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Science and AI: Don’t forget the human factor…

Ever heard of “magic-angle” graphene? This is a next generation material and newly-found superconductor that could revolutionise energy efficiency, and much more. It could help us address climate change. AI could play a key role in this. But real scientists are needed too… 

OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion

Are we ready for the future of work? How can we forge a new societal contract? What must be done to strengthen international co-operation and bolster trust? These are just some of the key issues up for debate at the 20th anniversary OECD Forum 2019, 20-21 May. Join us and let's build the future together.

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Notre Dame de Paris: The wounded soul

The fire at Notre Dame has struck at the soul of Paris, at the spirit and memory of Christianity and of the world itself.

Improving flood risk management: A proposal for Louisiana

Flood management in coastal areas is becoming a major challenge of our times, not least because of climate change. With floods turning into a structural problem for many littoral communities, there is an urgent need to build flood resilience in vulnerable areas. This study, prepared as part of the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) initiative, shows a way forward.

Regional development: Why places matter for better policies

OECD countries are at a critical juncture, as they face deep and often widening inequalities between people and places. Responding to the concerns of communities that feel left behind is a political priority. Policymakers need to focus their efforts more sharply on the places where people live ensuring a more even distribution of services and opportunities. As the OECD Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC) celebrates its 20-year anniversary, its clear voice is needed more than ever.

Five facts about regional inequalities and what to do about them

Popular unrest, street protests and calls for a return to protectionism: today’s headlines make it crystal clear that too many people feel left behind or simply left out. The economic and social crisis didn’t help, and and these divides are visible in our regions. We should have seen it coming, that by concentrating too much on national averages, the needs of too many communities would be overlooked. Our regional blindspots and insufficient place-based efforts are showing.  No wonder people’s patience has run out. But a closer look at these regional divides shows that by reinvigorating regional development policies in strategic ways, particularly in our age of digital transformation, today’s geographical disadvantages could be turned into tomorrow’s opportunities.

OECD Observer Roundtable on Finland

To mark Finland’s 50th anniversary as a member of the OECD, we have invited a range of representatives to answer the following question: What Finnish achievement would you most celebrate from the last 50 years, and what would you see as the main policy challenge for the next 50?

Experimental Finland

Most people spend their evenings kicking back with a book or whatever’s on Netflix. In Finland, they’re teaching themselves artificial intelligence (AI). In the summer of 2017, computer scientist Teemu Roos heard that the government was looking for ways to teach ordinary people the basics of artificial intelligence. It would be a continuing education initiative­—not necessarily to train people to become machine-learning engineers, but to understand how neural networks work and grasp how AI is changing the way we do things. 

The last (plastic) straw?

“I just want to say one word to you. Are you listening? Plastics.” This infamous advice, delivered to Ben, played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film, The Graduate, foresaw a great career in plastics. 

Finland leads the climate charge in the Arctic Council

If you think the ice looks a little greyer in the Arctic, your eyes are not deceiving you. A five-year study by international researchers has found that diesel-engine vehicles, coal-burning factories and other such fossil-fuelled activities spew out soot, which circles around in the cold air before landing on the snow, turning it from white to sometimes black.

Video: Happy 50th anniversary, Finland at the OECD!

In 1969, Finland became an official member of the OECD. Since then, this Nordic nation has transformed into an innovative, knowledge-based society. And set an example for OECD countries, and the world, with its educational system, IT prowess, and inclusive, egalitarian outlook.

Going digital: Back to the future

Two decades ago the OECD held its first international ministerial meeting on the digital economy. A lot has changed since then, but some old challenges persist while new ones have emerged. Food for thought as we embark on the next 20 years and prepare for the transformative effects of the digital economy.

Housing first: How Finland is ending homelessness

It was seven years ago when Arvo (not his real name) first walked into this building. Back then, it was a hostel for homeless men run by the Salvation Army and had a certain reputation. Arvo can still remember opening the door to his dormitory. There were three men sitting on their beds, their faces sullen and melancholy. This would be his new home for a while.

