OECD Observer
The politics of globalisation circa 1773

Newness in politics has a long and eventful history. Globalisation and the battle for and against are no exception, as the events of the late 18th century show.

joan clos,africa, development, OECD, urbanisation
A 21st century vision for urbanisation

If urbanisation is one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, with some 70% of the world’s population forecasted to live in cities by 2050, then urbanisation in Africa–and the ways in which that growth occurs–marks one of the most significant opportunities for achieving global sustainable development.

economy,catherine mann,economic outlook,oecd
Slower outlook

The global economy is projected to grow at a slower pace this year than in 2015, with only a modest uptick expected in 2017, the OECD’s latest interim Economic Outlook warns. The Outlook warns that a low-growth trap has taken root, as poor growth expectations further depress trade, investment, productivity and wages.

oecd,shimon peres,israel
Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres paid a memorable visit to the OECD on 8 March 2013.

Africa’s choice: Business-as-usual or a green agenda?

The Paris Agreement on climate change signals the end of business as usual for energy industries. For the first time in history more than 150 developed and developing countries have promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But how binding are these agreements? And do they provide impetus for local action in Africa?

Where cities can take Africa

Tangier in 2000 was a sleepy coastal city in the north of Morocco. Fifteen years later, Tangier’s population has exploded three-fold into a vibrant metropolitan area of 1.5 million inhabitants. The city’s free-zones have attracted new industries, such as automobile producers. A new business district called Tangier City Center and new satellite cities arise around Tangier’s old town, providing local inhabitants with modern infrastructure and amenities that have been sorely lacking. A new high-speed train is being built to connect people with the state-of-the-art Ibn Batouta International Airport.

Urban pollution: Clearing the air

Air pollution in African cities is a major health and environmental challenge that must become a focus of urban policies. 

africa, city, development, growth, OECD, urban
Urban growth’s natural increase

Africa’s urban population growth rate was the world’s fastest at 4% between 1960 and 2010, and it is clear that urbanisation across its 54 countries will continue to pose policy challenge in the years ahead. But unlike in many other regions of the world, people quitting the countryside to settle in cities will not be the main driver of that growth.

How China’s rebalancing affects Africa’s development finance … and more

2015 has been a challenging year for Africa. Average growth of African economies weakened in 2015 to 3.6%, down from an average annual 5% enjoyed since 2000.

Africa’s blue economy

The world’s oceans, seas and rivers are a major source of wealth, creating trillions of dollars’ worth in goods and services as well as employing billions of people. […] Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped.

Integrating the local and global urban agendas

In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Africapolis: Measuring urbanisation dynamics in West Africa

Africa is the least urbanised continent in the world but an urban transition is very much underway. This is particularly visible in West Africa where the number of urban agglomerations increased from 152 in 1950 to almost 2,000 in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the urban population grew by over 40 million people, making towns and cities home to 41% of the region’s total population.

Africa’s urbanisation and structural transformation

We don’t know the name, or the place and exact date of birth, of the baby who changed world history. My guess is that she was born somewhere in Africa in 2007. Not that she cared as she lay there all wrinkled and raging at the disagreeable turn her life had just taken, but it was thanks to her that for the first time ever, the world had more urban dwellers than country folk.

Korean-African trade techs up

Korean trade with Africa has more than quadrupled since the late 1990s.

African cities can be actors of structural transformation

African nations are exploring how best to harness the potential of cities as agents of change to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The current African Economic Outlook (AEO), jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme, warns that policy makers and donors too often are blind to the territorial realities of the economies they are trying to help develop. Economies are seen as sectors rather than places. And thus sectoral lenses tend to limit policy action to a few specific tools, regardless of the complexity of problems that demand a place-based, multi-sectoral and participatory approach.

Top earners: Why did the 1% get so rich?

Across much of the OECD, the share of national income taken by the top 1% of earners has risen, sometimes sharply, in recent decades. 

Was it worth it?

Graduate teaching courses are becoming more popular again in many countries, though ageing continues to affect the profession, and making the career more attractive for longer remains a challenge. For insight, we asked a retired teacher to explain why, despite the challenges, he stayed in the job.

digital, Internet, OECD, technology
Open season

I’m sure you’ve all heard about “the open Internet.” The expression builds upon a rich pedigree of the term “open” in various contexts. It gives the impression that “open” is some positive attribute, and when we use the expression of the “open Internet” it seems that we're lauding it in some way. But are we, and if so, in what way?

Meeting the policy challenges of tomorrow's digital economy

oecd,andy wyckoff,digital,innovation
Digital economy: Why a brighter future could be in our pocket

The digital economy is here, and growing every day, sometimes in surprising ways. As ministers gather for major meetings in Paris and Cancun, government leaders should be in no doubt about the key role they must play in securing the digital economy’s future as a driver of productive and inclusive progress.

Openness and digital innovation

Now more than ever, the digital economy is the economy. Digital technologies, or Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), are boosting trade, innovation, entrepreneurship, and with them growth and social wellbeing. Those benefits depend on openness. Openness has technical, economic and social dimensions, from open standards for core technologies and protocols, and competitively priced access for users, to the respect for human rights, freedom of expression and privacy. In essence, openness enables people to access, and do more things with, digital technologies: start a business online, create new products and business processes or revolutionise existing ones, express opinions, raise capital, share knowledge and ideas, conduct research, interact with government, improve skills, and much more. 

