Korea joined the OECD on 12 December 1996, the first Asian country to become a member of the organisation in over 30 years. By all accounts, the country’s economic transformation has been unprecedented, from one of the poorest countries in the world half a century ago to one of its leading economies. In this OECD Observer Roundtable, we asked a range of experts who have witnessed Korea’s progress over the years:

What policy actions are you taking to harness the benefits and address the challenges of the digital economy?

Handewi Purwati Saliem, Director, Indonesian Center for Agriculture Socio Economic and Policy Studies (ICASEP) Handewi Purwati Saliem

Agriculture faces a challenging future. The world’s population is rising and pressures on natural resources are mounting, while environmental issues such as climate change loom large.

Cathríona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland ©Rights reserved

Ireland has bounced back from the crisis to become one of the OECD’s most dynamic economies. A key help has been the continued inflow of capital investment from abroad, allowing the country to bolster its position as a European hub for the likes of IT, finance, pharmaceuticals, engineering, and more. Ireland has been an attractive destination for global high-value investments for decades, yet its own innovation system lags that of other similar-sized OECD countries. Closing the gap would strengthen the country’s long-term outlook, but how can this be done?

©Phil Noble/Reuters

World leaders attending the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris know they have a rare opportunity to forge a new international agreement to combat climate change and set forth a pathway towards a low-carbon world. More ambition will be needed by all sides if global temperatures are to be prevented from rising above 2°C, the agreed threshold for preventing catastrophic climate change. But even without that target, unleashing a low-carbon future makes sense for health, costs and sustainable development.

Oil, gas and coal represent over 80% of energy use worldwide, and are a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and other unhealthy pollutants. These fossil fuels also drive the likes of transport, industrial output, lighting, heating and construction, and naturally their use is heavily concentrated in urban areas. Roughly half the world’s population live in urban areas, and as towns and cities are an important generator of emissions, they must also play a key role in the fight against climate change.

Building a new global energy strategy to improve efficiency and tackle global warming requires political leadership. It also demands practical, hands-on policy action. It is one thing for governments to recognise that energy is under-invested, vulnerable and dirty, but are they starting to move?

Eric Abetz, Australian Minister for Employment, and Chair of the 2014 G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting ©Australian Government

The world economy is still suffering from the strains of the longest crisis of modern times, and nowhere is this more evident than in the high unemployment numbers. Over 100 million people are out of work in the G20 countries, with joblessness at historically high levels in several of them. Long-term and youth unemployment, and low female participation, pose particular challenges.

Even in countries where recovery has begun to take hold, the reduction in joblessness has been frustratingly slow, and all too often achieved via low-skill, low-paying jobs. Resilient, inclusive and smart societies need more.

Policymakers have a key role to play in introducing the reforms and measures needed to improve labour markets and bring unemployment back down. In this OECD Observer Roundtable, we asked a cross-section of ministers:

“What actions are you taking to create more and better jobs in your economy?”

©OECD Observer Roundtable No 12.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

Though optimism about a recovery may be rising, the global crisis has left deep scars and placed economies of all levels and sizes under severe strain. Achieving long-term, inclusive, growth is a key goal of OECD countries and a central theme of the Russian presidency of the G20. Reforms are essential for achieving that goal, though other measures, in fiscal policy for instance, could help too.

The budget deficit for the OECD area as a whole probably peaked at around 7.5% of GDP in 2010. That’s the equivalent of some US$3.3 trillion. A decrease to around 6.1% of GDP is expected in 2011, which will still be high by historical standards. But while the need to restore public finances is a global challenge, the state of government balance sheets varies widely. Economic starting points, causes of deficits and budgetary strategies also vary. Some countries have started down the road of austerity, others are maintaining stimulus and plan to rein in their deficits from 2011.

In December 2010 we asked finance ministers from a broad selection of countries facing different fiscal challenges–France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa–to answer this question: “What actions is your government taking to bolster public finances, while upholding growth and services?”

Ministers responsible for employment from around the world gathered at the OECD on 28-29 September to discuss the jobs crisis. In our eighth OECD Observer ministers' roundtable, we ask six representatives, from Canada (co-Chair), Italy (co-Chair), Sweden (vice-Chair), France, New Zealand, and Chile, which is a candidate for OECD accession: What new policy actions are you taking to improve the jobs situation in your country?

Mari Kiviniemi, Finland's Minister of Public Administration & Local Government

©Finnish government

The global economic crisis is affecting families and communities across the planet. With regions bearing the brunt of the crisis, affecting businesses, jobs and people generally, regional policies are very much part of the solution.

Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Italy's minister for the environment, and chair of the 2008 OECD meeting of environment ministers ©Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Climate change is a pressing challenge, requiring leadership and determined action. At the same time, people are concerned that policies do not put them at an economic disadvantage or unnecessarily undermine their welfare.

Can governments balance these concerns? The OECD’s Environment Policy Committee meets at ministerial level on 28-29 April 2008 under the theme of global competitiveness. Some non-OECD developing countries will also participate, as will stakeholders from business, labour and civil society.

Economic data


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

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • 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.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • 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 www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles


What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming

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 2016