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OECD Territorial Reviews: Venice, Italy 2010

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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.  

This report offers a comparative analysis of these issues, utilising the OECD’s metropolitan database to benchmark productivity and growth. It draws on regional economics, urban planning, transportation studies and hydrology to throw light on the changes within the city-region. In light of planned inter-city rail extensions, the Review calls for programmes to increase economic synergies between Venice and its neighbours. It evaluates key tools for promoting economic growth and metropolitan governance and proposes enhanced co-ordination of land use policies, additional business development services for small and medium-sized businesses, and the enlargement of university-linked innovation. Given frequent flooding, the report appraises the quality of metropolitan water governance and Venice’s potential to become a powerful reference for climate change adaptation.

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Towards a resilient and integrated metropolitan economy

Through a global comparative framework, Chapter 1 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. Commuting flow data is presented along with data on the spatial dimensions of economic relationships, infrastructure, ecology and political geography in the city-region. Metropolitan economic trends are reviewed and benchmarked, including GDP per capita, labour productivity growth, participation rates, patenting, employment and unemployment rates. Demographic changes are also assessed: Chapter 1 reveals how rising life expectancy, low fertility and an early pension age have increased the dependency of seniors on the working-age population. Immigration data are presented, which attest to a steady rise. Such changes are occuring amidst a profound economic re-organisation in Veneto through a shift towards highly knowledge-intensive products and a growth in commuting within the Venice city-region. Infrastructure deficits are highlighted and underlie constraints in the mobility of the regional labour force and the consolidation of metropolitan-wide inter-firm linkages. Finally, the chapter assesses the environmental concerns stemming from Venice’s unique combination of hydrological vulnerability, urban sprawl and heavy industry. Metropolitan resiliency would benefit from an integrated approach involving economic, environmental and governance contributions.

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