OECD Observer
Home
Menu
Taking stock of skills

It is crucial for countries competing in an advanced economy to have a skilled workforce. But with labour markets changing so fast, how can workers keep up? The OECD Skills Strategy, due to be launched in May together with a comprehensive new survey of adult competencies, will help provide answers. 

Technology and game theory

Mobile phones and e-books are already essential school supplies on many university campuses. But they’re just slide rules compared to what education tools might look like in a few years. 

Higher education’s crisis dividend

There has always been some debate about whether higher education is really something that everyone should be encouraged to pursue. If there aren’t enough jobs requiring university-level degrees to go around, why spend the time and money–public or private–to obtain a degree? 

New times, old perspectives?

The long road towards gender equality has arrived at greater educational attainment, higher female labour force participation, and advances in politics and business, but we haven’t reached the end yet. 

How tax can tackle the jobs crisis

Since 2008, unemployment in the OECD area has leapt from 6.1% to 8.2% in 2011. Governments searching for ways to increase employment must at the same time deal with the large budget deficits that are also a legacy of the crisis. Tax reform can play a role in this balancing act. 

Expressing happiness

Increasing citizens’ input to policymaking is one of the goals of the new indicators of well-being developed to make up for the inadequacies of GDP as an indicator. Unfortunately the latter leaves out many factors which clearly play a fundamental role in all of our daily lives, ranging from health to the quality of the environment, education, housing or even social ties and security. It is therefore crucial that the public at large understand how the new indicators designed to supplement GDP are constructed and interpreted, and if possible the public should be fully involved in the process. 

Green chemistry

Economic growth over the past decades has led to improved quality of life, increased prosperity and longer, healthier lives in nearly all countries. Resource constraints are making us realise that to continue to enjoy these benefits we will have to change course towards more sustainable or greener growth. 

Tax and development

Tackling the challenge to build well-functioning tax systems in developing countries requires concerted international co-operation among developed and developing countries, international organisations, business and civil society. 

Charles Fadel
Skills for innovation

As technology progresses, so do labour market needs. For economies today, maintaining competitiveness means that skills must adapt and keep pace. 

Protecting women's work

Half the world’s workforce, 1.5 billion working women and men, are in vulnerable employment. The global economic crisis has swelled the ranks of those whose jobs do not provide enough to meet basic needs, the “working poor”, by more than 100 million people, mainly women.

Tackling inequality

The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%, up from seven times what it was 25 years ago. Even in more egalitarian countries, such as Germany and Sweden, the earnings of the richest are over six times higher than those of the poorest, compared with just over three in 1985. Inequality has narrowed in countries like Chile and Mexico, though the income gap between rich and poor is still 27 to 1, and in Brazil, which as this edition shows has implemented impressive programmes against poverty and inequality, the gap stands at 50 to 1. Clearly, the benefits of economic growth have not trickled down or been fairly distributed. 

Why does this matter to policy makers? Inequality is a critical social and economic challenge. Widening disparities weaken the structures that hold our societies together and threaten our ability to move forward. This effect has become even more apparent with the current prolonged crisis, which has been felt by a wide range of income groups throughout the OECD area. 

More...

Martine Durand
Progress: from compass to global positioning system

For most of the last century, progress in the conditions of our societies was often assessed through the compass of economic growth, or GDP. In recent years, however, both governments and citizens have come to recognise that GDP provides only a partial view of today’s economic and social conditions and of whether these conditions can be expected to last in the future. Better indicators are needed that take into account sustainability, equity and quality of life.

Maria van der Hoeven
Energy security: looking towards uncertainty

Energy markets in 2012, like the broader economic picture, are marked by significant uncertainty. From a policy perspective, global macroeconomic concerns in 2011 diverted attention away from energy policy and could do the same this year. That could have worrying impacts on policy progress, especially as recent months have ushered in record carbon dioxide emissions, worsening energy efficiency and sustained high oil prices. 

