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The Borsa Italiana, based in Milan, is Italy's main stock exchange.
According to GDP calculations, Italy was ranked as the seventh largest
economy in the world in 2006, behind the United States, Japan,
Germany, China, UK, and France, and the fourth largest in Europe.
According to the OECD, in 2004 Italy was the world's sixth-largest
exporter of manufactured goods. This capitalistic economy remains
divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private
companies, and a less developed agricultural south. The Mafia
represents the biggest segment of the Italian economy, accounting for
more than $127 billion; making organized
crime 7 percent of Italy's GDP.
Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy
requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a
tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and
Monetary Union and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates.
Italy joined the Euro from its introduction in 1999. Italy's economic
performance has at times lagged behind that of its EU partners, and the
current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at
improving competitiveness and long-term growth. It has moved slowly,
however, on implementing certain structural reforms favoured by
economists, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's
rigid labour market and expensive pension system, because of the
economic slowdown and opposition from labour unions.
The new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano.
Italy has a smaller number of world class multinational corporations than
other economies of comparable size. Instead, the country's main
economic strength has been its large base of small and medium size
companies. Some of these companies manufacture products that are
technologically moderately advanced and therefore face increasing
competition from China and other emerging Asian economies which are
able to undercut them on labour costs. These Italian companies are
responding to the Asian competition by concentrating on products with a
higher technological content, while moving lower-tech manufacturing to
plants in countries where labour is less expensive. The small average
size of Italian companies remains a limiting factor, and the government
has been working to encourage integration and mergers and to reform
the rigid regulations that have traditionally been an obstacle to the
development of larger corporations in the country.
Italy's major exports are motor vehicles (Fiat Group, Aprilia, Ducati,
Piaggio), chemicals, petrochemicals and electric goods (Eni, Enel,
Edison), aerospace and defense tech (Alenia, Agusta, Finmeccanica),
firearms (Beretta) ; but the country's more famous exports are in the fields
of fashion (Armani, Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Benetton,
Prada, Luxottica), food industry (Barilla Group, Martini & Rossi, Campari,
Parmalat), luxury vehicles (Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani) and
motoryachts (Ferretti, Azimut).
Tourism is very important to the Italian economy: with over 37 million
tourists a year, Italy is ranked as the fifth major tourist destination in the
world. Italian universities have a long history, beginning in medieval times
with the establishment of the University of Salerno in the ninth century,
and the University of Bologna in 1088. Further universities were founded
in the subsequent centuries: the University of Padova in 1222, and two
years later the University of Naples founded by Frederick II, the University
of Florence, founded in 1308, then the universities of Pisa, Pavia and
Nowadays, the vast majority of universities in Italy are public, and are
usually named after the city or region in which they are located and styled
"Università degli studi di..." (University of Studies of..., after the Latin title
of 'universitas studiorum').
There are also a small number of private-funded universities, accredited
by the state and given the power to confer academic degrees. These
include Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, recognised as a school
of excellence in economics, or the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore,
that encompasses a number of universities backed by the Catholic
Church.Nowadays, Italian universities follow the guidelines of the Bologna
Process, and the courses are usually divided into two: the "Laurea" (3
years, roughly equivalent to a bachelor's degree) and the "Laurea
Specialistica" (2 years, roughly equivalent to an master's degree).
However, it is worth noting that stopping at the BA level is widely viewed
as a poor choice, and the majority of students still go for the "Laurea
Specialistica", since they have to face job competition with older
students, who graduated before the Bologna Process and therefore
followed a 5-year course of studies (Laurea Vecchio Ordinamento).
Some courses have maintained preceding rules of "Laurea specialistica
europea" o "Laurea specialistica a ciclo unico", with only one cycle of
study of five years (Architecture, Pharmacy), except for medicine which
requires six years of courses.
Switching to the guidelines of the Bologna Process has been a major
source of distress both for students and faculties, and the new
arrangements gave rise to a wide range of possibilities, who the
universities explored doing changes when needed - the adjusting
process is going on even as of 2007.
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