When the going gets easier

Digitalisation, climate change and urbanisation are changing our lives and forcing us to find new ways to move people and goods. We must cut down on carbon emissions, and make traffic safer and more efficient than before. Digital tools will help us with this. After all, small, wallet-sized devices now enable near-instant data transfer and internet connections all over the world. Mobile phone technology provides us with services we could not even have dreamt of a few years ago.

Why Finland’s running circles around us

What do toothpaste and ice-cream have to do with a circular economy? If you live in Finland, quite a lot. CP Kelco, a multinational company with facilities in Äänekoski, Finland, recycles waste pulp from the city’s pulp and paper mill into carboxymethyl cellulose, a natural polymer used to thicken ice-cream and toothpaste.

The promises of digital transformation

The digital transformation is not new, but the pace of change has quickened, with our hyperconnected societies generating huge volumes of data of all kinds.

Digital planet: How smart technologies can help us solve our climate and infrastructure challenges

Back in the 1960s, when my dad wanted to make an international call for work, he had to order it 24 hours in advance. Today, he uses WhatsApp to make toll-free calls from anywhere, anytime, in just a couple of clicks.

Where are all the women in tech?

For proof that the tech industry is not particularly welcoming to women, one need look no further than Google, where women account for just 31% of headcount, falling to a mere 20% in pure tech roles. They are also paid less than their male counterparts, according to a class action lawsuit filed in 2017 by three former employees on behalf of “all women employed by Google in California” for discrimination and unequal pay for equal work. Which did nothing to stop another former employee, who had been laid off after circulating a sexist memo, lodging his own complaint against the Internet giant for “ostracising” conservative white men.

On International Women's Day, OECD’s Gabriela Ramos says, “Yes, girls can.”

At age 15, 5% of boys in OECD countries want to work in information technology. And girls? 0.5%. With society digitalising fast and the current gender gap in science/technology/engineering/maths (STEM) widening, the future still looks to be a “man’s, man’s, man’s world”. But Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20, is betting against James Brown. She urges girls to set their ambitions high and calls on policymakers to break down the policy barriers that are holding women back.

AI: Getting the plumbing right

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sometimes thought of as something esoteric, a shiny idea that may become real at some distant point in the future. But the reality is that although AI is developing globally at different rates, AI is already being integrated rapidly into the internal workings of governments, business, civil society, and more.

No more “9 to 5”

“Workin' 9 to 5; What a way to make a living”, Dolly Parton sang in her classic hit. The year was 1980, and Parton’s character in the eponymous film, 9 to 5, already pioneered numerous policies of the new world of work to come, such as flexible work hours and a job-sharing programme. Some of these changes have since become widespread in certain countries and industries. And they affect social protection policies, too, as the OECD report The Future of Social Protection: What Works for Non-standard Workers? shows.

Cool generation

Climate change appears to be gathering pace, with the four years since 2015 being the hottest on record. Of course, 2015 was also the year the Paris Climate Agreement was signed by 195 countries, with the goal of holding the rise in the global average temperature to well within a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels over the long term. But that goal is in peril, which means efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions must be stepped up.

Fighting corruption one YouTube video at a time

Some young people are walking down a busy street. A man with a video camera stops them and asks some questions about what they like best about their country. They say they like the food, the beach, and a few other things. Then the man asks what they don’t like about their country. The conversation soon turns to corruption. Want to get your driving licence? “Bribing’s the only way to pass the test.” Want to get your student papers without having to wait forever? “Throw in an extra €10.”

Digitalisation: “The global tax rules are changing”–Pascal Saint-Amans, OECD tax chief

Everybody agrees that tech giants and all other businesses should pay their fair share of taxes where they create value. But is a digital tax the way to go? OECD tax chief Pascal Saint-Amans says no. The OECD has secured an agreement among 127 countries and jurisdictions to spearhead talks on changing the rules of the taxation game: shifting more taxing rights to market jurisdictions where goods and services—digital or not—are being consumed…away from the countries where multinational companies are headquartered. What’s at stake? Nothing short of changing fundamental tax rules to address the 21st century’s globalised and digitalising economy.

