Economic Region of Sicily

Agricultural economy and high unemployment rate

Despite partial industrialisation and increasing tourism, Sicily is predominantly agricultural. Three-quarters of the island's land is used for agriculture and 11% of the Sicilians are employed here. The rest focus on particular services, industry and construction. With an unemployment rate of 14%, Sicily has nonetheless one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy. The industry of the future is therefore undoubtedly tourism – overnight stays are already becoming more common and the touristic infrastructure is slowly getting better.

Agriculture and unemployment rate in Sicily

In agrarian Sicily around 11% of the population works in agriculture (11% construction, 9% industry and 69% service). In the 1950s this figure was about 50%, but has reduced significantly in recent decades. However, three quarters of Sicilian land is still agricultural. A large part of it is used for fruit growing: 60% of the oranges and tangerines and 90% of the lemons of Italy - 50% of which are from the Etna area - come from Sicily. In addition, 9 million hectolitres of wine, 15% of the total production of Italy, are grown and processed in Sicily.

Despite these impressive figures Sicily has, with an unemployment rate of 14%, one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy (6.7%). Even today, much of the agricultural land is used inefficiently. Reasons for that are, on the one hand, the climatic conditions in the interior of the island and, on the other hand, the uneven distribution of land, which has changed only slightly since ancient times. Therefore 90% of farms use only 25% of the available agricultural land. The majority of the land still belongs to large landowners or estates from the time of the ancient Punic wars. Due to their extensive farming methods they produce only 10% of the wheat yield on 30% of the cultivated area in Sicily.

Economy in Sicily Fish market in Catania

Other sectors of the economy

Apart from agriculture, fishing plays a large role in Sicily. About 20% of the fish yield in Italy is caught in the waters around Sicily. In addition to tuna and sardines, swordfish are among the most caught species.

Besides some oil, gas and salt, Sicily is relatively poor in terms of raw materials. Therefore, next to agriculture, industry is playing an ever more important role. The industries are focused mainly around the cities of Palermo, Catania, Milazzo, Syracuse and Gela. The focus is on shipbuilding and mechanical engineering as well as the petrochemical industry.

Emerging tourism

Emerging tourism is undoubtedly the industry of the future. Beautiful beaches and ancient ruins in Taormina, Siracusa, Agrigento and Selunte, and also the cult factor of the Mafia annually attract more tourists to the island - not to mention the natural beauties Sicily has to offer to its visitors. The tourist infrastructure in the country is developing slowly but steadily and most travellers appreciate the hospitality of the Sicilians and the culinary specialties of the island.

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Economy in Sicily
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