Italy has a capitalist mixed economy, ranking as the third-largest in the Eurozone and the eighth-largest in the world. The country is a founding member of the G7, G8, the Eurozone and the OECD.
Italy is regarded as one of the world's most industrialised nations and a leading country in world trade and exports. It is a highly developed country, with the world's 8th highest quality of life and the 25th Human Development Index. In spite of the recent global economic crisis, Italian per capita GDP at purchasing power parity remains approximately equal to the EU 27 average, while the unemployment rate (12.6%) stands slightly above the Eurozone average. The country is well known for its creative and innovative business, a large and competitive agricultural sector (Italy is the world's largest wine producer), and for its influential and high-quality automobile, machinery, food, design and fashion industry.
Italy is the world's sixth largest manufacturing country, characterised by a smaller number of global multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size and a large number of dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises, notoriously clustered in several industrial districts, which are the backbone of the Italian industry. This has produced a manufacturing sector often focused on the export of niche market and luxury products, that if on one side is less capable to compete on the quantity, on the other side is more capable of facing the competition from China and other emerging Asian economies based on lower labour costs, with higher quality products.
The country was the world's 7th largest exporter in 2009. Italy's closest trade ties are with the other countries of the European Union, with whom it conducts about 59% of its total trade. Its largest EU trade partners, in order of market share, are Germany (12.9%), France (11.4%), and Spain (7.4%). Finally, tourism is one of the fastest growing and profitable sectors of the national economy: with 47.7 million international tourist arrivals and total receipts estimated at $43.9 billion in 2013, Italy was the fifth most visited country and the sixth highest tourism earner in the world.
Italy is part of the European single market which represents more than 500 million consumers. Several domestic commercial policies are determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation. Italy introduced the common European currency, the Euro in 2002. It is a member of the Eurozone which represents around 330 million citizens. Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank.
However, Italy has been hit very hard by the late-2000s recession and the subsequent European sovereign-debt crisis, that exacerbated the country's structural problems. Effectively, after a strong GDP growth of 5-6% per year from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and a progressive slowdown in the 1980-90s, the country virtually stagnated in the 2000s. The political efforts to revive growth with massive government spending eventually produced a severe rise in public debt, that stood at over 135% of GDP in 2014, ranking second in the EU only after the Greek one (at 174%). For all that, the largest chunk of Italian public debt is owned by national subjects, a major difference between Italy and Greece, and the level of household debt is much lower than the OECD average.
A gaping North-South divide is a major factor of socio-economic weakness. It can be noted by the huge difference in statistical income between the northern and southern "comuni". The Index of Economic Freedom, the country ranks 86th in the world because of an inefficient state bureaucracy, low property rights protection and high levels of corruption, heavy taxation and public spending that accounts for about half of the national GDP.