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“Oceanfills”: Yet another dumping ground

The world’s oceans are being damaged by a constant and unprecedented accumulation of waste known as marine debris. The waste, mostly from effluent human activities, is brought to the oceans through currents and often carried far from where it originated. 

Paradise lost: The imminent fall of tax havens

BEPS multilateral instrument will close loopholes in thousands of tax treaties worldwide.

Men are from Mars; women are poorly paid

“Employment rates for women have grown faster and are above where they were in 2008, but employment rates for men have not even gotten back to where they were.” This remark was made by the OECD chief economist, Catherine Mann, after delivering an update on the global economic outlook in late September. Speaking to the BBC, Ms Mann added, “Women are paid less than men. You've got more women employed, as compared to men, so the algebra works out to be a downward pressure on wage growth.”

Driverless trucks: taking hold of the wheel

With all the recent attention on driverless cars one would be forgiven for thinking that autonomous vehicles were a novelty item. Yet, driverless trucks have been used in mines and ports for some time now. In 2016, a US start-up boasted its first commercial delivery (of beer cans) using a highly automated truck. The on-board system handled all the motorway sections of the journey without a driver. It is likely that trucks will be the first fully driverless vehicles on our public roads.

Eurasia: Investing for the future

After an extended period of relatively strong growth, the countries of Eurasia have recently experienced a series of powerful external economic shocks.* Lower global commodity prices, recession in Russia, moderate growth in China and subdued economic prospects in many west European economies have all hit Eurasia hard. The region’s overall GDP fell in 2015 for only the second time in two decades (the first time was in 2009), and growth in 2016 was weak, according to IMF estimates, with accelerations in a few countries offset by downturns elsewhere. The recovery seems to have continued into 2017 but it is uneven and modest at best, and growth is far below the rates achieved in the 2000s.

Taxing wages: how taxes affect the disposable income of workers and wage costs of employers in OECD countries

Every worker and employer is directly affected by taxes on wages. Taxation is one of the principal ways we finance public services. It also helps us achieve important social objectives, such as redistributing wealth to address inequalities. But as the OECD’s annual Taxing Wages points out, tax policies on labour income may have an impact on individuals’ behaviour  with respect to the labour market or their consumption habits. 

Employment now better than in 2008 thanks to services

Employment in OECD countries has finally caught up and passed 2008 pre-crisis figures with 67.6% of the working-age population now with jobs, according to the latest OECD employment numbers. 

Mexico telecom reform: into the “last mile”

Since Mexico embarked on reform of its telecommunication and broadcast market in 2013, the results can be roundly summarised in a single phrase: price drop, revenue up. With the exception of the price index for pay TV, which has gone up 5%, the cost of roaming, and domestic and international phone calls has dropped steeply, with Mexicans now enjoying some of the lowest-cost mobile services in the OECD area. 

More effort needed to make the grade on gender equality

OECD countries and key emerging economies have made headway in closing gender gaps, but not nearly enough. Gender equality is still a long way off. This is the latest assessment of gender parity in education, employment, entrepreneurship, and public life in The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, released 4 October. 

Re-booting government as a bridge to the digital age

Digitalisation has already been under way for about half a century, yet it is only now that everyone is talking about a digital revolution. Why? One reason is the spread of faster and better connectivity. In 2013, about 80% of OECD countries had complete broadband coverage, fixed or wireless. Another reason is the global surge of smartphones–today, many millions of people walk around with constantly connected minisupercomputers in their pockets. With these changes, the transformation morphs from being economic to being social as well.

Can we save our democracies from hackers?

The first generation of those born into the internet age is already joining the workforce and yet the internet still manages to disrupt. The phenomenon of fake news is one of the by-products of digital transformation and it is worth taking a look at what is new, and not so new, and how it fits in to the rest of what some are calling the “post-truth world”.

New energy in the electricity sector

With new business models emerging, competition in the electricity sector is beginning to stir.

The rise of the digital economy has led numerous markets to experience radical innovation in business models. This has shaken incumbent firms and benefited consumers. Electricity is no exception, with green and distributed generators located in the workplace and home already posing existential threats to traditional mass supply-based businesses. And now a variety of new business models are emerging to disrupt retail too. With innovation needed to deliver on commitments to combat climate change and address fuel poverty, radical innovation in the electricity sector holds promising potential. 

Opening a new chapter in the infrastructure of Latin America

In Latin America, as elsewhere, sustainable infrastructure plays a vital role in improving the quality of life and supporting economic growth. It determines our capacity to engage competitively in global trade and to grow our economies. In our cities, where 80% of the region’s population lives, infrastructure helps reduce poverty by enhancing access to basic services and facilitating access to knowledge and employment opportunities.

Globalisation: Don’t patch it up, shake it up

In Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)character Tancredi Falconeri famously says: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” The Sicilian aristocracy he represents has only one way to preserve its privileges against Garibaldi’s “Risorgimento”: change things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.

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Healthcare: Pouring a little cold water on crowdfunding

Who would have thought that the Ice Bucket Challenge would be credited for bankrolling healthcare breakthroughs? The online campaign, which encouraged participants to be filmed while pouring a bucket of ice water on their heads and then inviting friends to do the same, was started in 2014 by ordinary people as a fun way to raise money for a relative with motor neuron disease, a normally fatal neurodegenerative condition that is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The idea went viral, with millions of people, as well as famous presidents and rock stars, joining in. The challenge became the fifth most popular Google search in 2014 and raised more than US$220 million worldwide. Little wonder the ALS Association credits its recent discovery of a new gene, giving hope for ”real, meaningful therapies” for ALS, to the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

Is there still time to save our trust in government?

