Subcontracting on the Premises: The Subcontracting of Labor-Intensive Functions in Northern Italy

Monica Bolelli

Over the last thirty years, companies throughout the economy have restructured in order to focus their business on core competences. This strategy was intended to respond to investors’ increasing pressure to improve financial performance. Initially, outsourcing involved activities that could be considered peripheral to companies’ main business, but it later came to also include those at the core of their competences or integral to their production process. If agency work and posting are the preferred tools of such externalizations in other European countries, in Italy it seems that forms of subcontracting of labor-intensive activities – core or peripheral – on a firm’s own premises have particular relevance. This is significant because while the firm directly controls the work process in the case of staffing, in subcontracting it passes organization of the work to the subcontractor and can only set standards and targets through the commercial contract. This doctoral project aims to investigate the role of appalto (subcontracting) in the Italian economy and explain how and why it came to be such a relevant form of labor-intensive externalization.

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