The economic empowerment of women for more productive and inclusive societies

This year’s OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM), chaired by Chile, is devoted to productivity. Ministers will discuss what governments, firms and individuals can do to improve productivity with the aim of fostering inclusive growth. Their views will no doubt be nourished by public discussions at the annual OECD Forum, which precedes the MCM. The purpose of enhancing productivity should be to make economies grow faster and in a smarter way, while simultaneously decreasing inequalities and allowing everyone to be part of the productive system. The final goal is to improve the well-being of our citizens, providing people with better tools to meet their job requirements and to reach their full potential. This is a main challenge of our time, when the key drivers of growth and well-being will come from capital-based knowledge.

Bridging policy silos to boost trust online

Three out of four people access the Internet everyday across the OECD. But one-third of those daily users don't yet buy online. Why not? According to a 2014 consumer survey the top two concerns reported by EU Internet shoppers are the misuse of personal data and security of online payments. 

broadband, Canada, digital, egypt, fourth industrial revolution, government policies, information communications technology, Mexico, OECD, oecd observer, policy, reform
OECD Observer ministerial roundtable: Digital economy

What policy actions are you taking to harness the benefits and address the challenges of the digital economy?

digital, jobs,OECD, skills,robot
Jobs and skills in the digital economy

To many workers, the words “digital technologies” may evoke one simple, dismaying image: a human-like robot sitting at their desk, doing the work that they used to do! This anxiety is not different from the fear of coachmen witnessing the diffusion of cars in the 1920s. In a sense, coachmen were right: cars did replace horse coaches. However, their children and grand-children found new and often better paid jobs in the wealth of new activities made necessary or possible by cars: automobile manufacturing, car repair, travelling sales, home delivery, mass tourism, road building, the petrol business, and so on.

digital, e-commerce, OECD, online
Protecting digital consumers

When the OECD adopted its first E-commerce Recommendation in 1999, online spending on so-called e-commerce was well-below 1% of total retail spending. Fifteen years later, the figures have jumped to almost 8% in the EU and more than 11% in the United States. This is no longer some future trend: e-commerce is here and is critical for the economy, in which household consumption accounts for about 60% of total GDP in the OECD area.

Cancun, digital, disruptive, information communications, innovation, Mexico, ministerial meeting, OECD, technology
The digital economy in the age of disruption

On 21-23 June Mexico hosts the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy. The first ministerial of its kind on this subject (then called “electronic commerce”) was held in Canada in 1998, and the second one in Korea in 2008; hence Mexico is the third country to have this distinction and the first Latin American country to organise and lead this undertaking. As the use of information and communications technology (ICT) is favourable for productivity across a large number of strategic industries in any economy, we have chosen "Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity” as this year’s theme, three goals that can hardly be achieved without the impetus of digital technology.

Ensuring a secure Internet of Things

The rapid rise of a new generation of connected, intelligent devices—collectively known as the Internet of Things, or IoT—is more than just the latest digital enabler to impact organisations of all sizes. The IoT presents vast opportunities for governments and businesses to improve internal efficiencies, serve their customers or constituents better, and enter new markets or provide new services. Such services will transform the way we work and live every day. As the IoT develops, it is essential that security-by-design be a core feature of the connected device ecosystem.

Robots versus workers

A clash between robots and workers is unlikely. Rather, disruptive technology can make workers more efficient without replacing them, and raise profits, while maintaining or increasing a company’s workforce.

digital, innovation, Internet, OECD, oecd privacy guidelines, privacy
Promoting innovation, protecting privacy

Few issues are of greater concern to Internet users today than privacy protection. Everyone wants the benefits of Internet access, but few want to sacrifice their privacy or face the risk of cyber theft as a consequence. 

OECD Observer crossword June 2016

Do you know the acronym for objects that are connected online  (3 letters)? Another word for "erased data" (5 letters)? Or what Leonardo's nobiliary particle was (2 letters)? Try our latest OECD Observer Crossword, this time with a digital angle.

Tax challenges, disruption and the digital economy

The digital economy is a transformative process, brought about by advances in information and communications technology (ICT) which has made technology cheaper and more powerful, changing business processes and bolstering innovation across all sectors of the economy, including traditional industries. Today, sectors as diverse as retail, media, manufacturing and agriculture are being impacted in some way by the rapid spread of digitalisation. In the broadcasting and media industry, for instance, the expanding role of data through user-generated content and social networking have enabled internet advertising to surpass television as the largest advertising medium.

One Internet

The Internet is now an essential part of our lives and a critical element of the world economy. Internet penetration increased almost sevenfold in the past 15 years, from 6.5% of the world population in 2000 to 43% in 2015.

computer,digital,machine learning,pedro domingos
A mystery in the machine

Algorithms lie at the heart of machine learning, which, in turn lies at the heart of much of modern life–from online shopping to intelligence gathering. But most of us know little about these powerful tools and how they work. Is this wise?

To have and have more: Wealth management and the growth of global inequality

When it comes to global wealth inequality, we know how bad it’s getting, but what do we know about who is responsible? When Oxfam reports that 1% of the world population owns more than the other 99% put together, the question arises: who or what is making the rich so much richer, and the poor so much poorer?

brexit,lse,angel gurría
Brexit shock

If a British referendum on European Union membership scheduled for 23 June led the UK to leave the EU, there would be a severe negative shock to the economy, causing growth to weaken for many years,  an OECD study argues.

Renewable energy: Catalyst for a clean energy transition

World leaders meet at the UN in New York 22 April formally to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. The European Union is already translating the agreement into action, says Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, in this article for the OECD Yearbook 2016.