Are digital technologies the new Holy Grail?

Digital innovations are everywhere, in our pockets, cars and homes. However, while digital technologies seem to offer great potential to enhance firm productivity, productivity growth has slowed sharply in most OECD countries over the past two decades. Read more on the OECD Ecoscope blog.

Are platform workers really their own boss?

Smart communications technology has enabled people to hire themselves out as independently contracting workers in everything from taxi drives to video producers and gardeners. But what is the status of these workers, and what are the challenges of the so-called gig economy?

The funding crowd

“Every crowd has a silver lining,” said P.T. Barnum, America’s “greatest showman”. For businesses, Barnum’s play on words is especially true: crowds are becoming something of a motherlode of funding for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With bank lending declining, smaller businesses are looking for alternative ways of financing. Thanks to the world wide web, they can now solicit funds not just from banks and professional investors, but from virtually anyone with internet access. This approach can take different forms. Besides crowdfunding (where many individual contributions–usually sourced online–make up the funding), examples include online invoice financing (where SMEs, for instance, can borrow online against unpaid invoices) and peer-to-peer lending activities (online services that match lenders with SME borrowers). Together, these funding opportunities constitute the online alternative finance market. Read the full article here.

The dark side of the digital economy: Bad things come in small packages

In a small town just outside Montreal, Jake [not his real name] struggles with drug addiction. His dependence on numerous substances has brought him in and out of hospital and rehabilitation programmes many times. What is striking about Jake’s addiction is how he acquires the drugs: not from a neighbourhood drug dealer, but through the post and courier companies.  “It’s remarkably easy business,” he says. “Just like buying common, everyday items on the surface–as opposed to dark–web. Only there are a few extra steps. After you provide your false personal and delivery information and whatever sum of money is agreed upon, your package arrives at the designated address disguised as something else in order to get through the postal service.” Read the full article here.

Tackle corruption to protect wildlife

Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most profitable forms of illicit trade worldwide, a multibillion-dollar international industry that has grown in sophistication, and volume. Estimates value the trade at somewhere between US$7–23 billion annually, making it a lucrative part of a wider environmental crime industry worth over US$175 billion.

A cut above: A guide to improving due diligence in garments and footwear supply chains

Supply chain management is a tough challenge for global companies. A new OECD guidance can help them get it right.

No longer burning down the house

In the early 1600s in North America, colonists ruined by a bad crop would often move on to new territory. In order to save on costs, they would burn down their homes to collect the nails, which would be used to build their next house. The image is one of restlessness and ingenuity, and mobility, contributing to a myth that many people there still cherish.

OECD Observer Roundtable on culture and local development

As part of an OECD Obsever Roundtable we invited a range of representatives, speakers of the OECD Conference on Culture and Local Development (Venice, Italy, 6-7 December 2018), to answer the following question: What government policies would you encourage most to ensure that cultural initiatives can promote economic development, social inclusion and well-being in our cities and regions?

Data vs deforestation: A breakthrough in supply-chain transparency

We are eating our way through tropical forests. Whether it’s a cappuccino for breakfast, a burger for lunch or a chocolate bar as an after-dinner treat, the things we consume in OECD countries are often linked to deforestation in the tropics, where trees are falling at alarming rates.

Our resilience needs to take root and blossom

In the garden of the OECD headquarters in Paris, a cherry tree was planted in the autumn of 2014 by a group of Japanese high school students, who had suffered the earthquake in Fukushima in March 2011. 

Africa: A continent of opportunity

I am delighted to open the 18th International Economic Forum on Africa. What we will be focusing on is precisely how we can design the policies which will lead to inclusion and ensure that everyone–families, farmers and businesses–reaps the benefits of Africa’s integration.

