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CHAPTER VII.

WORKMEN'S INSURANCE IN ITALY.

INTRODUCTION.

The beginnings of workmen's insurance in Italy may be traced to voluntary cooperative organizations. These organizations provided for mutual help in a great many different emergencies, but primarily for sick benefits. They were known in the eighteenth century, but began to develop rapidly in the seventies of the nineteenth century, and by 1886 their importance was sufficiently great to cause the adoption of a special law regulating them to some extent. A few years before, by the law of 1883, the National Accident Insurance Institution was authorized for voluntary insurance against accidents. This was a private institution, formed for that purpose by a combination of 10 savings banks, but under government supervision.

For the next fifteen years the question of workmen's insurance in all its phases was under continuous discussion, but very little of actual legislation was accomplished. On March 17, 1898, the accident insurance law was passed, establishing what is practically compulsory accident insurance, though with freedom of selection of the carrier of the insurance, for a considerable portion of Italian manufacturing industry and mining. In the same year the national institution for voluntary old-age and invalidity insurance was organized.

These two laws of 1898 present the essential legislative acts of Italy in connection with workmen's insurance. The accident insurance system was considerably extended and amended by the act of June 20, 1903, the codified text of the law being published January 31, 1904, and the system of voluntary old-age and invalidity insurance was modified by the amending acts of July 7, 1901, and of May 20,1907. But no essentially new principles were introduced by any of these amending acts.

Very little has been accomplished by the Italian Government in the field of sickness insurance in comparison with accident and oldage insurance. The only measure enacted of any importance is the law of April 15, 1886, concerning recognition or incorporation of the voluntary private mutual benefit societies which concern themselves mainly but not exclusively with sickness insurance.

Maternity insurance, which may be considered as a form of sickness insurance, has been earnestly discussed in Italy for over a decade. The question was raised by a few individuals early in the last decade of the nineteenth century, and the influence of their agitation in private organizations was powerful enough to call forth a government bill for the creation of a national maternity insurance institution. This bill, with some modifications, became a law on July 17, 1910.

An explanation of the slow development of social insurance in Italy may be found in the general economic status of the country. The occupational statistics of Italy disclose the fact that it is still largely an agricultural country.

In 1901 the number of persons employed in the manufacturing industries (including mining) in Italy did not exceed 16 per cent of the total population over 9 years of age, or about 25 per cent if only persons gainfully employed be taken into consideration. Agriculture claimed 38 per cent of the total adult population, or nearly 60 per cent of that part which was gainfully employed. The occupational statistics of the census of 1882 and of 1901 were presented according to different systems of classifications and are scracely comparable; nevertheless a comparison of the statistics for the two years indicates an absence of any very large and rapid development of industrial employment.

NUMBER AND PER CENT OF PERSONS OVER 9 YEARS OF AGE IN ITALY, CLASSIFIED

BY INDUSTRY AND SEX, CENSUSES OF 1882 AND 1901.

(Source: Annuario Statistico Italiano, 1905–1907, Vol. I, p. 111.)

Census of January 1, 1882.

Industry, etc.

Total.

Males.

Females.

Number.

Per cent.

5,513, 545

399, 920

3, 101, 163

7,915

8,614, 708

407,835

38. 20
1.81

518, 876
137, 476
494, 432
267, 938
307,802
152,520

67,914
1,213, 978
498.523
55, 615
73, 400
26,554

586,790
1,351, 454

992, 955
323, 553
381, 202
179,074

2.60
5.99
4. 40
1. 44
1. 69
. 79

1,879.044

1,935,984

3,815,028

16. 91

Agriculture, fishing, etc..
Mining, metallurgy, stone quarrying, etc..
Manufacturing, etc.:

Building.
Textiles..
Clothing.
Food products..
Wood and straw working..
All other industries.

Total manufacturing, etc
Transportation...
Commerce and exchange.
Public undertakings..
Domestic service, private employ, etc.
Public administration.
Professions.
Defense of the land.
Persons living from revenues.
Persons supported by families.
Persons supported by public or private charity,

vice, etc.
Persons of unknown occupation.

