© ACJA-Fonds Curie & Joliot-Curie

It is a century since Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes, one for physics and the other for chemistry. How can more women be encouraged to work in science?

Read the OECD Yearbook 2011, inaugural edition for the 50th anniversary of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. See the articles below or click here for the Issuu pdf version, which features key trends since the 1960s for OECD and partner countries; from page 103.

What is the state of world economy as we enter 2011? Have we made progress over the past 12 to 18 months in putting an end to the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes and laying the foundations for a stronger, cleaner and fairer world?

© REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Fiftieth Anniversary of the OECD: President Sarkozy's speech.

Japan: Prime Minister Naoto Kan marks the 50th anniversary of the OECD.

© Sebastián Piñera

Chile and Latin America are at a historic crossroads. For Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, today’s new revolution in knowledge, technology and information will benefit only those countries that embrace it, but could be cruel to those who let it pass them by.

© AFP

In the post-crisis economic environment, investing in human capital and labor force seems more necessary than ever to ensure a strong, sustainable recovery.

How can governments restore public finances and promote sound economic growth at the same time? With budget deficits stretched and public debt at historical highs, it will not be easy. But the OECD believes that with the right mix of policies much progress can be made.

Defying fiscal deficits

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?”

Public debt in the OECD area is fast approaching 100% of GDP, as the financial and economic crisis badly deteriorated government budgets. A concerted move towards more balanced budgets is needed, while preparing the ground for economic growth.

Governments and central banks managed to avoid a global economic catastrophe, but the crisis has left a legacy of nearly bankrupt governments. A quick return to solvency is required.

One area where governments have been looking to raise revenues is green taxes. And with good reason. Taxes can provide a clear incentive to reduce environmental damage. But while the number of environmentally-related taxes has actually been increasing in recent years, revenues from these taxes have been on a slight downward trend in relation to GDP. The decline in revenue partly reflects the drop in demand for fuel in response to recent high oil prices and other factors, which in turn has led to a reduction in total revenues from taxes on energy products.

What can countries looking to put their public finances in order learn from Israel, which joined the OECD in 2010? Quite a lot, says the country’s central bank governor, who provides some good reasons for optimism.

Is the worst economic crisis of modern times really over? Though there are risks to the downside, the latest OECD Economic Outlook points to a recovery taking hold.

A heated debate between Princeton University economist Paul Krugman and Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson was a highlight of the 11th World Knowledge Forum*–held in Seoul, Korea from 12-14 October–and among the conference’s most attended sessions.

The growing burden of healthcare expenditure on public budgets is hardly a recent phenomenon. For 15 years before the onset of the financial crisis, health spending per capita had been going up by over 4% per year in real terms across the OECD area–much faster than growth in real incomes. Nearly all OECD countries will soon have nearuniversal healthcare coverage–an historic achievement.

Pensions are a major component of public expenditure, and a target for governments looking to streamline budgets. What are countries doing to manage costs at a time when populations are ageing at an accelerated pace?

Unemployment soared in the crisis, and creating jobs is now a major policy priority. But jobs alone will not be enough. A greater emphasis on skills will be needed for the recovery to last. Investing more in lifelong learning is a good way to secure one's place in the job market and contributes to business competitiveness.

The crisis has had a huge impact on jobs and may have changed the labour market forever. John Martin, OECD Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, explains the challenges facing policymakers in the years and decades ahead.

Anyone wondering why knowledge and skills are important to the future of our economies should consider two facts.

Click to enlarge

Are today’s students prepared for the knowledge economy of the 21st century? What basic skills do they have, and how do different countries rank against each other when it comes to basic tasks such as reading, mathematics and science?

At the Pittsburgh G20 Summit in September 2009, world leaders made the following statement: “We commit to implementing recovery plans that support decent work, help preserve employment, and prioritise job growth”.

Job market: a gender approach.

©Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

“Being unemployed is frustrating, demeaning and, at this point, frightening”. Anyone who has any doubt about the devastating effects unemployment can have will learn a lot from statements such as this one, captured in a recent survey undertaken by the John. J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in the US.

Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth says that young people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as the average worker. This is a waste of resources that today’s economies can ill afford.

For more than two decades, the world’s economic growth and development was largely fuelled by globalisation–the opening up of financial and product markets, and the integration into the world economy of the emergence of economies such as China, India and Brazil. This process was hit by an earthquake with the global financial crisis of 2008, an event which some have dubbed the “first crisis of globalisation”.

The economic crisis that struck in 2008 was a wake-up call for everyone, for our economic models, our ways of doing business and our international relations. It revealed just what a patchwork our world really is–our countries may share the same ambitions for progress but have different starting points and face different challenges along the way. The crisis drove home the message that the structure underlying global governance must change.

The financial system may be out of intensive care, but it would be wrong to assume it has fully recovered. Major questions remain over how banks operate and how they are regulated. The solutions aren’t always obvious, but they must be found if we’re to avoid another crisis.

Speculation and greed were at the heart of the global financial collapse. Reforms of financial regulation have gone some way to curbing their impact, but a lot more still needs to be done.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q2 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 1.6% September 2019 annual
Trade: -1.9% exp, -0.9% imp, Q2 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% September 2019
Last update: 18 November 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>

Have the OECD Observer delivered
to your door



Edition Q2 2019

Previous editions

Don't miss

Most Popular Articles

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