Infrastructure: We must find alternatives to state funding

On 16 October 2018, the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced the signing of an Inga 3 project exclusive development agreement with two consortia (Chinese and Spanish). This is a milestone for Africa. After eight years of studies and discussions, this hydroelectric dam project on the Congo River will finally enter its operational phase.

It’s time to foster Africa’s science revolution

Accelerating the knowledge-led development of Africa through science driven policy and investments is important for boosting long-term growth and well-being.

Going up?

“All human beings are born equal. But on the following day, they no longer are,” said French author Jean Renard in 1907. This is because sticky floors and ceilings–or rags to rags and riches to riches–define the bottom and top income distributions. Today, it takes four to five generations, on average, for children from the poorest 10% of the population to reach median income levels. Meanwhile, about 50% of children of wealthy parents will themselves remain rich in countries like Germany and the US.

OECD Observer Roundtable on regional integration in Africa

What policy initiatives would you prioritise to promote regional integration in Africa and what international co-operation initiatives would you encourage most?

What hope for peace in Mali?

“I want to reconcile hearts and minds…so that all the different people can play their part harmoniously in the national symphony.” So said Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on being elected president of Mali in 2013, against a backdrop of violence and crisis. Now, five years later, with instability still an issue, can the recently re-elected President Keïta bring about the changes needed for a lasting peace?

Africa’s school progress

Higher investment in human development in Africa is paying off. One reflection of this is the share of both girls and boys completing their secondary education,which has increased between 2005 and 2014.

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Making Africa healthy

Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the worst health status in the world, according to the authors of Making Medicines in Africa. As policymakers turn their focus to healthcare, in part spurred on by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the authors argue that industrial development in pharmaceuticals and the capabilities it generates can play a crucial role in addressing the healthcare needs of the continent. Through a collection of case studies on industrial policies, Making Medicines in Africa shows the successes and pitfalls along the way. 

Geography matters: a territorial approach to food and nutrition security

Every year, millions of people in the Sahel and West Africa face hunger as levels of food and nutrition insecurity become critical. It is a familiar problem that tends to be dealt with within a top-down, national framework. Yet purely national analyses, rather than territorial and local ones, can mask pockets of poverty, hunger and malnutrition concentrated in specific geographic areas. If we look, for example, at stunting, a chronic state of undernutrition among children under the age of five, the national average in Benin is 34%. 

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Africa: Towards comprehensive revenue data

The African Union has made harmonising economic statistics across Africa a key objective of Agenda 2063, which is its 50-year pan-African economic development strategy. Better data is also relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, of which goal 17 aims to improve domestic tax revenues and collection to strengthen resources. 

Yanis Varoufakis on austerity and the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM): OECD Podcast

One country that symbolised the crisis of the last 10 years was Greece. Its insolvency embarked the country on a long regime of bail-outs and austerity. This August, Greece officially emerged from the crisis, with the OECD forecasting GDP growth again. So, did the austerity work? The former Greek finance minister and co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM) remains unconvinced. Mr Varoufakis was a guest at the OECD’s “10 years after the crisis” conference.

Dealing with dementia

In her Oscar-winning performance as the main character of the 2014 film Still Alice, actress Julianne Moore played a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease, a rare form of dementia. It was a reminder of the struggle that is affecting the everyday life of a growing number of people worldwide.

Like adult, like child

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them,” said James Baldwin. Indeed, young children pick up most of their social and educational cues from their adult caretakers, as a recent–and unprecedented–OECD meta-analysis of 44 early childcare studies found. Collectively, these studies confirm that the quality of interactions between care staff and children is the key driver of children’s development in early childcare programmes.

Better security, better jobs

Korea has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. Of developed economies, it also spends among the least money on employment insurance programs. On the outset, this makes a lot of sense. If you don’t have unemployment, why shell out on extensive unemployment benefit programmes?

