The facts of life

OECD Factbook 2005: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics
OECD Observer

The OECD Factbook 2005, the OECD’s first annual digest of economic, environmental and social statistics covering the OECD’s 30 member nations, brings together in a single publication 100 indicators that are essential to evaluating the relative position of any OECD country, both at a given moment and over time, with historical data going back at least 10 years.

Depending on area of interest, information is laid out for the diehard data enthusiast as well as the casual reader, and goes further than just providing facts and figures, by explaining what’s behind the numbers.

Environmentalists may be surprised to find that one of the countries with the smallest populations, Iceland, has the highest ratios of energy supply per capita. The OECD Factbook 2005 explains that this is due to climate factors and the availability of cheap, non-polluting, thermal energy from hot springs.

Coming perhaps as no surprise, the US is the largest member country in terms of total GDP, with 2002 GDP of $10,429 billion exceeding the combined GDP of the 15 members of the EU. In 1990, however, the reverse was true.

And while Norway and Sweden may have the highest female employment rates of all OECD countries, the percentage of workingage women in jobs has been growing fastest in Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands.

R&D expenditure, a key indicator of government and private sector efforts to obtain competitive advantage in science and technology, has increased relative to GDP in the three main OECD regions over the past three years. In 2001, Iceland, Japan, Finland and Sweden were the only four OECD countries in which the R&D/GDP ratio exceeded 3%, well above the OECD average of 2.3%.

And under the category “Quality of Life”, highlighted issues include obesity (asked face-to-face, 22% of Americans admit to being obese, whereas just 3% of Koreans and 4% of Japanese do) and the number of hours worked (down sharpest in France, Ireland, Japan and Portugal; Denmark, Greece and Sweden were the only three to post increases). Whether this really measures quality of life is another issue.

©OECD Observer No 248, March 2005




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