A global safety net

In October 2011, a high-level panel headed by the former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, delivered a ground-breaking report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, arguing that everyone around the globe should receive a living income, guaranteed through transfers in cash or in kind, such as pensions for the elderly and persons with disabilities, child benefits, income support benefits and/or employment guarantees, and services for the unemployed and working poor. Martin Hirsch, a member of that panel, explains why this proposal for a more socially responsible globalisation can work. 

The gender dividend: an urgent economic imperative

The corporate world is far from making the most out of gender diversity in the workplace. But some businesses are finding innovative ways to change this. 

In Japan’s footsteps

The global economy took a sharp turn for the worse following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, and today it is increasingly apparent that the crisis has entered its second round. This time we are facing a combination of low growth and trouble in the financial sector, just as governments find themselves running out of economic policy options. 

R.Trumka
Occupational risk: the global jobs emergency

The latest phase of the economic crisis presents a dilemma: many governments judge it necessary to enter a phase of fiscal austerity while unemployment remains intolerably high, a high risk combination. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls for a different way forward. 

John Evans
Taking a wider view of progress

Perhaps one of the biggest weaknesses in traditional economic thinking is the belief that GDP per capita is the only relevant benchmark of economic performance.
Yet, there is compelling evidence to show that increases in GDP have little impact on happiness or life chances. 

Rolf Alter
Public governance: The other deficit

Frustrated citizens are asking their governments: “When will we see effective policies to support economic growth and generate jobs?” There is an endless debate in individual countries and at the international level, but policy responses to the crisis continue to appear fragmented, timid and sometimes incoherent. 

Mario Pezzini
An emerging middle class

The increase in average incomes and the fall in levels of absolute poverty, in particular during the last decade, suggest that an increasing proportion of the world’s population is neither rich nor poor by national standards but finds itself in the middle of the income distribution. 

Peggy Hollinger
A hollowing middle class

In many countries, the middle class is feeling squeezed, and the crisis has only made matters worse. What is behind this sentiment and what can be done to reverse it?

Mark Pieth
Don’t forget corruption

The crisis should not divert attention from the fight against corruption.
Mark Pieth, Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, talks to Lyndon Thompson about the need to keep the ball rolling.

Cherie Blair
Women and entrepreneurship

Discrimination against women hurts everyone. As Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Cherie Blair explains, women entrepreneurs are an economic resource that economies, rich and poor alike, can ill afford to overlook.

Peggy Hollinger
A hollowing middle class

In many countries, the middle class is feeling squeezed, and the crisis has only made matters worse. What is behind this sentiment and what can be done to reverse it?

Bo Smith
Help wanted

Among the employment challenges exacerbated by the economic crisis, long-term joblessness and youth unemployment are especially troubling as their effects can linger long after the job market has recovered.
Governments would do well to focus on these problems now.

Pier Carlo Padoan
The evolving paradigm

The history of economic policymaking has been marked by a succession of “paradigms” defining the goals of economic policy and the instruments used to attain them.
OECD Chief Economist Pier Carlo Padoan looks at where we go from here.

Half a century of country surveys online

The entire collection of OECD‘s country economic surveys has now been made accessible online at the OECD i-Library. Published regularly since the creation of the OECD in 1961, and to mark the Organisation’s 50th anniversary, this online archive offers a unique historical perspective of the economic changes OECD countries have undergone since 1961. It is an invaluable resource for anyone tracing their efforts to rebuild their economies after World War II, addressing the oil crisis in the 1970s, the dot.com revolution and bubble, and the economic, educational and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

e-Gov

egov.jpg

Nuclear power worries

The Fukushima tragedy in Japan in March 2011 has unsettled the nuclear energy outlook. Nuclear power started out almost 60 years ago with the Obninsk plant near Moscow in 1954, but after strong growth in the 1960s and 1970s, the industry declined sharply in the 1980s due to costs, delays and safety concerns after the Three Mile Island accident in the US in 1979, and the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986.

Mergers soar

OECD economies are in the doldrums, but the trend in global mergers and acquisitions has rarely been more buoyant. International M&A investment in 2011 reached $822 billion as at 21 October. If this pace can be sustained, international M&A will top $100 billion by the end of the year, a 32% increase over 2010 (see chart).