Marrying the cook

Understanding National Accounts
Ever wonder what marriage and cooks have to do with economic growth? The OECD has the answer. The organisation’s publications are stocked in university libraries around the world, but it has rarely produced a textbook. Yet, questions are often asked about how national accounts are calculated.
For instance, what exactly is gross domestic product and how is it different to gross national income? Or how can what appears to be a positive foreign balance have a negative effect on the rate of GDP growth? Understanding National Accounts is one of the first OECD publications written to answer questions like these, and explicitly as a textbook.The reader, whether student or browser, can learn how to distinguish between volume and price increases, understand what productivity figures include and exclude; discover growth rates and savings ratios, purchasing power parities and household spending accounts; and grapple with the principle of quadruple-entry bookkeeping. Each chapter finishes with exercises and, in a novel stroke of teaching interactivity, the answers are found not in the book, but online! Special chapters include information on the Maastricht Treaty criteria for European economic and monetary union, the treatment of value-added tax pension funds and social security plans, as well as an examination of the national accounts of the US, India and China.Understanding National Accounts is a lively, user-friendly textbook. In one lesson, GDP calculations are illuminated by using the real life example of a pasta manufacturer. This is where the cook comes in. While discussing the underground economy and the uncalculated production values of household cooking, cleaning and caretaking, the authors recall a remark by John Hicks, a leading light of national accounts, that marrying one’s cook would reduce GDP.Such stories as this are the spirit of this book. Enrico Giovannini, head of the OECD statistics directorate, explains that all too often statistics are seen as a necessary but very dry subject and the preserve of specialists: “The book allows non-specialists to understand the ‘religion of national accounts’ and demystify this esoteric group of statistical priests.” References:
ISBN-13 9789264025660©OECD Observer N° 260, March 2007

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019