OECD Podcasts

How does the OECD help shape better policies for better lives? In just 15 minutes, our podcasts offer our listeners insightful discussions and thought-provoking debate with OECD experts and guests on the economic, social, environmental, governance and technological challenges of our time.*

Cover story

These covers of the OECD Observer magazine, which followed the crisis as it unfolded, capture the story over 10 years, including the damage it wreaked on people and the exploration of new models, promising better policies for better lives. They offer a handy snapshot to mark the 10th anniversary of the fall of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008 and the onslaught of what has been widely described as the worst crisis of our lifetimes. 

Bubbles in our future? Certainly!

Have we learned the lessons of the 2008 crisis? Could a new bubble form and burst? This chapter from Donald Johnston’s 2017 book, Missing the Tide: Global Governments in Retreat, provides food for thought.

Bringing many minds to challenges of the crisis:
10 years, 10 stories

The OECD is not only giving advice, but also listening. Over the past decade, the OECD has invited many experts to present their analyses of the crisis. Read their stories here.

OECD on the crisis and after: 10 years, 10 stories

It’s been a decade since the financial crisis changed our world, forever. What did the OECD say at the time? What has the organisation been saying since?

Simpler, clearer, faster, easier: Lower trade costs by cutting red tape

Several years ago at an informal gathering, a colleague of mine asked a senior representative of a major tractor manufacturer why she valued a particular OECD testing standard so much. Her response cut to the point: “Heck, your OECD standard stamped on our tractors gets our product through customs faster, and saves us weeks and dollars.”

Sveikiname Lietuvą!

Sveikiname Lietuvąwelcome to the OECD, Lithuania! The Baltic country became the 36th member of the organisation on 5 July 2018, just one day before its Statehood Day, which commemorates the coronation of the first Lithuanian king, Mindaugas, in 1253. Lithuania is the third Baltic Republic to come on board, alongside Estonia (2010) and Latvia (2016). The country, which is also member of the EU, NATO and several other multilateral organisations, has a population of 3.1 million, uses the euro as currency and has one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD area–its GDP grew by 3.8% in 2017, above the OECD average of 2.6%.

World Cups and Olympic Games: How to stop three weeks of fete from turning into 30 years of debt

The 2018 football World Cup has kicked off in Russia, and people around the globe are by now glued to their radios, televisions, and laptops, living each save, each goal, every triumph, every loss. Excitement reigns, but at the same time, some are also turning their thoughts to the future, to 2022 and beyond. Organising and hosting an event on the scale of the World Cup is a massive undertaking, as FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, the OECD, and even the voters of the Swiss canton of Valais, know well.

Time to rethink plastic recycling

Less than a fifth of plastic waste is recycled, with the rest being landfilled, burned or polluting our environment. Sorting and processing plastic waste is expensive, and some plastics cannot be recycled because of the hazardous chemicals used to make them. What are the solutions? Watch our video:

Privacy and your digital future

“We care about your data privacy and security. With this in mind, we’re updating our privacy policy by 25 May 2018 in compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Click to learn more.”

Tackling corruption through taxation: The power of co-operation

Why is it so important–and urgent–to strengthen co-operation between tax and anti-corruption authorities? 

Bioeconomy 101: Making rubber tyres from dandelions

Moving beyond a petroleum-based economy is not just about choosing alternative sources of energy. It is about rethinking almost everything around us. The fleece you’re wearing, for example, is made from the same oil-based chemical as antifreeze or engine coolant. This is where green chemistry comes in. Advances in biotechnology are allowing us to manufacture fabrics, plastics, fuels and chemicals from bio-based resources using renewable resources.

Corruption on show

One of the most popular Netflix series in Brazil right now is The Mechanism. Loosely based on real events, the show is about an ongoing investigation of a corruption scheme involving high-ranking Brazilian politicians and companies. No wonder it’s so successful: 79% of the population in Latin American and Caribbean countries think their government is corrupt.

The cost of catastrophe: Why putting a price-tag on disaster is our best protection

In June 2015, a small village in the Austrian Alps was buried under a massive landslide after days of intense rain. Thanks to accurate weather forecasts and early warning systems, no one was hurt in the landslide but it caused considerable damage to the local economy and people’s livelihoods. 