The digital disruption of productivity

The UK’s tallest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland. Recently, it became one metre taller, standing now at 1 345m rather than 1 344m above sea level. Of course, the mountain did not actually grow. Rather, the team of Ordnance Survey experts who re-measured it for the first time since 1949 were able to do so more accurately because of improvements in technology, and specifically through the use of GPS.

agriculture,thomas vilsack,stephane le foll,food system,agrifood
Towards a productive, sustainable and resilient global food system

The 2016 OECD Agriculture Ministerial meeting on “Better Policies to Achieve a Productive, Sustainable and Resilient Global Food System”, which we are honoured to serve as co-chairs, comes at an opportune moment. 

A bright mind and an outstanding policymaker: A tribute to José Mariano Gago

With José Mariano Gago, the world has lost a brilliant scientist and an outstanding policymaker. He did not just decisively shape the policy landscape in Portugal; his intellectual rigour, charisma and generosity profoundly influenced the search for better policies in many countries. That is why we were so saddened when we learned that Mariano Gago had passed away on 17 April 2015.

oecd,gurria,angel gurria
Agriculture: A new policy paradigm for better lives

Food is a basic requirement of life and fundamental to our well-being. Nevertheless, as humanity becomes more urbanised, agriculture and farming tend to be neglected. This is dangerous. The OECD Agriculture Ministerial meeting taking place on 7-8 April aims precisely at preventing this by helping define a new policy paradigm for a more productive, competitive and sustainable food system for all.

Handewi Purwati Saliem, agriculture,oecd
Roundtable on agriculture

Agriculture faces a challenging future. The world’s population is rising and pressures on natural resources are mounting, while environmental issues such as climate change loom large.

agriculture, drought, flood, OECD, water
Water: It's all or nothing

Major floods and droughts have prevailed in many countries throughout 2015. South Africa saw the emergence of its worst drought in 30 years, Ethiopia is threatened with a major food crisis, and California suffered its fourth consecutive year of drought. Floods caused over 2 000 deaths in India last summer, while England, Paraguay and South Carolina reported unprecedented flood damage. The trouble is, climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of such extreme weather events in the coming years.

A rural trip through time

Imagine travelling through time, not as Stephen Hawking would, through wormholes into a new dimension, but rather just to see how farming might look several decades from now. How policy makers and farmers might appreciate such foresight.

Innovating agriculture: Growing small ideas into game-changers

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is an oft-repeated phrase that is highly relevant to agricultural systems today. Growing global demand for food, fuel and fibre will have to be met by improving agricultural productivity growth, which will be a tall order, given increasing pressures on natural resources, resulting from climate change and competition for land, for instance. Any growth in agriculture will therefore have to be achieved sustainably through more efficient resource use.

oecd,agriculture,agricultural production,food,food security
Agricultural production grows strongly

As agriculture has proven itself able to respond to shifts in demand in the past, it could be argued that food security is less an issue of food supply and more one of affordable access.

Support to agricultural producers trends downwards

Over the past 20 years, support provided to agricultural producers in 49 countries analysed by the OECD has been following a downward trend. 

ireland, blue economy, maritime, aquaculture, oecd
Casting off towards a blue future

Open any atlas, look at any globe, and Ireland appears as a small green island on Europe’s Atlantic rim. In fact, Ireland’s territory is almost the size of Germany, and mostly blue.

Belgium atrocities

Our thoughts and hearts are with everyone in Belgium today.

Japan: Marking the anniversary of a tragedy

Exactly five years ago, on 11 March 2011, a violent earthquake struck eastern Japan. The tsunami that ensued devastated the inland up to 10km and put the Fukushima nuclear power plant at risk, forcing it out of action. The result was a humanitarian and environmental crisis. 

Forging a gender-balanced economy

“I am only a woman!” declares Sybylla Melvyn with deliberate irony, in the Australian classic novel, My Brilliant Career. When Miles Franklin wrote the novel in 1901, aged just 19, she was embarking on her own career path, and though successful, like Sybylla, she encountered many social, economic and cultural hurdles along the way.

ireland, globalisation, david haugh, oecd, economy, recession
Ireland’s economy: Still riding the globalisation wave

The recession in Ireland was long and deep, but has been followed by a marked recovery. Why is the expansion in Ireland so strong?

michael noonan, ireland, economy
Ireland’s economy: A solid recovery

The recovery in the Irish economy is well underway. Determined policy responses to the fiscal, economic and financial sector challenges Ireland faced are now bearing fruit, with Ireland expected to be among the fastest-growing economies in the OECD this year and next. 

joan burton, ireland
Labour market reform: Why skills matter

Ireland’s job market has improved markedly, thanks in no small part to strong policies for new skills to meet evolving demands and engagement with people out of work. 

diaspora, emigrants, ireland, migration, workforce
Ireland's global workforce

The writer James Joyce was unique in many ways, but when he left Ireland in 1904, he was joining a tradition of expatriate Irish writers. Difficulty publishing at home in what was then a conservative country was one reason for his departure: in his 1912 poem, “Gas from a burner”, he referred to Ireland as “This lovely land that always sent Her writers and artists to banishment.” But Joyce also declared that after his death “Dublin” would be found inscribed on his heart. Today the word “Joyce” is in turn inscribed in Ireland’s own heritage.

diaspora, enda kenny, immigration, ireland, migration
Migration: A flexible return ticket

