Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny (Click to expand) ©Eric Piermont/AFP

After three years of sacrifice, hard work and difficult reform, Ireland has fought its way out of the depths of the financial crisis to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and one of the best countries in the world in which to do business.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony signs the accession agreement to the OECD, with US Secretary of State William P. Rogers and OECD Secretary-General Emile Van Lennep © Sabine Weiss

Australia is not a founding member of the OECD, which was created in 1961. Rather, its decision to seek membership was only taken after ten years of intermittent debate.

Australia has established itself as a G20 force in Asia-Pacific, and is now embarking on a new wave of engagement in the Asian Century.

©Dennis George

Although South Africa has had an impressive track record among emerging economies, it has recently hit economic difficulties. We asked FEDUSA General Secretary, Dennis George, what have been the effects, and what steps the G20 and South African government must take to return to the path of healthy growth.

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.

Heather Smith, Australian Sherpa to the G20 ©G20 Australia

Each G20 presidency faces its own challenges. A presidency must respond to global economic conditions, it must build on previous work, and it must seize opportunities to progress with reforms where members can reach consensus.

© Andre Dobroskoy/ Under license from Shutterstock

Over the past few years we have witnessed some challenging times. When Australia took the reins of the G20 presidency nearly a year ago, the global economy was still recovering from one of the most severe recessions of modern times.

In a recent article in the OECD Observer, Vézina and Melin describe how online platforms lower trade barriers and enable micro to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to build multinational operations. The contrast with traditional trade is stark, where exporting is normally confined to the largest corporations. Technology is reshaping the international trading landscape, and the changes are real and quantifiable. This is sharpening the role international trade can play in promoting sustainable development.

"Social perception is a prerequisite for a level playing field among all entrepreneurs."

"Each year about one-third of all the food produced globally ends up wasted even as hundreds of millions of people go hungry."

There’s a very obvious remedy for governments that wish to restore the public’s trust: become transparent, honest and inclusive. This, however, is intrinsically difficult. Any government that managed it would not be a government as we know it, but something else entirely.

Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.  

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, killing over a thousand workers, was not just a human tragedy. The ready-made garments sector is hugely important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. This gives dealing with the Rana Plaza aftermath even greater importance. 

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?”

©Reuters

Some 50 years ago, Japan entered into the period of post-recovery after the Second World War, while consolidating its path for economic growth and making a comeback on the international scene. Japan’s accession to the OECD was symbolic in that respect. Another symbol was the Tokyo Olympic Games, which triggered a transformation of Japan’s international image, thanks to improvements in its physical infrastructure, transportation systems and services. A new expressway network had been built across Tokyo, the new Shinkansen high-speed “bullet” train now relayed Tokyo and Osaka in four hours, and television began broadcasting in colour.

©Iain Masterton/Alamy

Japan’s development and influence have long been reflected in its architecture, and that influence is set to continue.

Yuko Sakurai is one of a new “global” generation of talented Japanese painters. Born in Tsuyama in 1970, Ms Sakurai has lived in North America and Europe, and is now based in Paris, France. Her warm, rich, virtually tactile paintings have won acclaim in several major cities, and were exhibited at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2011. Ms Sakurai personifies a new, cool Japan and its enriching influence in an evolving global village. She describes some of her thoughts in this interview.

Workers ©Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP

Japan’s accession to the OECD was an event that marked Japan’s entry to the club of developed nations. In 1964, Japan was in the midst of high-speed economic growth, and the national policy was to catch up with and overtake the US and Europe. In October of that year, Tokyo hosted the first Olympic Games to take place in Asia, and four years later, in 1968, the country’s GNP passed West Germany’s and Japan became a major economic power second only to the US.

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan boss ©Reuters

Non-nationals are starting to make an impact in top Japanese firms. But will other firms take notice? Changes in education would help.

Japan may be on the cusp of a fresh wave of “cool entrepreneurship” that could turn the country’s creative industries into a new source of growth. 

The year 1964, exactly 50 years ago, was marked by two events that symbolised Japan’s completion of its recovery in the period following the Second World War. One was the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo—their first time in Asia. The second was Japan’s joining the OECD, again, the first Asian country to do so. The newspapers of the day ran the headline, “Japan finally joins the ‘grown-ups’,” showing how accession to the OECD was emblematic of becoming a developed country. 

©Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan

Japan gained OECD membership in 1964, the same year it hosted the summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Its entry into the organisation is significant in three main ways. The first is historical: Japan’s joining the OECD, which followed the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1954 and entering GATT in 1955, signalled its successful transformation into a fully industrialised economy. 

Haguiwara Toru and Thorkil Kristensen, Memorandum of Understanding to join the OECD, signature of the Convention, in the OECD Observer No 6, October 1963, page 3 ©OECD

OECD membership crowned Japan’s efforts to reintegrate into the international community after the Second World War, while helping to turn the organisation into a global, rather than European, player. But the country’s accession had to be managed with great care, reflecting tensions of the time. 

The ups and downs of GDP

Economic policy can achieve results only if policy makers – and the voters to whom they are accountable – know what is happening to the economy. Understanding the economy as a whole depends on the available statistics. So economic statistics shape policy and events, and the most closely watched measure is the growth of gross domestic product (GDP).

Read the full article here.

©Ralph Freso/Reuters

One of the earliest citations of the phrase “print is dead” comes from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, but almost 30 years later, print is certainly not dead. Print publishing still drives on average 80% of revenues and close to 100% of the profits for general trade publishers. But among reference and science, technical and medical (STM) publishers, digital publishing was embraced quickly and openly at the expense of print. 

©Rory Clarke

Imagine a house that keeps itself warm in the wintertime. Think of the savings in terms of fuel bills and unfriendly emissions. Such houses in fact exist. Called “passive houses”, the concept of these highly energy-efficient buildings took root in the 1990s, before slowly consolidating as a niche construction concept in the 2000s. Are passive houses now actively moving into the mainstream as sustainable buildings? 

Energy has always been a hot political issue, but recently the temperature has been cranked up another notch. Large, persistent differences in natural gas and electricity prices across regions, coupled with a sustained period of high oil prices–unparalleled in market history–have many governments on edge. 

Classrooms need to be places for teaching creativity, as well as basic competence. Can it be done? 

Ireland leaves the three-year EU/IMF programme of assistance today Monday (16 December 2013). Our economy is growing, our finances have stabilised and unemployment is coming down. Our strategy is working in Ireland, and our people are getting back to work.

President Mandela stands in the pantheon of political leaders. He was blessed with an extraordinary ability, intelligence and memory, but it was his character that sets him head and shoulders above other leaders.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.7% Q2 2017
Consumer price inflation: 2.2% Aug 2017 annual
Trade: +1.4% exp, +1.7% imp, Q2 2017
Unemployment: 5.8% Aug 2017
Last update: 20 Oct 2017

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