Italy was one of the first European countries to encounter the problems of an ageing population. The issue of the future funding of retirement pensions came to the fore there in the 1970s, and was made all the more difficult by the fact that the existing system was a patchwork of specific rules, often strongly influenced by particular interest groups.
Since then, as Stéphanie Toutain demonstrates, various governments have tackled the problem and have tried to implement reforms that would create a single pensions system and would cope with the difficulties of future funding resulting from an ageing population. Most of the reforms came to grief through partisan quarrels and opposition from trade unions and interest groups. It was not until 1992 that the Amato and Dini governments were able to secure widespread public support for a fundamental reform of the system.
The reform consisted of gradually raising the retirement age combined with lengthening the reference period on which pensions are calculated, as well as changes in the method of calculation. The measures also aim ultimately to institute a uniform set of rules for all the different categories of workers. A transition period was designed to allow the reforms to take place gradually.
Admittedly, the reform has not solved all the problems of funding but, as Stéphanie Toutain stresses, it is the way that Amato and Dini managed to get it ratified that is worth examining. It was by involving the social partners in the original plans, by co-operating closely with them as the plans took shape, and by soliciting the views of all concerned (employed, unemployed and retired people) via a referendum that the Italian government made the reform palatable. An example to follow?