Today, bolstered by steady economic growth and an emerging confidence in Ireland’s future, the government is taking a new tack by fostering a bolder engagement towards emigration and the diaspora. 

economy, ireland, OECD, Save our seafront, dublin airport
The capacity conundrum

A growing economy means increased need for office space, housing and infrastructure. Can Ireland meet that demand? 

michael forbes, oecd, ireland
Ireland’s economy and the OECD: From bricks to brains

Nothing has demonstrated Ireland’s shift to modern economic policies more concretely than our decision to become a founder member of the OECD in 1961. Since then the OECD has been a trusted partner in our economic and social policy evolution.

e-commerce, internet, oecd, privacy, security
Buying into e-commerce

A decade or so ago e-commerce was a buzzword, but today it has become a routine part of life. Or has it? About half of individuals in OECD countries bought products online in 2014, up from 31% in 2007. The increase in online purchases was particularly marked in Belgium, Estonia, France, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland. Today, more than three-quarters of adults order online in Denmark, Norway and the UK. However, only 10% of adults bought online in Chile and Turkey, and less than 5% in Colombia and Mexico. 

Dublin, economy, innovation, investment, ireland, IT, silicon docks
Banking on Silicon Docks
microsoft, innovation, ireland
OECD Observer roundtable: Ireland's innovation challenge

Ireland has bounced back from the crisis to become one of the OECD’s most dynamic economies. A key help has been the continued inflow of capital investment from abroad, allowing the country to bolster its position as a European hub for the likes of IT, finance, pharmaceuticals, engineering, and more. Ireland has been an attractive destination for global high-value investments for decades, yet its own innovation system lags that of other similar-sized OECD countries. Closing the gap would strengthen the country’s long-term outlook, but how can this be done?

ireland, claire keane, oecd, crisis, recovery, jobs, employment
From crisis to recovery: Overcoming scars and social costs

The economic and financial crisis has posed a stern test of many countries, though in Ireland, which enjoyed a boom for over a decade, the challenge was particularly stark. The scars are still there, but so are opportunities. Well-targeted, sensitive social policies can yield positive results. 

angel gurria, oecd, ireland
Sustaining Ireland’s recovery for all

When I launched the OECD’s 2011 Economic Survey of Ireland, the Irish economy was in the depths of a deep recession. Two years ago, the clouds were beginning to clear. Today, I am delighted to see how far and how quickly the country has bounced back.

kpmg, ireland, start-up, ireland, ida, dublin, shaun murphy, kpmg ireland
KPMG: Ireland: Open for investment

"The start-up environment is exceptionally dynamic."

Trinity lights the way forward

"Trinity has produced more entrepreneurs than any other university in Europe."

Interview with Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost and President, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin

students, education, oecd, andreas schleicher, terrorism, extremism, school
Understanding the battle against extremism

Whoever has a hammer sees every problem as a nail. Those in the security business tend to see the answer to radicalism and terrorism in military might, and those in the financial business in cutting flows of money. So it is only natural for educators to view the struggle against radicalism and terrorism as a battle for hearts and minds. But the recent terrorist attacks in Europe have brought home that it is far too simplistic to depict extremists and terrorists as victims of poverty or poor qualifications. More research on the background and biographies of extremists and terrorists is badly needed, but it is clear that these people often do not come from the most impoverished parts of societies. Radicals are also found among young people from middle-class families who have ticked all the boxes when it comes to formal education. And ironically, those terrorists seem to be well equipped with the entrepreneurial, creative, global and collaborative social skills that we often promote as the goal of modern education.

brazil, oecd, migration, ireland
From Goias to Galway

Brazilian Jobert Marinho stands in the doorway of his local gym, where he trains, in Gort, County Galway, November 2014. 

oecd, jobs, economy, work
It's a gig, but is it a job?

Time was when the only people who had gigs were long-haired types who stayed in bed till noon and played in bars till dawn. These days, it seems, everyone’s hopping from one gig to another–drivers, software designers, cleaners. Bye-bye full-time work, hello freedom and flexibility. Well, maybe…

interns, work, jobs, oecd, internship, trainee, salary, education
An intern's world?
innovation, ireland, oecd, it, R&D, productivity
Innovating Ireland

Ireland has well-known firms such as Guinness for beer and beverages, Ryanair for air travel, and Smurfit Kappa for paper and packaging, not to mention dairies, beef and fish. However, for a small country that has turned itself into a thriving pharmaceutical and IT hub, Ireland is not awash with global brands in these sectors. Compare with, say, Finland which has Nokia, or Sweden which has Ericsson. True, there is Airtricity, but that innovative wind energy firm now belongs to an overseas company.

productivity, oecd, economy, labour productivity, work, multi-factor productivity, naec, joshua farley
Productivity conundrum

Since the economic crisis, productivity growth in OECD countries has continued to slow. Labour productivity rose by 3.7% in OECD countries from 2007 to 2013, and even fell in some countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK (see graph). A Bank of France study reported in this magazine in 2014 showed an “impressive slowdown” in developed countries’ productivity growth since the start of the 2000s, and illustrates the ebbs and flows of US, euro area, Japanese, and UK productivity from 1890 to 2012.

ireland, oecd, oecd observer
Ireland's economy: At the cutting edge

For an offprint of this OECD Observer Spotlight, contact observer@oecd.org.

Getting public policies in line with climate goals

Policies that are not aligned with efforts to fight global warming risk hindering the transition to a low-carbon economy, and can worsen climate change. They should be addressed. 

