Crafts And Handicrafts In South Tyrol

In South Tyrol the craft sector is one of the most important in the economy as the total of 12 414 firms (31 December 1994) and about 35 000 employees testifies. The high number of apprentices also speaks for the significance of the craft sector; with about 1 700 apprentices - 51 per cent of all apprentices - crafts provide by far the biggest share of trainees per firm.

This the most diverse of all branches of the economy made up mainly of small and medium sized firms with an average of almost three employees has continually maintained itself and stood the test in the ups and downs of economic life thanks to its structural composition. Decisive in that regard in the past were the strong determination to do well the expertise and the quick ability of the small and medium sized craft enterprises to adapt to changing economic technical conjunctural and structural developments. The readiness of the public authorities to provide support has undoubtedly helped. The long historical tradition of South Tyrolese crafts is closely linked to craft traditions in Tyrol and the German linguistic area.

The Austrian Industrial Code used to apply in South Tyrol but in 1926 after the separation of South Tyrol from Austria it was abrogated. Thereafter complete freedom of trade reigned as elsewhere in the Italian state. Only with the first Autonomy Statute of 1948 could primary legislature power in the field of crafts and craft vocational training be established. This was the basis for the creation of a provincial Crafts regulation which although passed in 1952 because of serious legal issues could only come into effect in 1956. In view of the continual number of changes needed since then its complete revision was clearly required as a result of which a new crafts regulation was enacted with Provincial Law n. 3 of 16 February 1981. Important features of this reorganisation were besides the definition of a craft and its exercise the classification of craft activities with the Master Craftsman examination as the basis for the independent exercise of a craft or trade.

The Italian Constitutional Court however annulled this important pillar of the Crafts regulation and with Judgment n. 168 of May 1987 declared that eventual conditions for the exercise of a profession could only be laid down by State laws. This did not abolish training and examination to become a Master Craftsman but made such training voluntary. Through related measures of the Province for example of a financial nature incentives were created which will result in training to become a Master Craftsman being seen as a matter of course for the prospective craftsman. Now that the Master Craftsman Training Centre in the Siemensstrasse in Bozen (Bolzano) is ready the best prospects exist for additional improvement in the education of skilled workers for the crafts of tomorrow. The present valid clauses of the Craft regulation are contained in an integrated text.

Craft interests in the Province of Bozen (Bolzano) are represented by two associations with voluntary membership with the Landesverband der Handwerker having almost four times as many members as the Handwervereinigung. With the Crafts regulation the Province set up a specialist body the Provincial Crafts Commission which gives its opinion on all questions relating to crafts and craft vocational training. This "crafts parliament" consists of 20 members most of whom are craftsmen and maintains the register of craft enterprises and has its headquarters in the Chamber of Commerce in Bozen (Bolzano).

The provincial administration is the supreme authority; within it the Crafts Department deals mainly with legal matters apprentices and Master Craft training and promotional work. On the basis of the support measures of the Province the annual total volume of investment can be calculated: bearing in mind the fact that in 1994 320 billion lire was invested in support measures the total volume of investment has far exceeded 350 billion lire. One of the hitherto few instruments investment support has therefore thanks to the well-endowed provincial budget been well used.

The exceptionally high amount of investment support compared to other provinces is largely responsible for the soundness and standard of equipment of South Tyrol's craft enterprises. By focusing particularly on this aspect structural policy successes can also be achieved. This is important for exporting firms so as partly to compensate for specifically Italian disadvantages (i.e. additional wages costs). In view of the ever tighter amount of budgetary funds available one must as in the other economic sectors prepare also for a reduction in direct support payments.

The obligatory EU notification of our support laws presents a particular challenge; whether deletions relating to our high support level will be demanded is not yet clear. In recent years progress has been made with regard to the allocation of land for building businesses. It will above all be the responsibility for municipal policy in the next few years to make available the land necessary for successful development. A vital element in ensuring the survival of crafts is an up-to-date technology transfer capacity. With the opening of the Technology Advice Centre at the Chamber of Commerce the authorities have certainly given an initial impetus in the direction of the future.

In practice this means transmitting technological knowledge to South Tyrolese firms or passing it on to more appropriate bodies. Information should be passed on regarding patents licences brands and new technology and firms can be advised about the use of support measures and with regard to technological problems. Traditionally the South Tyrolese craft sector counts an above-average number of artisan-type firms. Most manufacturing crafts are concentrated in wood and metal work. Because of the recognised high quality of its workmanship despite being basically oriented towards the local market crafts also provide a considerable part of total exports the figure of 7.5 per cent being quoted in the July 1992 report on the economy by the Chamber of Commerce.

The share of manufacturing crafts in the total net wealth created in South Tyrol amounts to 8.8 per cent that of service crafts 2.5 per cent. Crafts have an important effect on employment and have an important training function which is why they are a pillar of South Tyrol's economy and society.

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