SMEs: The cornerstones of Italy’s economy

June 27, 2019

If Ferrari, Gucci, and Versace represent Italian savoir-faire and refinement to the global public, anonymous SMEs have been foundations of their success, while putting food on the table for most families in the country. SMEs are not only responsible for 82 % of employment in Italy (the European average sits well below this level), but also account for 92 % of enterprises on the Italian soil.

Those numbers reflect Italian traditions, entrepreneurship and dedication to supporting local businesses.


According to Prometeia’s latest research, approximately 5.3 million SMEs were operating on the Italian soil in 2017, employing over 15 million people, and generating EUR 2 trillion of turnover.

The services, general construction, and agricultural sectors remain the leading employers among Italian SMEs (72 % of SME employees), indicating the high relevance of these sectors in the Italian economy. Furthermore, it is worth noting that while SMEs play an important role nationally, they are crucial to the economic survival of certain regions. SMEs account for 83 % of total production in southern regions as compared to their national contribution 57 %. Additionally, the south relies on SMEs for 95 % of total employment, which is again, well above the national average. 

The economic impact of SMEs cannot be appraised by simply looking at their direct involvement in employment and production. They form part of intricate value chains that not only increases Italy’s competitive advantage, but also ensures economic diversity. At last, SMEs’ contribution extend beyond the economic aspect and feature prominently in the Italian cultural life. 

For the purpose of this research, we defined SMEs as companies earning less than 50 million and excluded dormant companies (companies declaring no income and employees for the business year 2017) from our calculations