Public trust is not doing well in many modern democracies. If it is the canary in the coal mine, in survey after survey, the canary has been brought up wheezing at best.

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A more violent world?

If you have had the impression that there is more violence in the world nowadays, you may not be wrong. According to States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence, the world has been becoming more violent for a decade; indeed, according to the Uppsala University Conflict Data Program, 2014 and 2015 marked the second and third worst years in terms of fatalities since the Cold War ended a quarter of a century ago. As 22% of the global population currently live in fragile contexts and their proportion is anticipated to rise to 32% by 2050, the links between fragility and violence are becoming increasingly clear. 

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OECD Observer crossword Q1 2017

Try our latest OECD Observer crossword.

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Can healthcare policy and technology heal rural-urban divides?

Telehealth is not a substitute for seeing real doctors, but can play a valuable role in patient-centred healthcare and in closing the rural-urban divide as well. But it will require investment and determined policies. 

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Going for inclusiveness and productivity

Inclusiveness should be a prime objective of growth-oriented policies, alongside productivity and employment, Going for Growth 2017 argues. 

Global tax and transparency: We have the tools, now we must make them work

If there is a silver lining to the 2008 financial crisis, it is that it was a catalyst for the unprecedented progress we have made in building robust international tax standards for the interconnected global economy of the 21st century.

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Catch up with OECD March on gender

International Women’s Day is being celebrated throughout this week at the OECD. On 10 March a conference on Gender Equality before the Law will probe legal issues and rights for women and girls. Business, finance and gender were the focus of a special conference on 8 March 2017; documents available.

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Halving road deaths by 2020: A global health priority

Every year 1.25 million people are killed and as many as 50 million seriously injured in road crashes worldwide. This epidemic of road injury causes huge economic losses and places severe burdens on public health systems. Fortunately, this predictable and preventable global health emergency has now been given the international recognition it deserves. Road safety is included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Health, with a target to halve road deaths and injuries by 2020. This provides the strongest possible mandate for urgent action against a scourge that has become the number one killer of young people in all regions of the world. 

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Our patients have changed, our healthcare must now follow

In the coming two decades, it is expected that the number of individuals aged 65 and over will nearly double, so that there will be over 1 billion older adults worldwide. With our healthcare systems struggling to cope, this prospect has been characterised by some as a “grey tsunami” that threatens to raise costs, create inefficiencies and ultimately bankrupt us. Describing our changing demographic as a tsunami is problematic.

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The OECD: New wings or still the same old club?

The political landscape of global governance is changing profoundly. This is posing great challenges to policy makers and organisations such as the OECD.

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Towards sustained progress in global healthcare

For everyone working in the healthcare sector, 2017 arrives with much to celebrate and a great deal to ponder. On the one hand, we can look back on decades of sustained progress, with universal coverage of healthcare rising and people enjoying generally healthier and longer lives than ever before. Funding is increasing and the OECD’s figures on the state of play show the number of doctors and nurses has grown significantly across most OECD countries since 2000.

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Managing new health technologies

Countries around the world are struggling with rising healthcare bills. Every introduction of pricey new biologics, surgical procedures, and exotic “precision” treatments causes ever-increasing fiscal stress, leading to deficit spending, cutbacks in other government services, and insurance costs shouldered by firms and employees alike. Yet, freezing budgetary allocations is clearly not an option, as citizens in our ageing societies are likely to demand more and better access to new health innovations, and essential healthcare services. What can be done?

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Healthcare systems: Tackling waste to boost resources

Is there such a thing as a right amount of health spending? In an ideal world, this would likely mean spending that achieves effective healthcare services, with good outcomes for patients, the right number of professionals with the right skills, and delivers good value for tax payers with little, if any, wastage. Finding that balance is a difficult challenge. 

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People-centred healthcare: Don’t forget the nurses!

Is the concept of “people-centred care” just new jargon for cost-cutting and to reduce access to routine healthcare? Or does it have the potential to improve both the health and well-being of people, while making the health system more efficient and less costly, and helping people to become healthier at the same time?  This is the existential and fundamental question which policymakers and funders, together with the public and wider healthcare community, must answer.

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Complex patients: How healthcare must adapt to their needs

Pepe is a 74 year-old widower, who lives with one of his two sons in a small apartment in the Spanish city of Valencia. His son works at night and sleeps all morning. Pepe spends most of his day at home and feels lonely and depressed. He suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, heart failure, hypertension and dyslipidaemia. He takes corticosteroids, nebulisers and inhalers, as well as drugs against hypertension, statins and anti-coagulants. Pepe is often short of breath and also requires oxygen therapy. Sometimes he feels like he is dying and his son takes him to hospital. In the last 18 months, Pepe visited the hospital emergency room 39 times. He was admitted to the pulmonology department in eight of these visits.

Fighting poverty means fighting sexism

Nowhere in the world do women have as many opportunities as men, whether those opportunities are economic, social or political. If we’re going to make our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) count, we have to start here.