Paris, climate change, oecd, observer, spotlight
Ville Lumière: Paris lights the way on climate

"We want to step out of the vicious circle of an economy which is an increasing drain on resources, and enter another circle… Paris is fully committed to combating climate change and determined to move forward as quickly as possible."  –Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris 

climate change, simon upton, cop21, environment, pollution
Three things you need to know about climate change

Three key points will help world leaders and representatives of business, labour and civil society to strike an effective new deal on climate change at the crucial UN summit on climate change in Paris and accelerate climate action in 2015 and beyond. 

energy, climate change, iea, fatih birol, international energy agency, COP21
The energy sector holds the keys on climate

When the International Energy Agency (IEA) was formed in 1974, concern over climate change was in its infancy. While the greenhouse effect was known it was not widely recognised, and the debate about the long-term effect of CO2 emissions was confined more or less to academia. 

paris, terrorist attacks
OECD condemns terrorist attacks in Paris

On behalf of the OECD, Secretary-General Angel Gurría tonight condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric terrorist attacks perpetrated in Paris on the evening of 13 November. He expressed his most heartfelt condolences and solidarity with France and the French people, the City of Paris and its citizens following these terrible attacks.

climate change, COP21, UNDP
Why are they doing this?!

Don't miss this video from the United Nations Development Program, where two scientists tell us just why they are running and cycling all the way from the poles to Paris. 

T.E.Lawrence, sahara
Eating soup with a knife: Confronting warfare in the Sahara

Insurgency is a cause of underdevelopment in large areas of West Africa, holding back the task of achieving social and economic progress. 

Progress for women and girls in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The UN Sustainable Development Goals could be a real game changer for gender issues, with wins in fraught areas such as reproductive rights. But there will be challenges, and opposing voices, to contend with in the years ahead.

education, pisa, sdg, sustainable development goal
Education post-2015: A currency to invest in

The world is no longer divided between rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly educated ones.

macron, economy, france
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron at the OECD

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron will be at the OECD this afternoon at 2pm (French time) 18 September for a webcast discussion on economic reforms, inequality and the outlook, with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. You can watch the event here http://video.oecd.org 

migration, refugee, migrant
Migration challenge

"European leaders must stand before history in dealing with this humanitarian tragedy. They have the experience and the capacity to respond to this emergency and chart the path for a long-term solution," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría in a statement on a French-German refugee initiative issued Friday 4 September.

sdg, sustainable, development
Sustainable Development Goals: A revolution begins

As negotiations near conclusion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries are honing in on what it will take to implement them. There are currently 17 goals on the table, and by the time the UN summit to launch the goals takes place in September, the much-emphasised “transformative” nature of the goals could gain traction, as could the “revitalised global partnership” called for under Goal 17.

better life index, wellbeing
Where in the world you are most likely to be napping

Where in the world are you most likely to be working too much—or napping? Read the results on Quartz

French education reforms

Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was at the OECD on 10 July to discuss France’s education reforms. She received OECD recommendations on making education more inclusive.

Climate: What’s changed, what hasn’t and what we can do about it

In my first climate change lecture, nearly two years ago, my key message was that meeting the challenge of climate change required us to achieve zero net greenhouse emissions globally by the end of this century. 

Win a trip to Mexico!

Want to win a trip to Mexico? Then enter the Wikiprogress infographic and data visualisation contest and try your luck at winning one of three paid trips to Guadalajara, Mexico to attend the 5th OECD World Forum on the 13-15 October 2015. Anyone can enter, though one of the three prizes will be reserved for people under 26.

climate change
Investing in green energy

A warming planet and a flat world economy have propelled the issue of investment in clean energy to the top of the policy agenda. The question has become all the more crucial in view of the landmark global summit on climate change to be held in Paris in December 2015. 

Investment: The right framework

Investment has been hit hard by the crisis, yet is vital for a sustainable recovery and future well-being. In 2008-14 private investment ran at some 25% below pre-crisis forecasts. From infrastructure and green energy to improving education and health care, all countries depend on investment in physical and human capital.

Africa’s regions offer potential for development policy

What will fuel Africa’s economic growth and development? Will urban centres be the spark? Will agricultural areas drive productivity? The answer is both.

#51 Precious water
Improving Nigerian investment

Since democracy was restored in 1999, Nigeria has engaged in ambitious reforms towards greater market liberalisation and economic openness. By far the most populous country of the continent–with more than 170 million people Nigeria is home to 18% of Africa’s population–it now claims to be the largest
economy in Africa, with an estimated nominal GDP of US$510 billion. Its GDP growth has never been below 5% since 2003, and since 2009, it has become the preferred destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, ahead of South Africa.

Li Keqiang, Angel Gurría
China joins OECD Development Centre, strengthens OECD co-operation

The People’s Republic of China joined the OECD Development Centre on 1 July, in a move described as an important step in support of China’s transformation and transition to a new growth model.

external financial flows Africa, development
Shifting landscape in African development finance

The financial landscape has changed considerably in Africa since 2000. Private external flows in the form of investment and remittances now drive growth in external finance, according to the African Economic Outlook 2015. Foreign investments are expected to reach US$73.5 billion in 2015, underpinned by increasing greenfield investment from China, India and South Africa.

financing development, development
Revenue statistics

Meeting budgetary targets is hard enough in any country, but for developing countries struggling to lift their economies to a higher stage of development, it can seem a near impossible task. Nevertheless, governments and local authorities everywhere in the world have a duty to provide proper public and social services for their citizens, and infrastructure that will attract investors. Tax revenues are therefore vital for meeting public demands as well as development aspirations. As a general rule of thumb, a stable and predictable budgetary framework helps foster growth and, in the longer term, reduces dependence on foreign financing, be it public or private. Taxation is a bedrock of “good government” and a driving force for wider reforms. However, devising the right framework and approach to tax is not easy, from getting the tax levels right to ensuring skills are in place to devise and implement them.

