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Compact cities

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population more than 5.5 billion people will live in urban areas. This population boom, combined with threats of global warming, high energy prices and tight government budgets make a convincing argument for better city planning. Governments faced with growing populations and dwindling natural resources have two choices: they can let urban sprawl continue to eat up useful land or they can plan “compact cities” that will be better for the economy and the environment. 

Health spending slows

For the first time in decades, health spending has not increased in real terms on average across OECD countries. According to figures published in the latest OECD health data 2012, the growth in health spending in 2010 slowed or turned negative in almost all OECD countries. 

How manufacturing can create value and jobs

Bring back manufacturing! This refrain has echoed about since the start of the crisis: is it a serious proposition to win back manufacturing activity after years of decline and if so, how?

Budget pressures affect aid

Aid from major donors in the OECD area to developing countries fell by nearly 3% in 2011, ending a long trend of annual increases: until 2011, aid had been increasing for more than a decade, and by 63% between 2000 and 2010, the year it reached its peak.

City air

If you are reading this in a big city, the air you are breathing may be doing you harm. Though over 50% of the world’s population now live in urban areas, only 2% of the global urban population lives with acceptable concentrations of particulate matter, or PM, which can cause breathing and respiratory diseases, cancer and premature death. 

Globalisation and the resilience of a city

Globalisation has always been a process of far-reaching and often unexpected change, as well as geographical shifts in power, and this is reflected in the rise and fall of great cities. What lessons can we draw for the future?

A new narrative for world trade

World trade is changing, and so too must the way policymakers approach it, says Pascal Lamy. We asked him to explain. 

Long-term investors: Getting the model right

Since the 2008 financial crisis, strains in the financial sector and in government balance sheets mean there is less and less supply of long-term capital. This has profound implications for growth and financial stability. Policymakers should take action. 

Closing tax loopholes

The economic ills of the crisis have rightly prompted public reevaluation of government spending habits and revenue collection on both sides of the Atlantic. While congressional super committees and EU delegations hash out plans to foot massive debt bills, a combination of civil society groups, the Occupy movement, and simple common sense have brought long-deserved attention to certain tax loopholes and corporate practices that cost governments billions of dollars. 

Skills development: Rethinking the future

Global competition and the global financial crisis have put additional pressures on education programmes around the world. Radically new approaches to learning are now needed.

Curious? You’d better be

Life skills and a passion for learning are the key to the global knowledge economy. Thriving in this environment demands several qualities. 

OECD Skills Strategy: The pathway of choice

Policymakers need solutions to help their economies move forward in today’s world. The OECD Skills Strategy, launched at the 2012 Ministerial Council Meeting in May, may prove fundamental. Here’s why. 

The OECD Gender Initiative: Overview

Regrettably, gender discrimination is still a problem in our societies and our economies. In fact, “problem” is far too weak a word. It is more accurate to speak of an unacceptable injustice. Women have fewer opportunities in terms of education, employment and entrepreneurship and are, on average, less well paid for their work. 

Reimagining governance

Globalisation and the emergence of interlinked yet diverse civil society groups pose a serious challenge to established governance frameworks. Change appears to be the only option. 

Occupy: Some lessons for a better tomorrow

A crisis may focus minds, but it often takes more than that to believe that change is possible. Citizens worldwide have made just that leap of faith. In OECD member countries, a grassroots movement has manifested itself in the overnight occupation of public space and the exercise of direct democracy on the model of what happened in city squares across Spain just over a year ago. After those demonstrations reached Wall Street, Occupy went global and I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the movement as it developed in London.

CleanGovBiz: A new push against corruption

The OECD’s CleanGovBiz Initiative helps governments fight corruption, while working with civil society and the private sector to promote integrity.

The hurting middle class

The middle class has long been the backbone of prosperity and economic stability in developed countries. But the crisis is exert increasing pressure on this pillar of society. Does the middle class need saving?

The conflict between generations: Fact or fiction?

Expect the issue of solidarity between generations to become a major policy challenge in the years ahead, and not just in OECD countries. Here’s why. 

Why measure subjective well-being?

The search for measures of progress that might replace GDP is a timely and necessary one, but only a single metric will do the trick. 

Voyage of discovery

The OECD Better Life Initiative can make a difference to policies, and to people’s lives too, though that also depends on participation. 

Protecting consumers, and the economy too

Was a major lapse of consumer protection at the heart of the subprime crisis? For consumer advocate Ira Rheingold, only better financial regulation and consumer protection will prevent future meltdowns. 

The limits to legislation

When it comes to fixing the economy, could the collective efforts of business and other interested parties be a better solution than passing new laws?

New approaches to bring all on board!
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The state’s anti-poverty effect

Poverty rates are usually a measure of personal income. But how can public services affect relative poverty, that is, when the monetary value of public services, known as “extended income” is brought into the equation? 

Youth video contest

“Education and skills” is the theme of the 2012 OECD youth video competition. It was launched on 14 December at the Youth Employment conference. Open to youth ages 18 to 25, the challenge is to produce a video of no more than three minutes on the theme of education and skills, and the prize is a trip to Paris to attend the OECD Forum on 22-24 May. 

Behind closed doors

“Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it,” said Benjamin Franklin. Yet, from Machiavelli through Richelieu to Kissinger, people in power have always relied on good advice from people they trust. But where should the line be drawn (rather than blurred) between influence and intrigue, cost and benefit? 

Support where it works

Inventors, entrepreneurs and start-ups offer a glimmer of hope in a time of low growth and austerity, with governments and economists alike shifting their attention towards innovation as a way out of a protracted crisis. Government-supported policies and programmes to support business innovation have been around for decades, but how successful are they and what lessons can be drawn for these more austere times? 

Energy from the sun

Thomas Edison’s assertion that “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” is particularly pertinent to the solar energy sector. This remarkable technology could hold answers to so many of the world’s energy challenges, but only at the cost of hard effort and investment. Solar Energy Perspectives, the first in-depth study dedicated to solar technology from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a sister organisation of the OECD, gives a comprehensive analysis of solar energy’s potential as well as the policies required to increase its capacity in the coming decades. 

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How’s life?

Inequality is usually thought of in terms of income or wealth, but it might make even more sense to think of it in terms of how satisfied people are with their lives. A recent study, How’s Life?, attempts to shed light on people’s experience and the variation in life satisfaction within countries. 

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Where to cut?

As governments around the world attempt to bring deficits under control and debt to manageable levels, just where to find the savings is a tricky question. Governments face a delicate balancing act as they try to achieve real fiscal discipline without mortally wounding public services, often in precarious political circumstances.