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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. 

Time to vote!

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 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. 

Water can be the source of a brighter future

Water, like air and food, is our life support. It covers about 70% of the surface of our planet. But only 2.5% of it is fresh water, the rest being ocean, with a small fraction of that being available as drinking water. As a fragile resource, water must be nurtured with investment, management and care. From oceans and vast rivers to the spring in the garden, we must safeguard our water as a source of well-being, prosperity and 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

Overcoming the challenges of an arid climate and scarce natural water reserves has always been a vital necessity for the growth of Israel’s population and economy since the founding of the state. This has led to continuous improvements in Israel’s water sector, through innovations in technologies, practices and long-term plans.

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? 

Japan: Marking the anniversary of a tragedy

Exactly four 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. 

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."

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.

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.

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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.

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.

What if Paris flooded?

The River Seine overflowing its banks is not an uncommon sight in Paris, as the winter catchment swells, causing water levels to rise and cover the lower banks, jetties and walkways. 

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.