Economy / Politics

Cooperative enterprises in Italy

Article 45, paragraph 1 of the Italian Constitution reads: “The Republic recognizes the social value of cooperation aimed at mutual assistance rather than private gain. The law promotes and favors the increment of cooperation with convenient measures and provides for the checks which are necessary to ensure its mutual assistance essence and aims”.

Cooperatives are the business as imagined by the Italian Communist Party, which had led the Italian Resistance during World War II and therefore had taken part to the drafting of the Constitution.

Article 45 was generously implemented, mainly in the form of tax advantages, because the Communist Party, constantly excluded by the Government, needed to be appeased economically. Cooperatives flourished, especially in the Communist regions of Central Italy.

Today the Communist Party is called Democratic Party, but its cooperatives survived. Indeed, in the time of the crisis, many consider them even too healthy thanks to the tax advantages, the relations with the political bodies and their ability to dodge the strict Italian laws on labor, since their employees are “associates”.

Indeed cooperative are often used, even by the Civil Service, to provide cheap labor, something which puts them at least partly at odds even with leftist trade unions.

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