Italiano
Relazioni sociali

Social relationships

Basic concepts

Relational networks to which individuals belong and in which they recognize themselves, represent a fundamental resource that allows pursuing their own ends relying on additional resources compared to the available endowments of economic and cultural capital (Bourdieu, Coleman). In literature it is widely recognised that a generalized climate of interpersonal trust, high involvement in associative networks and widespread civic culture increase individual wellbeing and social cohesion, allowing a better performance, greater efficiency of public policies and a lower cost of economic transactions.

In Italy the informal networks, that include all the relationships that gravitate around individuals, are of particular interest (family relationships, parenting, friendship, neighbourhood, mutual help). These networks put in place human and material resources to provide support and protection to individuals both in everyday life and in critical moments and periods of discomfort, representing an essential element of social cohesion.

Dimensions considered to represent the domain

The proposed indicators are organized according to a scheme based on three areas considered as drivers of wellbeing of individuals, families and social groups. This is a scheme that is inspired by the classic “welfare diamond”, for three vertices of which the relations are fundamental: Civil Society, Family and Market. The other vertex constituted by the component State, even if covered by some indicators in this domain, will be specifically detailed in the domain “Policy and Institutions.”

  1. Civil society. The relational aspects referring to the component “civil society” of welfare were distinguished in two major aspects, trying to keep into account both traditional and emerging forms of participation to civil society:
    • social participation, considered as participation in associations and volunteering
    • generalized trust
  2. Social economy. A market that values the relations in order to create utility (not only in monetary terms) and that is able to create relationships based on reciprocity and trust can have a positive influence on the level of well-being of a society. In recent years there has been a blossoming of new forms of participation anchored to principles of reciprocity, solidarity, ideal, ethical or religious values, which have won more and more social relevance. These activities, in contrast to those falling within the traditional market, are ruled by different motivations from individual economic interest and are based on capital relations, social ties and collaboration. Unfortunately, it is not currently available a data source which is systematic, complete and of appropriate statistical quality, allowing to describe this dimension. Given its importance, the Commission considered opportune to propose some indicators that can be derived from the more consolidated sources of data currently available in the social solidarity field.
  3. Family. It is a dimension of particular relevance in Italy but it is not exempt from difficulties of measure. The distinction appearing in literature between “bridging” and “bonding” social capital is very complex. The first one connects people belonging to different social realities and conditions (for examples through participation to social movements); the second connects people who are similar for some important traits (e.g. by ethnicity or parenthood). As the Oecd report How's Life? says, "Too much bonding in the absence of bridging social capital can lead to 'in group/out group' dynamics, leading to the exclusion of those outside the bonding group. Network can also foster values that are detrimental for society, as in the case with mafia or terrorist organisations". Taking into account this complexity we tried to select indicators that would allow to explain this fundamental aspect of social life. The family context in which people live is also used as a background variable to analyse many of the indicators proposed, believing that it can provide important additional information on the behaviour of population.

    List of indicators

    1. Very satisfied with family relations: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that are very satisfied with family relations on total population aged 14 and over.
    2. Very satisfied with friends relations: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that are very satisfied with relations with friends on total population aged 14 and over.
    3. People to rely on: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that have relatives, friends or neighbors they can rely on, on total population aged 14 and over.
    4. Social participation: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that have performed at least one social participation activity in the last 12 months on total population aged 14 and over. The activities in question are: participation in meetings of associations (cultural/recreational, ecological, civil rights, peace); participation in meetings of trade union organizations, professional or trade associations; meetings of political parties and/or performance of free activities for a party; payment of a monthly or quarterly fee for a sports club.
    5. Civic and political participation: Percentage of people aged 14 and over who perform at least one of the activities of civic and political participation on total population aged 14 and over. The activities in question are: The activities in question are: to speak about politics at least once a week; to inform of the facts of Italian politics at least once a week; to attend online consultation or voting on social issues (civic) or political (e.g. urban planning, sign a petition) at least once in the 3 months prior to the interview, to read and to post opinions on social or political issues on the web at least once in the 3 months preceding the interview.
    6. Voluntary activity: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that have performed free activities for voluntary associations or groups in the last 12 months on total population aged 14 and over.
    7. Association funding: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that have funded associations in the last 12 months on total population aged 14 and over.
    8. No profit organizations: Number of no profit organizations per 10,000 inhabitants.
    9. Generalized trust: Percentage of people aged 14 and over that feel that most people are worthy of trust on total population aged 14 and over.