Regional development

OECD Territorial Reviews: Venice, Italy


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This Review of Venice, Italy, offers a comprehensive assessment of the city-region’s economy and the extent to which its land use, labour market and environmental policies embrace a metropolitan vision.

A new understanding of the provinces of Padua, Treviso and Venice as an interconnected city-region of 2.6 million people guides this study. Venice ranks as among the most dynamic and productive city-regions in the OECD, with high employment levels and growth rates.

Though it has thrived on a model of small firms and industrial clusters, it is undergoing a deep economic transformation. Venice confronts growing environmental challenges as a result of rising traffic congestion and costly infrastructure pressures, exacerbated by sprawl. Demographics are also changing, due to ageing inhabitants, immigrant settlement and the rapid depopulation of the historic city of Venice.

Metropolitan economic trends are reviewed and benchmarked, including GDP per capita, labour productivity growth, participation rates, patenting, employment and unemployment rates.

Labour markets seem to work at least as effectively as the average metro-region in the OECD. Employment rates are close to the average and close to performance in Brussels, Vienna or Seoul.

In contrast, as the figure below demonstrates, unemployment rates are among the lowest in OECD metro-regions. Venice’s unemployment rate is lower than richer regions such as San Diego, Melbourne, Phoenix, Tokyo or Washington DC.


   Source: OECD Metropolitan Database


Key facts

  • The Venice city-region is one of the largest economies in Italy: it includes 2.6 million inhabitants and accounted for 5% of the national value added in 2005. The city-region encompasses the Provinces of Venice, Padua, and Treviso along with the Venice Lagoon and its archipelago of 117 islands.
  • One of the most visited areas in the world and export-oriented manufacturing: 39.5 million visits per year and it accounts for 23% of all national exports and over 40% of Italian luxury goods sold abroad.
  • It is a successful OECD metropolitan region. High productivity rate, GDP per capita close to the average of OECD metropolitan regions, and low official unemployment rate (3.5% in 2008)
  • Low scores on innovation indicators: low share of the population of 25 years and older with a university degree (9.5%), low R&D expenditures (0.72% of GDP in 2003 vs. 1.97% EU average).


Key policy issues

  • How to increase innovative capacity to catalyse Venice’s economic transformation
  • Enhance labour market inclusion for immigrants, women, and older workers (aged 55-64)
  • Tackle climate change and flooding risks.
  • Stimulate connectivity to create synergies in a poly-centric system.



  • Boost innovation by developing links between universities and firms, business development for SMEs and improving business environment (improving tax collection, reducing court backlogs)
  • Expand labour market integration programmes for women, older workers, and immigrants, by  providing continuous training and job placement services
  • Promote high density development, by reduction of land consumption and more transit-oriented development
  • Integrate land use and water planning
  • Increase vertical co-ordination within the Venice city-region, especially through co-ordinated land use planning.
  • Extend horizontal co-operation, through pilot-projects in tourism, inter-city flagship projects, metropolitan climate change strategies, the creation of a metropolitan transit authority and the preparation for a debate on more radical governance options (such as a metropolitan city or “città metropolitana”).


Reaction to this book





"A perception of this region could be that of a territory where business life may mix with pleasure and vice versa....During the past three decades the success of the Veneto Region in industry and tourism activities has attracted a large quantity of all kind of workers....Venice attracts thousand of tourists every year just with some of the main well known attractions...These incomparable cultural assets are advantages for the regional brand." Sara Topelson de Grinberg, Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL), Mexico

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"Continuing to talk about water but starting with the discussion on climate change, let me pay tribute to the huge works that you are conducting in terms of the barrier system (Mose project). ....The challenge for the Venice Authorities is to create synergies in the different levels of planning to achieve the full integration of the planning processes on land use, water management and permitting of economic activities." Pedro Liberato, Permanent Delegation of Portugal to the OECD

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"In strikes me in looking over the Review, that among the primary needs of Venice, that education and workforce development really seem to be at the heart of the needs of the region and this of course is not uncommon across the member nations here.... The importance of developing links between universities and the private sector cannot be emphasised enough."  Dennis Alvord, US Department of Commerce

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"Veneto’s economy benefits from a high concentration of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are often geared towards export. However, the large share of micro-enterprises will be increasingly a challenge as companies have to compete more and more on a global scale. Many SMEs have not been able to promote a significant process of technological modernization and innovation, particularly with respect to marketing, and their efforts to interact with universities and research centres have been quite low. Malte Bornkamm, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology
BMWi), Germany

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"This excellent review, which comprehensively describes the challenges Venice faces....Adaptation to climate change is a very serious problem and vital for Venice.  We would be grateful to continuously share our knowledge and experience with you in order to tackle climate change."  Takeshi Abe, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan

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"Venice shares many of the problems that inevitably confront other cities throughout the OECD, such as immigrant assimilation, an ageing population, and vulnerability to flooding....Venice is entering a new metropolitan era." Michael Donovan, OECD Urban Development Unit, Coordinator for the Venice City Region Review


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Table of contents



Assessment and recommendations

  • Developing innovation capacity and enhancing labour market inclusion
  • Connecting Venice, Padua and Treviso
  • Calibrating economic and spatial policy to safeguard the environment
  • Metropolitanise an economic and environmental agenda

Chapter 1. Towards a resilient and integrated metropolitan economy

This chapter assesses the competitiveness of the Venice city-region, defined as the totality of the provinces of Venice, Padua, and Treviso along with the 550 square-kilometre Venice Lagoon. A historical section reviews how the Venice city-region has evolved towards a polynodal area composed of a series of connected small towns, rural areas and the cities of Padua, Treviso and Venice.

Chapter 2. Towards a competitive city-region

The economic potency of the Venice city-region derives from its unique combination of unusually strong local communities and an outward-looking, export-oriented economic system. The industrial district model has been highly adaptive and this chapter recommends that policy makers capitalise on its entrepreneurism, flexibility and cosmopolitanism, by confronting three cardinal challenges.

Chapter 3. Effective water governance: from instability to resilience

This chapter both provides an overview of the main politico-hydrological challenges faced in the Venice city-region and proposes key recommendations for improving water governance.

Chapter 4. Metropolitan governance: a goal in search of a model

This chapter identifies and analyses the factors involved in the most appropriate and effective multi-level governance structure for the Venice city-region.


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