Aid, development
Why modernise official development assistance?

“To eradicate poverty we need to direct more development assistance and concessional loans to the poorest nations and mobilise much more private finances for development.” Official development assistance (ODA) reached an all-time high of $135.2 billion in 2014. Even so, not all developing countries rely on ODA to the same extent, and to some of them it may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to other international financial flows. However, for the least developed countries, such assistance represents over 70% of available external finance and more than one-third of their total public revenue and expenditure. This highlights the importance of the target set by the United Nations in 1970: for donors to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income as ODA.

Greece, euro referendum, grexit
Greece and Europe: Worries about the future

The talks have stalled between Greece and its international creditors, causing uncertainty both in Greece and Europe, and indeed around the world. All eyes are now on the referendum which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for next Sunday. 

Why quotas work for gender equality

Gender inequality is one of the most primitive and oldest forms of inequality. Sadly, it is still very much a reality in most parts of the world. In many countries women do not have equal access to education, healthcare, safety, work or political decision-making.

Naomi Klein, This changes everything, author, activist, climate change activist
From frenetic expansion to steady states

Challenging free trade orthodoxy is a heavy lift in our political culture; anything that has been in place for that long takes on an air of inevitability. But, critical as these shifts are, they are not enough to lower emissions in time. To do that, we will need to confront a logic even more entrenched than free trade—the logic of indiscriminate economic growth. This idea has understandably inspired a good deal of resistance among more liberal climate watchers, who insist that the task is merely to paint our current growth-based economic model green, so it's worth examining the numbers behind the claim. 

Richard Branson, B Team & OECD Forum 2015

The OECD Forum is pleased to feature a video from Richard Branson, Founder of the B Team, in light of the strong synergies between the Forum agenda “Investing in the Future: People, Planet, Prosperity” and the B Team’s mission to develop a concerted positive action plan ensuring that business becomes a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.

Angel Gurría re-elected Secretary-General of the OECD

Angel Gurría was re-elected Secretary-General of the OECD, Tuesday 26 May, with a renewed mandate for six years.  

The Better Life Index has just been released in Italian

The BLI is an interactive online platform that offers important insights into how people perceive their own well-being and quality of life. 

Final count

As the dust settles after the UK general election, let’s remember that voting at the ballot box is not an innate right enjoyed by everyone. Indeed, although the number of democracies across the world has spiked from 48 in 1989 up to 95 today, billions of people are still living in non-democratic, authoritarian regimes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rallies OECD support

“2015 is the most crucial year for humanity”. This is how UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasised the need for the UN and the OECD to push for concrete results during the decisive upcoming conferences on development finance, sustainable development goals and climate change. In a keynote speech at the OECD headquarters on 28 April 2015, Ban Ki-moon’s urged the organisation to continue in its endeavour in favour of economic and social stability which bolsters the UN’s mission of achieving worldwide peace. 

Africa vs profit shifting

African countries heavily rely on the income generated by multinationals’ taxation, which can represent as much as 88% of a country’s tax base. Little wonder Africa is involved in the OECD’s initiative to address tax base erosion caused by profit shifting, known as BEPS. The need to strengthen inter-governmental co-operation to curb cross-border tax losses was reaffirmed at the Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) in Sandton on 21 April 2015.

COP21: Towards a universal agreement on climate change

The decisive UN climate summit Paris 2015 is approaching. Climate change risks disrupting our economies, our ecosystems and our lives. Everyone is concerned. World leaders and stakeholders meeting at the 21st UN climate summit (called COP21) in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015 must forge a new universal agreement to cut emissions and keep global warming at bay.

The opportunities and challenges of greener growth: Getting the whole policy package right

Climate change and, more generally, environmental damage have quantifiable economic and health costs, which weigh on long-term growth and well-being. If left unchecked, climate change is projected to decrease global GDP by 0.7 to 2.5 % by 2060. At the same time, the costs to society of air pollution already appear substantial–equivalent to some 4% of GDP across OECD countries and even higher in some rapidly developing economies. Yet global action in the environmental domain proceeds only slowly–too slowly to be up to the challenges we face. Why is it so?

Water governance at stake

Investing in infrastructure for water is important, but how we govern water is more critical than ever. 

Nurturing our water empire

Water holds huge potential for economic, social and individual betterment. There are challenges to confront, but also opportunities. With the right approach, water could be a harbinger of progress. 

Sharp drop

It is widely accepted nowadays that climate change affects water supply. After all, it plays havoc with rainy seasons, melts glaciers, and causes drought in normally humid regions. 

Ripples from the water-energy-food nexus
Water: Unclogging the finance

How to improve water systems is one challenge; financing them is another. Public authorities in most countries play the main role in implementing and funding water infrastructure, but it is a model that is under increasing pressure, with government budgets stretched and banks still prudent about issuing credit. 

Israel: Innovations overcoming water scarcity

"Israel’s successes arise from the continuous need for and support of innovative methods, technologies, holistic water resource management and strategies for sustainably providing for the nation’s water needs."

