Knowledge society

Society at a Glance: OECD Social Indicators 2005
OECD Observer

There are no easy answers to the intractable social questions of our time, like poverty, exclusion and violence. However, Society at a Glance, the OECD’s bi-annual compendium of social indicators, helps by elucidating some of the facts.

By going further than traditional studies, which often base wellbeing on the level of GDP per capita, Society at a Glance examines a wide range of other indicators in a bid to shed light on two key issues: how far have OECD countries progressed in terms of social development; and to what extent has this progress been the result of deliberate policy actions, either by governments or by other social institutions, communities or bodies. It provides comparable data in a variety of categories allowing OECD countries to benchmark themselves against each other.

These include, along with GDP per capita, the number of elderly, a country’s population of foreigners, marriage, divorce (Belgium has the highest divorce rate, Mexico the lowest), the number of working mothers, retirement age (highest in Iceland and Mexico, lowest in Hungary, the Slovak Republic and Belgium), social spending (highest in Denmark and Sweden, lowest in Korea), life expectancy (Japan has the highest for women, Iceland for men) and social isolation (lowest in the Netherlands, Ireland and the US; highest among the Japanese and Mexicans).

Problems like teenage births, drug use and suicide are also taken into account, but also happiness, with the Netherlands, Iceland and Ireland leading the field. While “life satisfaction” tends to increase with higher incomes, Turkey and Mexico–the two OECD countries with the lowest per capita income–record large differences in average life satisfaction. Only 38.6% of those in Turkey report being satisfied with life versus 79.5% in Mexico. And the list goes on.

Society at a Glance attempts to satisfy the growing demand for quantitative evidence on the social dimension: whether our societies are getting more or less equal, healthy and cohesive.

©OECD Observer No 248, March 2005

Economic data


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