Sicilians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The interior economy is based on extensive dry agriculture, whereas more profitable irrigated agriculture and industries are located along the coast. Wheat has long been the major crop of Interior Sicily. Herding of sheep and goats, important in the past, has declined. Other significant agricultural products are vines, olives, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and garden crops. Sicily is Italy's largest producer of citrus fruits. Fishing, especially for tuna and sardines, is important to the regional Economy. Industries based on petroleum are located in the southeast of the island. Other industries, such as those based on the transformation of agricultural and fishing products, are also located along the coasts. Services, retailing, and the public sector are major sources of employment. While Italy is one of the world's largest economic powers, Sicily and Southern Italy in general experience underdevelopment and unemployment. Migrant workers are now the most important export of Sicily, and their savings are crucial to the economy. Staples of the Sicilian diet are bread and pasta, olive oil, tomato sauce, vegetables and fruit, cheeses such as pecorino and ricotta, nuts, and wine. Meat has recently become a significant addition to the diet.

Industrial Arts. Trades connected with construction prosper. While several towns are still noted for the production of colorful ceramics, other artisanal activity has almost entirely disappeared because of the availability of inexpensive Imported consumer goods.

Trade. Stores and open-air markets are supplemented by itinerant tradesmen who ply their wares with characteristic cries through local streets on foot or by truck.

Division of Labor. Sicily has long had a rather rigid division of labor. Men have performed most agricultural work, with the exception of harvests, such as those of grapes and olives, in which the whole family participated. While women no longer spin, weave, or raise chickens, in the interior they still transform agricultural products for food, cook, maintain the home, and raise children. In the larger towns and cities, and as migrants, increasing numbers of women work outside the home.

Land Tenure. In the past, most land was held by an absentee-landlord class of the nobility and their successors in large estates, called latifundia or feudi. The majority of the population had access to land either as sharecroppers on short-term contracts or as wage laborers hired for the day ( braccianti ). Following land redistributions, particularly in the post-World War II period, land is now more widely distributed among the population. However, most families own only several hectares of land, often plots of poor quality, lacking irrigation, and dispersed in the countryside. As a result of emigration, much of the land is once again owned by absentee landlords.

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