Can women win on the obstacle course of business finance?

About a decade ago, three academics silently sat in on and recorded 36 hours of closed-room discussion among a group of Swedish governmental venture capitalists made up of two women and five men. The venture capitalists (VC) were going over pitches made by 125 people to obtain financing for their businesses of which 99 were men and 26 women.

Water and climate: From risk management to investment opportunity

In September 2017, the United Nations (UN) adopted a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water. For years water had been under-valued, under-priced and too often taken for granted, so Goal 6 on water and sanitation was a momentous recognition of water’s crucial policy importance. Though just one of 17 SDGs, this goal also sits at the heart of many of them: water is essential for food security, health, cities, sustainable consumption and production, and terrestrial ecosystems. 

Creative multilateralism: Stronger collaboration for all

The international system stands at a critical juncture, facing slow global economic growth, rising inequalities and challenges to the rules-based global order that has underpinned decades of peace and prosperity. Many governments are working to recalibrate their global engagement and do what they can to safeguard an open, progressive world.*

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 2017. 

OECD Observer Roundtable on small and medium-sized enterprises

Some 99% of firms in the OECD are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and they generate about 70% of all jobs. But in order to stay vital and competitive in today’s global economy, SMEs need support. We ask our panel of experts for their views.

The long flight towards clean aviation

The Paris climate summit in November 2015 was a great diplomatic success but aviation, like shipping, was not included in the final agreement. International air transport currently represents about 1.5% of all man-made emissions, though with a projected doubling of demand for air travel over the next 10-20 years, up from approximately 3.5 billion in 2015, action had to be taken. 

Climate change: Is shipping finally on board?

Trade is on the rise again globally, and ships are back trawling our seas, connecting places and people. But ships don’t just drive trade, they unfortunately contribute to climate change too. In fact, global shipping is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and these are projected to rise by between 50% and 250% by 2050 if nothing improves. And yet, maritime transport was excluded from the Paris Climate Agreement struck two years ago.  

Better prospects for indigenous students

Plutarch once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” The educational prospects of indigenous students in Canada, New Zealand and Queensland, Australia, are getting brighter, a new study of the OECD finds. 

Rising sea levels: Will we adapt or drown?

Low-lying island states like the Maldives and densely populated coastal cities like New York have at least one thing in common: they are faced with the challenge of rising sea levels. In fact, close to a quarter of the world’s population lives within 100 metres of a coast. Although we cannot predict exactly the pace and upper limits of the current rise, we do know that sea levels will continue rising and that the impacts will be costly.

Migration: What we think we want

We are far more open towards immigration than some people might have us believe, a new independent survey shows.

Gender engineering

More women are going into postsecondary education than men: women’s enrolment rates are 11 percentage points higher on average than that of men. 

One Planet Summit: Investing in climate, investing in growth through green budgeting and clean energy finance

Our response to the climate challenge will define our collective future for generations to come. We must act. We must act swiftly, collectively, and decisively. Some fear that decisive climate action may have a high price tag in economic and social terms. Strong climate action is not a threat to, but instead the very foundation of our economic well-being in the long run. At the OECD we are rolling up our sleeves to make this happen.

Climate change: Fresh impetus needed

Two years after the historic Paris Climate Agreement was struck at the UN COP21 conference, there are encouraging signs of progress, but there is a huge amount left to do. 

Investment in renewable energy: What policymakers must do to make it happen

There is enough capital out there and renewable energy technologies have become more cost-competitive, so why is investment still wanting? Policymakers hold the key.

Tracking climate finance: Progress and challenges

At the 2009 UNFCCC negotiations, developed countries committed to mobilising US$100 billion each year for climate action in developing countries by 2020. As negotiations on a new climate agreement intensified in the lead-up to COP 21 in 2015, an understanding of the progress made towards this commitment was important in keeping everyone around the table. In this context, the OECD estimated that US$62 billion had been mobilised in 2014, up by US$10 billion since 2013. Updated estimates towards the US$100 billion commitment will be needed in the lead-up to 2020, along with new information about climate finance beyond this goal. But further progress relies on robust and transparent tracking of the different streams of climate finance. 