New publications: Focus on water

All publications available at www.oecd.org/bookshop and www.OECD-iLibrary.org

Water balance

In September 2013 the Kenyan government and the United Nations announced the discovery of huge underground reserves of water in northern Kenya, enough water to last the entire nation for 70 years. The Lotikipi Basin Aquifer and Lodwar Basin Aquifer were located by satellite in drought-afflicted Turkana County, where water scarcity and competition for grazing land has led to deadly cattle raids between communities. 

Deflation watch

In October 2014 we wrote that deflationary risks had risen in the euro area and warned of the dangers deflation poses for the economy. Where do we stand now? Has deflation been avoided or has it started to bite? 

A closer look at gender gaps in education and beyond

"In a world in search of growth, women will help find it, if they face a level playing field instead of an insidious conspiracy."

Digital learning in schools

Schools are places of learning and producing the innovators of tomorrow. But did you know that in most OECD countries, schools lag behind workplaces and homes in the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) tools?

Environmental policies don’t have to hurt productivity

As environmental pressures continue to rise, governments, just as businesses, have not been sitting back. If anything, the stringency of policy measures in the OECD area has been increasing on the whole, not least to combat pollution and climate change. But what about the effects of these actions on productivity?

Execution of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto: Statement

"We feel the loss of Kenji particularly closely as his wife had worked at the OECD from 2008 to 2012. Our thoughts, sympathy and prayers are with her and their daughters in this difficult moment."

Thomas Piketty: "Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

Star economist Thomas Piketty presented the English version of his global bestseller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century", at the OECD on 3 July 2014 as part of The Coffees of the Secretary-General series. Read the complete transcript of Mr Piketty's presentation below.

A sharing economy

Thanks to smart online and phone technologies, dynamic new business platforms that are altering the parametres in property, transport and other service-driven markets are fast emerging.

Companies such as Airbnb (helping you to rent or let out a room) and TaskRabbit (helping you pack boxes, walk the dog and other personal chores) have hit the headlines not just for their new business models, but their disruptive effects on established markets and services. Proponents say this “sharing” economy creates more choice and control for customers, while critics say it unfairly undermines competition.

Policymakers are now taking a closer look at how fair the sharing economy really is and to see if any rules need to be rewritten.

We asked the founder of France’s BlaBlaCar, Frederic Mazzella, how his ride-sharing company has evolved to become a prime example of the sharing economy.


Jean Tirole: An appreciation

“What an amazing week. … I’m doing my best to come back down to earth and get back to work.” And so it was, in less than 140 characters that Frenchman Jean Tirole (@JeanTirole) tweeted his excitement after learning that he had won the 2014 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

A measure of recovery

The GDP growth story over the past year or two has been one of diverging trends, with relative buoyancy returning to economies such as Sweden, the UK and the US, but with the euro area still looking off colour. How have the crisis and subsequent economic growth patterns affected the actual size of each country’s economy compared to 2007? Have OECD countries recovered their pre-crisis levels of GDP? 

Philanthropy, digital payments and financial inclusion

Access to financing can contribute to inclusive social and economic development. How might digital transactions help? Here’s how.

Over 1.1 billion tourists traveled abroad in 2014

In a time of economic turmoil, global tourism is still faring well: over 1.1 billion tourists traveled abroad in 2014, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This is almost 5% more than in 2013, the organisation said in a press release.

Building the conditions of a safer world

The terrorist murders of 17 people in Paris on 7, 8 and 9 January were not only a human tragedy. They were a direct attack on the values of living together in the free, law-abiding, pluralistic societies we hold dear. 

Ireland: On the path to recovery

After three years of sacrifice, hard work and difficult reform, Ireland has fought its way out of the depths of the financial crisis to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and one of the best countries in the world in which to do business.

Charlie Hebdo

Following the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the OECD Secretary-General has expressed his condolences and support, on his behalf and that of the Organisation’s staff, to President Hollande and the French authorities. He also indicated that the OECD deplores this action, which is fundamentally opposed to the values we hold dear.

World economy: Stronger policy response needed, says OECD chief economist

The world economy remains stuck in low gear, and a "stronger policy response" is needed, particularly to boost demand in the euro area, OECD Chief Economist Catherine L. Mann said today, 25 November.

An artist in a rising sun: Yuko Sakurai

Yuko Sakurai is one of a new “global” generation of talented Japanese painters. Born in Tsuyama in 1970, Ms Sakurai has lived in North America and Europe, and is now based in Paris, France. Her warm, rich, virtually tactile paintings have won acclaim in several major cities, and were exhibited at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2011. Ms Sakurai personifies a new, cool Japan and its enriching influence in an evolving global village. She describes some of her thoughts in this interview.

Japan’s radiant architecture

Japan’s development and influence have long been reflected in its architecture, and that influence is set to continue.

Joe Hockey, Australia, OECD, Angel Gurría, Gurria
Why reform is the right option

“Life is full of alternatives but no choice.” G20 leaders at the summit in Brisbane, Australia, in November should reflect on these words by Australian writer Patrick White, a Nobel Laureate, as they prepare their economic strategies for the years to come.

For a stronger investment treaties system

International investment treaties are in the spotlight as recent articles in the Financial Times and The Economist show. An ad hoc investment arbitration tribunal recently awarded $50 billion (€40 billion) to shareholders in Yukos. EU consultations on proposed investment provisions in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States generated a record 150,000 comments. There is intense public interest in treaty challenges to the regulation of tobacco marketing, nuclear power and health care.