310,519 325, 716 118, 298 306, 822 164, 962 271, 652 160, 155 427, 456 554, 480

2, 664 71, 377 71,280 413, 022

2, 400
95, 470

313, 183
397, 093
189,578
719, 844
167, 362
367, 122
160, 155

962, 881
4,658, 086

197, 276 1,580,975

1.39 1. 76

.84 3.19

.74 1.63

.71 4.27 20. 66

535.425
4,103, 606

101, 115
725, 284

88 7.01

96, 161

855,691 11, 292, 158

Total..

11, 258, 968

22, 551, 126

100.00

NUMBER AND PER CENT OF PERSONS OVER 9 YEARS OF AGE IN ITALY, CLASSIFIED

BY INDUSTRY AND SEX, CENSUSES OF 1882 AND 1901-Concluded.

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ACCIDENT INSURANCE. The present system of compulsory insurance of workmen against industrial accidents dates back to the law of March 17, 1898, which went into effect September 17, 1898. The law was considerably amended by the act of June 29, 1903, and promulgated in codified form January 31, 1904, in which form it went into effect through a retroactive clause December 30, 1903.

The system of compulsory insurance of workmen against accidents has been in existence in Italy for over ten years. The substitution of this system for the old system of employers' liability was not established in a day. The first efforts of reform of the legal principle of employers' liability began as early as 1879, and the history of these efforts, lasting almost uninterruptedly through two decades, gives interesting material for the study of the development from the one extreme of civil liability of the employer for his act to the other of an absolute right of the employee to compensation in case of industrial accidents, the concept of trade risk, and the collective responsibility of the industry rather than of the individual employer for the loss of life and health unavoidably connected with modern industrial processes.

The Civil Code, which went into effect in Italy January 1, 1866, repeats in its articles 1152, 1153, 1157, and 1644 the provisions of the French civil code concerning the responsibility of the employer for injuries to employees. These provisions differ little from the general principles of responsibility for injuries resulting from the acts of commission or omission of any person or his agents.

HISTORY OF ACCIDENT INSURANCE LEGISLATION. The conviction that the common law did not supply the necessary protection of the industrial worker, and that there was need for special protective legislation, found its first formal expression in the Chamber of Deputies in the bill covering workmen in the construction of buildings, in mines, and workshops introduced March 17, 1879. The basic principle of this proposal was the transfer of the burden of proof from the employee to the employer. It proposed that the employers of labor in the industrial fields indicated should be responsible for injuries sustained by workmen through industrial accidents unless these accidents had been caused through the fault of the victim or through pure chance. This bill never came up for open discussion in the Chamber.

A bill introduced in the Chamber of Deputies June 9, 1880, was based on the same principle of civil responsibility with change of the burden of proof, and in the main followed the lines laid down in the earlier proposal. This proposal did not meet with any greater success than of the pioneer proposal of 1879.

The two preceding bills introduced were proposals of individual deputies and did not seem to have any considerable influence upon the membership of the Chamber. The numerous proposals made within the next two decades all came from the Government. The first of these government proposals was introduced in the Chamber of Deputies June 28, 1881. In the main, this first governmental proposal followed the lines of its predecessors. It aimed to establish the presumptive liability of owners of land and buildings and employers of factories, mines, and quarries, in case of accidents caused by total or partial collapse of buildings during construction, landslides, excavations, explosions, and similar occurrences, but not in all accidents, as provided in the preceding bill of 1880.

A parliamentary commission appointed to examine into the governmental proposal as well as into that of the preceding year, brought in its report November 24, 1881. This report entirely rejected the fundamental basis of all these proposals. It asserted that the presumption of fault of the employer, and the consequent imposition upon him of the burden of proof, was a sudden, radical, and dangerous digression from the established principles of the common law. It admitted the justice of the responsibility where the cause of the accident could be traced to the employer, but thought the presentation of proof to that effect essential.

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