Phase them out!

Fossil fuel subsidies keep fuel prices artificially low, and weigh heavily on government budgets and on the climate too. Phasing out these subsidies will help reduce CO2 emissions and possibly raise public revenues as well.

Barking up the right tree

Forests are essential for fighting climate change, but planting and managing them is not as easy as it might sound, as the OECD Forest Scheme shows. Watch the video.

#17 Frankie's Christmas riddle: A festive wish

The OECD Observer team would like to wish all our readers a very happy festive season, and a safe and prosperous New Year.

What is a systems approach?

A systems approach can be applied to more complex administrative challenges, from transport and tourism to the environment.

Greening France

Drivers complain that Paris these days is a vast construction site. Streets are being ripped up to make way for tramways, electric car charging posts, and ever more bike lanes and docking stations. The first major city to have put in a free bike-sharing system, back in 2007, Paris has now moved to phase two with more and lighter bikes, a docking system that allows overflow and the introduction of shared electric bikes. 

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Governing data for better health and healthcare

The healthcare sector is awash with data, whose range and volume are growing exponentially. But they will sit unused in data warehouses, often from fear of being misused, unless fundamental action is taken. The OECD Recommendation on Health Data Governance can help countries in managing the risks and harnessing the benefits from health data.

Towards an inclusive and competitive labour market for the evolving world of work

New capabilities, driven by technological innovation, will create an important number of new job opportunities and new markets, while existing jobs or tasks disappear or are re-designed. Changes in skills needs, organisation of work and employment relations will accommodate better work-life balance and provide easier access to income opportunities. Yet they also risk creating skills polarisation and pose serious challenges to the adequacy of current legal, institutional and social protection frameworks.

 

Empowering the next generation of scientists to change the world

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The challenge of antimicrobial resistance: The hidden “fil rouge” for healthcare policy

Two issues are at the centre of the debate on how to make sure our health systems more sustainable: tackling unnecessary spending on health, and making sure that medical innovations deliver the right products at the right price.  Both of these two key issues are epitomised by one of the biggest public health challenges we face today: that of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

We can all be innovators in ageing

Our ability to live longer, healthier and more productive lives is one of our greatest accomplishments. Here in the US, demographers predict that more than half the children born today will live to at least 100. And, according to some, the first person to live to the age of 150 has already been born.

Climate: Towards a just transition, with no stranded workers and no stranded communities

Ambitious action on climate is an imperative. The G20 leaders have a chance to reinforce the Paris Climate Agreement and raise ambition with concrete measures to ensure significant progress towards net zero economies and reap the benefits of investment now in jobs and economic growth. Read post here.

Moving forward on climate: Looking beyond narrow interests

“National governments must take the lead and do so with a recognition that they are part of a global effort.” Speaking last week at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urged countries not to retreat behind their national borders in dealing with climate change. A purely inward-looking approach to climate change is clearly inadequate as we see signs that short-term national self-interest is increasingly seeping into the global debate on climate action. This is especially a risk as a number of countries continue to try and escape from low growth traps. Effective climate action needs ambition and action at both national and global levels. Read post here.

COP21 was decades in the making, so how do we make future decades work for climate?

Following the hand-wringing, relief-sighing and back-slapping in Paris after nailing the landmark agreement on climate change in December, I took myself off to a farm in rural England to enjoy the new year driving tractors and herding small children (not with tractors). Conversations with friends typically started with remarks about the unseasonably mild weather and often ended on climate change, and unsurprisingly, COP21. As a soundbite buff, I quickly got my lines sorted: “COP21 gave governments a giant shove in the right direction, an emotional rollercoaster ride of hope, expectation and promise”. Read post here.

Renewed international commitment needed to fight climate change

Wherever in the world they are emitted, greenhouse gases have a global impact. Narrow national agendas are inadequate to deal with global climate change disruption. Without vision and resolve, more countries may yet retreat further into their national bunkers. We would all suffer in such a bleak scenario.

