The population of VAT numbers is growing again, but artisans and farmers are decreasing

Cgia: today the audience is steadily above 5 million

After 2020, the annus horribilis in which the pandemic broke out, the number of people with VAT numbers has increased again and today the number of people is permanently above 5 million. As of last December 31st, in fact, we counted 5,045,000 self-employed workers and although the number is slightly increasing compared to four years ago, it should be noted that it remains far from the 6.2 million we recorded at the beginning of 2004. This was communicated by the CGIA research office.

It is useful to point out, we read in the analysis, that not all categories belonging to the world of self-employment are in good health. On the contrary. Many professions are in great difficulty and their number is decreasing: we are referring, in particular, to ‘classic’ self-employed workers, such as artisans, small traders and farmers. Otherwise, VAT numbers without a professional register or association are expanding. Some examples of unregulated professions? Web designers, social media managers, trainers, investment consultants, advertisers, business consultants, IT consultants, utility managers, sociologists, condominium administrators.

The people of VAT numbers, micro businesses and their employees represent a social block of over 6 million people which, before Covid, produced almost 200 billion of GDP and in the last 40 years has become central in many regions of the country, a component structural of our economic system, especially in the Northeast. The values ​​associated with this world, relying on one’s own strength, accepting to compete with the market without any social parachute, aiming to improve one’s living conditions through personal self-realization, have characterized at least two generations of independent workers.

The positive trend recorded by the stock of self-employed workers in the last three years is certainly attributable to the economic recovery that occurred after the advent of Covid. With a GDP that reached very high growth levels in the two-year period 2021 and 2022, employment increased and consequently also independent employment. Taxation has certainly also contributed to expanding the number of self-employed people. The introduction of the flat-rate regime for self-employed businesses with revenues and compensation of less than 85 thousand euros has made it less burdensome than it used to be to manage your own business fiscally. Finally, it cannot be ruled out that the numerical growth of this sector is also attributable to the increase in ‘false’ VAT numbers. Thanks to the boom in smart working that has occurred in recent years, it is likely that ‘fake’ VAT numbers have increased, even if, currently, the overall number of the latter is estimated at around 500 thousand units. A threshold that we had already reached about twenty years ago.

Although the latest data available at a territorial level are updated to the first 9 months of 2023, the trend relating to the trend of self-employed workers is growing, even if the increase in the entire population did not affect all regions. If in the last year Molise (+8.4 percent), Liguria (+8.2 percent), Calabria and Emilia Romagna (both with +5.6 percent) recorded the highest increases important, on the other hand Abruzzo (-4.9 percent), Umbria (-5.6 percent), Trentino Alto Adige (-8.4 percent) and Marche (-10.1 percent ) suffered the most significant contractions.

If the number of independent workers has started to grow again in recent years, the activities that constitute the so-called ‘classic’ self-employment (which represent almost 75 percent of the total number of independent workers present in the country) have constantly decreasing. We are referring, writes the CGIA, to the categories of artisans, small traders and farmers. If we make the comparison between 2014 and 2022 (the longest period of time that INPS data allows us to monitor), the overall number of these three categories fell by 495 thousand units. Farmers decreased by 33,500 units (-7.5 percent), traders by 203,000 (-9.7 percent) and artisans by almost 258,500 (-15.2 percent). In all three categories the data includes the INPS positions of the company owners, partners and family collaborators.

The collapse in the number of artisans, traders and farmers affected all regions, but in particular Marche (-17.2 percent), Piedmont (-15.5 percent), Emilia Romagna and Molise (both -15.1 percent), Umbria (-14.9 percent) and Veneto (-14.8 percent). At the geographical level, the heaviest contraction was recorded in the North-East (-14.1 percent). Followed by the North-West (-14 percent), the Center (-12.5 percent) and, finally, the South (-6.9 percent). At a provincial level, however, the areas most ‘affected’ were Vercelli (-21.6 percent), Massa-Carrara (-20.1 percent), Biella (-19.4 percent), Alessandria (-19 .3 percent) and Rovigo (-18.3 percent). Among the 103 Italian provinces monitored, only Naples (+0.6 percent) recorded a positive change.