News brief - May 2007

OECD Observer

Women off line; Broader faster; Economy; Cropping problems; Anti-corruption crusades; Tax accord; Home straight

Women off line
Broader faster
Cropping problems
Anti-corruption crusades
Tax accord
Home straight
Women off lineWomen have generally lower shares than men in specialised employment in information and communications technology, a recently published OECD report shows.In most OECD countries, women account for between 30% and 50% of employees in occupations that use IT. However, of these occupations, women tend to have much higher shares of traditional office and secretarial positions, and lower shares in scientific and professional ones. The female share of these traditional occupations is greater than 60% in all OECD countries and just over 90% in Finland and Poland. Female IT specialists account for between 10% and 20% in all OECD countries, except for Hungary and the US where the share lies at a little over 25%.In terms of general IT access, women tend to lag behind men. These gaps are generally declining, though they remain large in older age groups. In 2005, male access to IT was at least 5% greater than women in more than half of the 23 OECD countries for which data was available. Only in Finland, the US and Ireland did women have greater access than men.The report also highlights differences in online activities: women frequently use the Internet for shopping and health-related searches, whereas men tend to focus on entertainment and banking. Broader fasterBroadband subscribers leapt by over a quarter in the OECD, latest figures show. The rise to 197 million in December 2006 from 157 million subscribers in December 2005 also led to an increase in OECD broadband penetration rates, which grew from 13.5 to 16.9 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants during the same period.Denmark and the Netherlands were the first countries in the OECD to surpass 30 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. These were followed by Iceland, Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, each with between 26 and 30 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.Strong subscriber growth per capita was seen in New Zealand, Norway and Ireland, with each country adding almost 6 new subscribers per 100 inhabitants during the past year.At 58.1 million, the US has the largest total number of broadband subscribers in the OECD. US broadband subscribers now represent 29% of all broadband connections in the OECD. Japan had 26 million broadband subscribers and Germany had 14.1 million, the highest in Europe.EconomyIn the OECD area, consumer prices rose by 2.1% in the year to February 2007, compared with 1.9% in the year to January 2007. On a monthly basis, the price level increased by 0.3% in February 2007, after a 0.2% rise between December 2006 and January 2007. Euro area inflation was up by 1.9% in the year to February, while in the US, the consumer price index rose by 2.4% over the twelve months to February, after 2.1% in January. Japan’s consumer prices were down by 0.2% in February over a year earlier.Consumer prices for energy rose by 0.8% year-on-year in February, after showing no change in the year to January.At 5.7% in February 2007, the standardised unemployment rate for the OECD area remained unchanged from the previous month, a 0.5% drop from a year earlier.For the Euro area, the standardised unemployment rate was 7.3% in February 2007, while the US’s rate for February 2007 was 4.5%, 0.3 percentage points lower than a year earlier. For Japan, the rate was 4% in February 2007, the same as the previous month and 0.1 percentage point lower than in February 2006.Meanwhile, in trade, the G7 countries experienced a slight, seasonally-adjusted 1% growth in goods trade volume in the fourth quarter of 2006, compared with the previous quarter. Import volume growth continued to shrink, falling 0.1%. G7 trade volumes continued to grow on a year-on-year basis, but at lower rates, with exports 5.9% higher and imports up 3.6%.At 2.5%, the US yielded a growth well above the G7 average for quarter-on-quarter trade exports, while imports declined by 1.0% for the first time in two years. Cropping problemsGovernments are increasing farming aid in emerging and transition economies, but this aid is not being applied effectively, Agricultural Policies in Non-OECD Countries, a forthcoming OECD report, will reveal.Average government support to agriculture in OECD countries, as measured by the Producer Support Estimate, is currently about 30%. For the 2003-2005 period, it was less than half of this in many of the eight nations examined by the report–Brazil (5%), China (8%), India*, South Africa (8%), Russia (17%), Bulgaria (8%), Romania (27%) and the Ukraine (3%)– which together produce nearly a third of the world’s agricultural output. However, recent years have seen a rise in subsidies to most of these countries. Instead of inefficiently propping up prices, the funding could be improved for areas such as research and development, training, marketing and infrastructure investment.The OECD report also analyses government response to common challenges such as alleviating poverty, promoting rural development, ensuring food security and assisting farmers to adapt to global competition. The report cites a need for greater diversification of income sources in rural communities. Improved education and health services, land rights and tax reform would encourage this diversification and reduce sole dependency on agriculture, the report will show.* PSE data is not yet available for India.Anti-corruption crusadesIn a bid to strengthen ties in the fight against corruption in North and South America, the OECD has signed an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS).Under the agreement’s framework, the organisations will work more closely together on issues related to their respective international treaties against corruption, including prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption crimes. Co-operation will equally focus on avoiding conflicts of interest, promoting integrity through transparency and accountability, and enhancing resistance to corruption in risk areas such as public procurement, contract management and lobbying.OAS secretary-general, José Miguel Insulza, said the issues to be tackled are “very important so that our democracies are not only democracies from an electoral point of view, but also countries that are able to continue developing political and civilian citizenship and citizen participation.”Building upon a relationship that began in 1963, the organisations will also co-operate on state modernisation for more efficiency and transparency.The OECD leads the global fight against corruption and already counts Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Mexico and the US from the American continent among the 36 signatories of its 1997 anti-bribery convention.Tax accordTax co-operation has been strengthened through the signing of an agreement between the OECD and the United Arab Emirates. The agreement will help to reduce the tax barriers to trade and investment flows both within the Arab region and between the countries of the Middle East and North Africa and OECD countries. An official Arabic version of the OECD Model Tax Convention will also be produced.The UAE was also one of more than 80 countries to contribute to the OECD report “Tax Co-operation: Towards a Level Playing Field–2006 Assessment by the Global Forum on Taxation.”A total of 33 jurisdictions have committed to work with OECD countries under the OECD’s Global Forum on Taxation, which is targeted at improving transparency and establishing effective exchange of information for tax purposes. Home straight  Click hereTop soil is spread out in the garden of the OECD headquarters, April 2007. The new OECD conference centre (on the right and indicated by the line of garden skylights) is expected to be open for business in January 2008. The OECD headquarters renewal project also includes renovation of the 1922 château, completed in 2005, and of the main OECD office building, which is expected to re-open fully in 2009. A French-American team of architects SCAU Macary, Menu & Delamain, and Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners is leading the project which began in 2003.©OECD Observer N° 261, May 2007

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