Bridging the green investment gap in Latin America: what role for national development finance institutions?

The developing world urgently needs more and better infrastructure. Affordable and accessible water supply systems, electricity grids, power plants and transport networks are critical to reducing poverty and ensuring economic growth. The way new infrastructure is built over the next 10 years will determine if we meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement objectives. Considering the long lifespan of most infrastructure projects, the decisions developing countries make about how they build infrastructure are critical: we can either lock-in carbon intensive and polluting forms of infrastructure, or ‘leap frog’ towards more sustainable pathways. Read post here.

Can green bonds fuel the low-carbon transition?

We know decarbonisation will require a massive shift of investment away from fossil fuel and into such areas as renewable energy, energy efficiency in buildings and industry, electric vehicles and public transport. A key challenge for policy makers is to understand how to make best use of available policy levers to help accelerate this shift towards low-carbon investment. This includes facilitating the financing of low-carbon investment, including financing through equity investment or – on the debt side – through bank loans and bonds. Read post here.

Web of collective action

A tweet alone might go unnoticed, but a swarm of them can make quite a buzz. Take the examples of movements such as Black Lives Matter, or online petitions like the one in favour of women on banknotes in the UK, or demonstrations in the Middle East and elsewhere organised on social media. Collective action made up of individuals microdonating effort, time and money on social media to political and social causes is characteristic of our turbulent times. Political Turbulence shows how social media activism works, who is involved and what consequences it might have. 

Will your job be automated?

Job automation is widely seen as one of the biggest challenges of the digital revolution, and a source of uncertainty and insecurity for many workers today. The automation of routine tasks has already lowered the share of middle-skill jobs, and polarised low- and high-income jobs, which is associated with rising inequality. In some cases, digitalisation has reduced the demand for low-skilled as well as middle-skilled workers, while increasing demand for a high-skilled workforce, which cannot always be met by the existing supply. The risk is higher wages for some, but unemployment for others.

Managing earth: The land-water-energy nexus

Demographics, lifestyle, urbanisation, farming and transport: all are facts of life and, as we try to manage our economies and our environment, are the focus of millions of policy actions around the world. We must reduce pollution and congestion. 

Blending finance for climate and poverty

Blended finance is not a new concept but it certainly has returned as a new buzzword. 

“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. 

Digital disruption

Goethe said, “He who lives must be prepared for changes.” The fourth industrial revolution will certainly bring about significant changes that we will have to be prepared for. Japanese estimates suggest that the use of big data and analytics in some divisions of Japanese manufacturers could lower maintenance costs by almost JP¥5 trillion (€41 billion). Other estimates suggest that new technologies could boost value-added in Germany’s mechanical, electrical and automotive sectors, among others, by an additional €78 billion by 2025. 

Bribes don’t pay

Anyone looking for proof that international agreements work should look at the OECD Anti-bribery Convention. One reason is investment. In fact, countries that adhere to the convention (currently 43) invest more abroad than those that have not joined. 

Under the sea

With marine biodiversity deteriorating at an alarming rate, there will soon be little left of the “octopus’s garden” that The Beatles once sang about. According to Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes, pollution, overfishing and rising temperatures have damaged or destroyed 60% of the earth’s marine ecosystems. Policymakers have been addressing the issue, too, and are increasingly designating marine protected areas (MPAs) as an instrument for the preservation of biodiversity. 

Wealth yacht phantom car tax haven offshore
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. 

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.

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.

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.

oecd,violence,fragility,conflict,state
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. 

health, OECD, rural, urban
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. 

oecd, economy, growth, inclusiveness
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.

oecd,gender,women,equality,justin trudeau
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.

oecd
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. 

health,OECD,healthcare,ageing
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.

oecd,globalisation,economy,governance,international
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.

health, health care, OECD, oecd observer, francesca colombo
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. 

health,nurse,OECD,patient
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.