The liberalizing efforts of the 1990s laid the foundations for the present growth, and Italy entered the new millennium on a high note, embracing the European Monetary Union and its new currency, the euro. The country's technological revolution is succeeding, the network of small and medium-sized enterprises is solid, international competitiveness is strong, and the balance of trade is positive. The government is consolidating the excellent results obtained by limiting expenditures and is waging a determined battle against tax evasion. Italy's economic outlook is, therefore, a positive one, particularly as the level of education is rising, and population growth is manageable. All indicators point to continued improvements in living standards. The future will see the Italian economy integrated even more into the economy of its European partners, and the European Union will eventually become a fully integrated body in all economic matters, including taxation.
There are, however, still a number of negative aspects that plague the economic and social well-being of Italy. First and foremost is the gap between the north and the south, which has widened over the past couple of decades, with government policies and EU grants proving unable to bring about any substantial improvement. Closing this gap is Italy's biggest challenge in securing a healthy future.
The weight of the informal economy also remains a major problem. While attempts have been made to reduce the impact of this sector, it remains considerable, and in escaping state control, it has a negative effect on working conditions, quality control, and fiscal revenues. While the informal economy may represent a source of income for many poorer families in the short term, in the long run it will undermine the official economy and, therefore, the country as a whole. Finally, there is the problem of persistent unemployment. Even when the economy is doing very well, the number of people out of work is higher than the European average. Unemployment stood at 11.5 percent in 2000. The government needs to address this problem as a matter of urgency.