent a ready meal.

While the traditional bubbles win in the glass (prosecco and sparkling wines continue their uninterrupted growth) alongside the beer boom (7 million hectoliters of beer drunk in the first 6 months of 2019) the new trend of flavored waters that dominate (in the last 12 months value sales record + 164.7%) against a drop in carbonated drinks. Another unequivocal sign of the broad health trend still going on. And it is no coincidence that the cart of Italians is filled with fiber and protein (in 2018 on Google the word protein is associated with 64 million searches) at the expense of fats and carbohydrates. 2019 therefore marks, after years of consumption reduction, the great return of meat (+ 3.5% sales in 2019), especially Italian. Italianness is in fact the other key theme if you photograph the latest trends in food and even more in terms of flavor and price. 78% of consumers are reassured by 100% Italian origin and these products grow by + 4.8% in a year (2018 on 2017). Safety is the winning word even at the table.