Teaching class

What teachers–and the rest of us–can learn from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS).

Mobilising towards a new era of innovation

Some 50 years ago, Japan entered into the period of post-recovery after the Second World War, while consolidating its path for economic growth and making a comeback on the international scene. Japan’s accession to the OECD was symbolic in that respect. Another symbol was the Tokyo Olympic Games, which triggered a transformation of Japan’s international image, thanks to improvements in its physical infrastructure, transportation systems and services. A new expressway network had been built across Tokyo, the new Shinkansen high-speed “bullet” train now relayed Tokyo and Osaka in four hours, and television began broadcasting in colour.

Corporate leaders: Your supply chain is your responsibility

On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a commercial building and garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, claiming some 1,130 lives and injuring thousands more. The shock was felt globally. How could this happen? Who was to blame? If the building was not fit for purpose, why was it being used? How could such a disaster be prevented from happening again?

Print is not dead yet

One of the earliest citations of the phrase “print is dead” comes from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, but almost 30 years later, print is certainly not dead. Print publishing still drives on average 80% of revenues and close to 100% of the profits for general trade publishers. But among reference and science, technical and medical (STM) publishers, digital publishing was embraced quickly and openly at the expense of print. 

Corporate Social Responsibility: Emerging good practice for a new era

Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.  

Responsible business conduct: Which way forward?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

“Cool Japan”: An enterprising new model?

Japan may be on the cusp of a fresh wave of “cool entrepreneurship” that could turn the country’s creative industries into a new source of growth. 

An impressive comeback

While today Japan is one of the world’s largest and most advanced economies, a member of the G7 and the most developed country in Asia, in 1964 the picture was quite different.

Growth, trust, sustainability

Promoting inclusive growth; rebuilding trust; fostering sustainability: these were the three themes that drove discussions at the annual OECD Forum in May 2013. Since 2000 the OECD Forum has become a major stakeholder summit and is the traditional curtain raiser of OECD Week, being held in conjunction with the Ministerial Council Meeting. The public event provides an opportunity for people from all countries and backgrounds–business, labour, civil society, students and academics, as well as ministers–to debate and understand global challenges and to feed their views into the ministerial discussions. This year some 1,520 participants from 63 countries engaged with 176 speakers to discuss a range of pressing global issues, while millions more were able to participate online.

Cleaner Dutch energy: A tax success?

Since 1997 the Netherlands has had a tax allowance scheme aimed at promoting investments in energy-saving technologies and sustainable energy production. This so-called Energy Investment Tax Allowance, or EIA to the Dutch, reduces up-front investment costs for firms investing in the newest energy-saving and sustainable energy technologies. The basic design of the EIA has remained the same over the past 15 years: firms investing in technologies listed in an annually updated “energy list” may deduct some of the investment costs from their taxable profits.

Price the carbon

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a long-lived gas. Almost half of the CO2 emitted in 2013 will still be in the atmosphere a century from now. This means that its concentration, and warming potential, increases over time, unless the rate of accumulation can be cut to zero. This is the goal that the OECD is urging all countries to achieve: zero net emissions by mid-century. To accomplish this, the explicit price of carbon dioxide emissions should be aligned more closely with their true cost, while avoiding expensive policy options that could be replaced by more cost-effective ones. 

Stormy waters

Climate change is, to a large extent, water change. Water is the predominant channel through which the impact of climate change will be felt. More torrential rains, floods and droughts can be expected in many parts of the world. Not only that–climate change is reshaping the future for freshwater on the planet. 

Development aid rises, but not for sub-Saharan Africa

Development aid rose by 6.1% in real terms in 2013 to reach the highest level ever recorded, despite continued pressure on budgets in OECD countries since the global economic crisis. Donors provided a total of US$134.8 billion in net official development assistance (ODA), marking a rebound after two years of falling volumes. Aid to developing countries had grown steadily in the decade to 2010, but fell in 2011-12 as austerity hit several government aid budgets.

Poverty gaps

Will this be Asia’s century? When it comes to growth and social progress, there have been heady leaps forward, with every prospect of continued dynamism over the next five years. But according to the Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013, if there is a blot on the map, it is in tackling poverty and the wide development gaps that bedevil the continent.

Banking reform: A New Year’s resolution

When G20 regulators met in Pittsburgh in September 2009–it had taken them a full year to react to the collapse of Lehman Brothers–they set out an ambitious financial reform agenda. No stone would be left unturned, no shadow in the banking system unexposed. Action would cover all financial market segments and players, and lessons would be learned from the crisis to ensure that the 2008 debacle never happened again.

Governing through crises

Major events, like the Great East Japan earthquake or indeed the euro crisis, can have important ripple effects that spread well beyond the areas immediately concerned. More recently, the budget crisis that resulted in the shutdown of large parts of the US government and public services has raised the spectre of a default, the first in the country’s history.

Who’s smiling now?

Case studies of specific products, particularly in the electronics industry, show that value creation along a global value chain tends to be unevenly distributed among activities. The highest value creation is found in upstream activities, such as the development of a new concept, research and development (R&D) and the manufacturing of key components. But it is also found in downstream activities, such as marketing, branding and customer service.

Tourism’s changing profile

Tourism has shown remarkable staying power in recent years. Despite political instability, wars, natural disasters and a global financial crisis, the industry keeps getting up for another round. Japan is good example. After the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, the number of visitors to the country plunged. But in 2013 more than 9 million tourists visited the country, a record high.