Italians fearful about economy, future, says report

New 'zero consumption' lifestyle now prevails

05 December, 17:57

    (By Sandra Cordon).

    (ANSAmed) - Rome, December 5 - The ongoing economic crisis in Italy has spread a sense of "vulnerability" among Italians so profound that 60% of respondents believe poverty is like a "virus" that can "infect anyone", researchers at Censis said in a new report on Friday.

    An attitude of "cynical waiting" has settled on the country, so that Italians neither invest nor consume, added the Italian socio-economic firm in its 48th report on the country's social situation.

    Cash is considered necessary protection, and a philosophy of "looking out for number one" prevails, it added. A total of 47% of Censis respondents perceived the worst of the economic crisis that began in 2007 as being behind them - about 12 percentage points more than last year.

    The grim outlooks are turning into uncertainty and a sort of hoarding, said the report.

    "As a consequence, the management of money on the part of families is done on a brief and extremely brief time scale," said Censis. Between 2007 and 2013, all categories of family financial assets fell, except cash and bank deposits, which rose in real terms by 4.9% to constitute 30.9% of the total assets, compared to 27.3% in 2007.

    Household liquidity continued to grow through June 2014 to 1.2 billion euros, with 45% of Italians allocating savings to cover against possible unexpected contingencies, such as job loss or illness.

    A total of 36% expressed the desire for security, to "feel themselves with their backs covered".

    Many families have confronted the financial crisis by adopting a new "zero consumption" lifestyle, Censis said. For the second year in a row, overall household consumption in 2013 was below levels in the early 2000s.

    To conserve cash, some 62% of respondents said they were cutting meals outside home; 58% save by cutting spending on movies and leisure; 44% reduce transport in cars and motorcycles to avoid buying gasoline; and another 44% have modified eating habits to reduce spending. Thinking about the future, 29% of Italians surveyed said that they felt anxious due to the lack of a safety net; 29% are worried by a fragile margin of financial safety; 24% say they do not have clear idea of the future because everything is very uncertain; and only slightly more than 17% say they feel safe enough and have "their backs covered".

    Italians also showed little faith in the ability to improve their own condition compared to other countries. Just 51% of respondents said they believed a good education was important for achieving success in life, not surprising given the high levels of unemployed, educated young Italians.

    An even smaller percentage - just 43% - thought hard work was key to success. A total of 29% indicated that having the right contacts was important, compared to 19% in a similar survey conducted in the United Kingdom.

    Twenty percent of Italians thought it was critical to come from a wealthy family to succeed compared to just 5% in France. On health care, half of those surveyed said they feared that austerity measures and other government policies enacted in recent years had increased inequality in healthcare.

    Private health-care spending rose from 29.6 billion euros in 2007 to 31.4 billion euros in 2013, according Censis.

    A total of 48.1% of Italian respondents said wealth was among the most important factors determining the outcome of disease.

    Still, 86.7% of Italian respondents still expressed confidence that Italy's national healthcare service, despite its flaws, is capable of guaranteeing the health and welfare of everyone. (ANSAmed).

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