Dr Ugo Ascoli of the University of Ancona, Italy, spent his recent sabbatical leave in Australia. He spent a few weeks at the SWRC and while visiting presented a detailed and thoughtful seminar. In the seminar he examined the Italian case in comparative quantitative terms and reached the conclusion that at the beginning of the 1980s the Italian welfare system compared well with those in other European countries. He analysed the growth of the welfare system in the post World War II period, touching on the main welfare policies and the prime focus of his analysis was on pensions policy. Furthermore he argued that occupational and fiscal welfare increase the 'non-progressive' or 'regressive' characteristics of the Italian welfare system. From his evidence he demonstrated that Italian welfare measures appeared rooted quite clearly on non-universalist principles. It is clear that in Italy almost all social policy development seems to depend on the way the political system works. Indeed, the mass patronage system ('clientelismo') plays a central role in Italian social welfare. Or Ascoli then focused on the domestic perspectives of social policy in particular, an analysis of the so-called ‘return to the family' and 'privatisation ' proposals, and placed Italian experiences into a broader context. He spoke also of the necessity to rationalise the composition of social expenditure and to radically modify the operation of the taxation system.