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Fragile aid

Developing countries are a broad group. At the top of the pile are emerging powerhouses such as Brazil and China. At the bottom are a poor group called fragile states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Dignity and People

Dignity is all about people. Dignity is intrinsic–we’re all born with it. But dignity is also relational and is created among, and between people. Many of us don’t think about this, or notice it in our daily lives. But that’s only because we, our families and friends are fortunate enough to live relatively privileged lives. And because it can be difficult to establish the number of people living in difficult conditions–and their voices are less often heard.

Middle-class dream

Ironically, the biggest challenge now for the US middle class may be contending with the potency of the "American Dream" internationally. President Obama starkly captured this prospect in a graduation address. His audience was black but the message was clearly and accurately aimed at all young Americans who have learned how to make excuses: "We've got no time for excuses–not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven't," he said. 

Emerging unrest: Brazil

Until now considered a model in terms of reducing poverty and inequality, Brazil has recently faced the wrath of hundreds of thousands of protesters from across all sections of society, riling up against inflation, while calling for better access to health care, education and other public services.OECD analyst Horacio Levy explains.

Measuring development goals

Development efforts are often hampered by poor or non-existent data. While attempts are being made to address this, much more needs to be done to improve official data by developing countries themselves, particularly as new development goals are set for the post-2015 period.     

The impact of immigrants: It’s not what you think

In the land of tabloid terrors, immigrants loom large. Flick through the pages or online comments of some of the racier newspapers, and you’ll see immigrants being accused of stealing jobs or, if not that, of being workshy and “scrounging benefits”.    

Lead and crime

You’ve probably heard that silly old adage, where someone asks someone else if they “ate lead paint chips” as a child, after they did something stupid or silly. The effects of lead poisoning, however, are not silly. Many academics believe lead poisoning in children correlates to spikes in crime more than any other single factor. Granted, though it takes more than a noticeable pattern to establish causality, the meta-analysis of other factors all seem to point in the direction of lead.  

Good returns

People who have completed tertiary education can generally expect to earn more than those who don’t. But governments and societies benefit from these people’s investments as well.

Quality apprenticeships: The new degree?

Under the guild system in medieval Europe, a journeyman was someone who, having finished his seven-year apprenticeship, travelled from town to town offering his services for a day’s wages (hence “journeyman” from the French “journée”, meaning a day). After a few years of this itinerant life, he might submit a “masterpiece” to the relevant guild, whose members would evaluate his work and decide whether to admit him to the guild and confer the title of “master” upon him.

Towards a sustainable, more equitable, recovery

A welcome sense of cautious optimism is building around the preparations for the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg in September, setting the tone for policymakers to take a renewed interest in coordinating their national action agendas to address pressing global challenges.

Containing costly job losses

Job losses can prove costly for individuals, as well as to society. Financial distress, for example, can lead to health problems and crime. While policies like unemployment benefits, job-search assistance and skills training can help ease the personal impact of job loss, they can be expensive. Consequently, governments also turn to policies that protect employees from losing their jobs in the first place.

Rethinking public pay

One of the biggest targets for reform in the pursuit of leaner government budgets is public sector pay and performance. Because of the crisis, some countries have frozen or even reduced salaries, while others have preferred to reduce benefits, even pensions. Others have decided to do nothing for the moment.

Not so fast

The last few months have been marked by slightly better news on the economy, with signs of a recovery in the EU area in particular. But these are early days and challenges remain. John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), is not holding his breath. He explains why to the OECD Observer.

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.

How are you, really?

The shortfalls of GDP that were already apparent before the crisis but made starker during it have led to a panoply of new initiatives to find metrics that can measure wellbeing rather than just economic growth. But while GDP has stood accused of overlooking the environment and human well-being, it has one advantage which policymakers and analysts appreciate: the methods are objective and clear. Whether measuring output or expenditure in an economy, GDP produces a single number that is easy to adjust and compare.

E-governance in Egypt

The Arab Spring and the rise of new social and democratic movements throughout large parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) may not have changed the world quite as much as millions had hoped, but at least they gave a new impetus to the use of information and communications technology and the potential of “e-government” to foster participation and engagement, increase transparency and restore public trust. 

Can youth entrepreneurship work?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were young doctoral students when they created the company we now know as Google. Virgin’s Richard Branson started out in business as a teenager selling records. These big names are just part of a long list of young entrepreneurs that made it in business, a list that could include the founders of Facebook, e-Bay, France’s Free telecom and more.

Spain’s youth unemployment lessons

Few countries have suffered the scourge of high youth unemployment as much as Spain has. There, the unemployment rate for under 25-year-olds exceeded 50% in 2012, nearly three times the OECD average. However, the crisis has not been the only cause of this; in fact, high rates of youth unemployment are not a recent phenomenon in Spain.

Lessons for educators

What are the key issues to know when devising better policies for education or simply trying to improve learning programmes? Here are some personal reflections.

1. In the global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer merely improvement by local or national standards, but the best performing education systems internationally. 

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Not so patient

Patients in most OECD countries face long hospital waiting times, whether for primary care, out-patient specialist care or even emergency care. Tax payers rightly expect better service, and hospital waiting times are understandably a contentious political issue.

Growth is not enough

Brazil’s labour leaders have long argued against pursuing economic growth for its own sake. What matters most, they believe, is not the size of the economic pie but how it’s carved up. In recent years, calls for social justice have increasingly informed policy in Brazil, bringing about a veritable “revolution” in the economy.

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Action for youth

The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.

Today is IDAHO Day

This year the parliaments of two OECD member countries passed legislation broadening the institution of marriage to include same sex couples. Such marriage is now legal in 14 countries worldwide, 11 of which are OECD members.

Education for all

Young people from poorer families are badly underrepresented in higher education. That risks exposing them to a lifetime of reduced earnings and undermines the foundations of wider economic growth. What can be done? Economically disadvantaged students benefit from a mix of grants and loans in third-level education, but they also need better support from the earliest years of their school careers.

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It’s all about people

Ultimately the economic crisis is about people, says Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs. That is why respecting human rights and adherence to democratic principles are fundamental when addressing the current economic crisis. We are in this together, so we need multilateral solutions more than ever.

The cost of mistrust

Trust is at the heart of today’s complex global economy. But, paradoxically, trust is also in increasingly short supply in many of our societies, especially in our attitudes towards big business, parliaments and governments. This decline threatens our capacity to tackle some of today’s key challenges.

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The new performance frontier

By helping emphasise the importance of a “better life” as a key component of societal progress, the OECD has made considerable efforts in recent years to help promote a school of thought that places people’s well-being at the heart of economic growth. After examining the issue of growth and productivity gains, and recognising the question of the environmental cost of our economic activity, the time has come to turn our attention to another area that is equally crucial: fostering a more human economy.

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Trusting in crowds

“Crowdsourcing” pools the strength of the many to perform complex tasks–everything from funding a film to sequencing DNA. At its heart is trust–not a blanket belief in great institutions, but rather the confidence among individuals that each will do the right thing. Its power is being increasingly felt today, even in the world of international development.

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Homo Economicus: An uncertain guide

As humans, we face a constant internal conflict between immediate gratification and more prudent living. This conflict is also apparent in society. How can we ensure that the homo economicus within us takes the decisions that best affect our lives, and economies?

Well-being priority

A major step forward towards putting the measurement of well-being at the heart of policymaking was taken at the OECD’s World Forum on Measuring Well-Being for Policymaking and Development, a four-day international conference held in New Delhi in October.