OECD Observer
News brief September 2015

No COP out on climate efforts  

©David RooneyCountries must step up their efforts to fight climate change, the OECD has warned, in the run-up to the UN conference on climate change, known as COP21, in Paris in November/December. In September OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría pointed out that governments were spending almost twice as much on supporting fossil fuels as the amount needed to meet the climate-finance objectives set by the international community of $100 billion a year by 2020. Such misalignment of policies props up carbon-based fuels. In July, in a keynote lecture at the London School of Economics, Mr Gurría urged governments to rethink the role of coal in energy supply, since, without new mitigation measures, coal generation was projected to emit more than 500 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050. This would use up half the remaining carbon budget consistent with keeping a global temperature rise below 2°C.

See www.oecd.org/env/cc/cop21.htm and http://oe.cd/12D  

Computer lesson

Students who use computers very frequently at school do much worse than students who use them moderately, a new report finds. Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, which examines the first OECD PISA assessment of digital skills, argues that making sure each child reaches a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will achieve more for future opportunities than just expanding high-tech devices and services.

Nevertheless, more should be done to take advantage of the potential of technology in the classroom, the authors believe. “To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of this change,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, in issuing the report.

See http://www.oecd.org/education/new-approach-needed-to-deliver-on-technologys-potential-in-schools.htm  

See article by Andreas Schleicher in this edition


Slow climate

We are moving at a snail’s pace on climate.

–Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, in Le Monde, 27 August (our translation)

Refugee welfare

It’s troubling that the [European] continent is having difficulty giving the people arriving on our shores the same chances and opportunities that uprooted Europeans, seeking shelter here from war and poverty, were themselves given only 70 years ago.

–Eugenio Ambrosi, director of the International Organisation for Migration’s regional office in the EU, in The Wall Street Journal, 26 August

Financial market blockage

Most of the investment projects that the emerging world needs are long term, as are much of the available savings–the trillions in retirement accounts, pension funds, and sovereign wealth funds. But our increasingly short-sighted financial markets stand between the two.

–Joseph Stiglitz, in Project Syndicate, 6 August

OECD sense

Sensible policy has got us to where we are, and following the advice of the OECD could get us a lot further.

–Jim Power, Irish Examiner, 18 September 


The recovery is holding up in the world’s advanced economies, but the outlook is unsettled due to stalling world trade and worsening financial markets in emerging economies, according to the OECD’s latest interim economic outlook issued 16 September.

The latest OECD composite leading indicators support this view. These use the likes of order books, building permits and long-term interest rates to anticipate future activity and turning points in the cycle. Though stable growth momentum is expected overall, trends appear to be moderating in Canada, the UK and the US, and deteriorating in China.

GDP growth in the OECD area slowed to 0.4% in the second quarter of 2015, slightly down from 0.5% in the previous quarter, with the UK and the US recording the highest growth among G7 countries picking up to 0.7% and 0.6% respectively.

OECD-area inflation was stable at 0.6% in the year to July 2015, for the third consecutive month. Energy prices fell by 9.5% in the same period. Excluding food and energy, the OECD annual inflation rate was up slightly in July, to 1.7% compared with 1.6% in the previous month.

The unemployment rate in the OECD area remained stable at 6.9% in May 2015, for the third consecutive month. Some 42.2 million people were out of work, 6.7 million less than in January 2013, but still 7.7 million more than in July 2008, immediately before the crisis. In the euro area, unemployment was stable at 11.1%.

Meanwhile, the OECD area employment rate (people of working-age in employment) increased by 0.2 percentage point, to 66.1% in the first quarter of 2015; this was the eighth consecutive quarter of increase.

As for trade, total (seasonally adjusted) merchandise exports of the G7 and emerging markets continued to contract by 0.9% in the second quarter of 2015 compared to the previous quarter while merchandise imports fell by 1.2%. Exports and imports dropped sharply in China, Japan and Indonesia. In the US, France and Germany, exports grew by 4.1%, 1% and 1.4% respectively, while imports fell.

For latest updates on economic statistics, see www.oecd.org/std/statisticsnewsreleases.htm

Country roundup 

Improved employment services would help laid-off workers in Canada find a new job more quickly, according to a new OECD report. www.oecd.org/canada

Germany is both the OECD’s second-largest country of immigration and one of the main origin countries of emigrants: 3.4 million people born in Germany were living in another OECD country in 2011, says a new OECD report. www.oecd.org/germany

Iceland has steadily recovered from the global fi nancial crisis, but challenges remain for sustainable growth, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Iceland. www.oecd.org/iceland

Ireland’s strong recovery must be sustained by reducing the public debt, strengthening the banking system and boosting skills for more inclusive growth, the OECD Economic Survey of Ireland said in September. www.oecd.org/ireland

The OECD is encouraged by Israel’s recent investigative activity, but remains seriously concerned with overall efforts to enforce foreign bribery laws. www.oecd.org/israel

The Japanese economy is expected to return to growth, but fundamental structural reforms are needed, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Japan. www.oecd.org/japan

The quality of health care continued to improve in Portugal, according to a new OECD report. www.oecd.org/portugal 

Poland needs to lessen its economy’s reliance on fossil fuels, according to a new OECD report. www.oecd.org/poland

The New Zealand economy has performed well in recent years, but sustaining high levels of growth and well-being will require further reforms, the latest OECD Economic Survey of New Zealand says. www.oecd.org/newzealand

While Spain is showing signs of recovery, future prosperity will depend on raising skills and innovation, according the OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report. www.oecd.org/spain

An inclusive South Africa needs more investment to reduce inequality further, says the OECD Economic Survey of South Africa. www.oecd.org/southafrica

Sweden should urgently reform its school system to improve quality and equity, according to a new OECD report. www.oecd.org/sweden

French connection 

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister for education, who spoke at the OECD on 10 July, and Emmanuel Macron, France’s economy minister, who addressed the OECD on 18 September. Visit oecdobserver.org, People & Events 

Smarter productivity

Productivity growth has been slowing for several years, and reversing the trend is about “working smarter” rather than “working harder”, using new ideas, technological innovations and new business models, says “The future of productivity”, a policy note published online in July as part of the OECD New Approaches to Economic Challenges project. See www.oecd.org/economy/thefuture-of-productivity.htm and www.oecd.org/naec. See also “Productivity’s wave goodbye” on OECDObserver.org  

Corporate governance boost

G20 finance ministers have endorsed a new set of G20-OECD corporate governance principles as part of continuing efforts to promote market confidence and business integrity, and unlock investment. http://www.oecd.org/corporate/principles-corporategovernance.htm  

Plus ça change… 

The European industrial countries which have relied on the constantly increasing supply of foreign labour over the last decade have recently taken a series of measures to limit considerably, or even stop, the influx of migrant workers. If the reasons for restricting the entry of new immigrants are not purely economic, economic constraints nevertheless limit governments’ freedom of manoeuvre and specifically their ability to substantially reduce the number of foreign workers already in the country.

“A turning point for European migration” in Issue No 76, July-August 1975.  

©OECD Observer No 303, September 2015