No 24: Is there a case for wealth taxes?; Thailand’s ageing challenge; Universal basic income meets universal credit; West Africa’s double burden of malnutrition; Asia leads the STEM race but equity must keep pace

Less than a fifth of plastic waste is recycled, with the rest being landfilled, burned or polluting our environment. Sorting and processing plastic waste is expensive, and some plastics cannot be recycled because of the hazardous chemicals used to make them. What are the solutions? Watch our video:

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In a witty attempt to explain two new global institutions of his day, renowned economist John Maynard Keynes once famously observed that the World Bank should be called a fund, and the International Monetary Fund called a bank. In short, what mattered was that they both finance global economic development, and indeed both have long played an invaluable role in the ASEAN countries. But what of the OECD? What added value does this organisation bring to the prosperity of the region? 

Operator, did you say co-Operate? ©Mack Sennett Studios

Why is it so important–and urgent–to strengthen co-operation between tax and anti-corruption authorities? 

©Pierre Boussel/AFP

“Summertime and the living is easy”–at least for the lucky ones planning a holiday right now. France drew the most tourists in OECD countries in 2016 with over 82.5 million people among les bons vivants

©David Rooney

Moving beyond a petroleum-based economy is not just about choosing alternative sources of energy. It is about rethinking almost everything around us. The fleece you’re wearing, for example, is made from the same oil-based chemical as antifreeze or engine coolant. This is where green chemistry comes in. Advances in biotechnology are allowing us to manufacture fabrics, plastics, fuels and chemicals from bio-based resources using renewable resources.

©Frédéric Soreau/Photononstop

One of the most popular Netflix series in Brazil right now is The Mechanism. Loosely based on real events, the show is about an ongoing investigation of a corruption scheme involving high-ranking Brazilian politicians and companies. No wonder it’s so successful: 79% of the population in Latin American and Caribbean countries think their government is corrupt.

Heavy seas on the way to Tangier: the topmen giving it their all ©Frégate L'Hermione

The Francosphere is the fastest growing language zone in the world, with over one billion people expected to be living in French-speaking countries by 2065, second only to countries that speak English. What are the challenges for this francophonie – and for the world?

©Andreas Meier/Reuters

In June 2015, a small village in the Austrian Alps was buried under a massive landslide after days of intense rain. Thanks to accurate weather forecasts and early warning systems, no one was hurt in the landslide but it caused considerable damage to the local economy and people’s livelihoods. 

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“Employment rates for women have grown faster and are above where they were in 2008, but employment rates for men have not even gotten back to where they were.” This remark was made by the OECD chief economist, Catherine Mann, after delivering an update on the global economic outlook in late September. Speaking to the BBC, Ms Mann added, “Women are paid less than men. You've got more women employed, as compared to men, so the algebra works out to be a downward pressure on wage growth.”

The annual Forum of the OECD Centre on Green Finance and Investment brings together leading actors in the green finance and investment community. This includes institutional investors, asset managers, ministries of finance and central banks, financial regulators, commercial and investment banks, international climate funds, multilateral development banks, green investment banks, corporations, civil society, philanthropic sectors and more.

The international system stands at a critical juncture, facing slow global economic growth, rising inequalities and challenges to the rules-based global order that has underpinned decades of peace and prosperity. Many governments are working to recalibrate their global engagement and do what they can to safeguard an open, progressive world.*

About a decade ago, three academics silently sat in on and recorded 36 hours of closed-room discussion among a group of Swedish governmental venture capitalists made up of two women and five men. The venture capitalists (VC) were going over pitches made by 125 people to obtain financing for their businesses of which 99 were men and 26 women.

“The ultimate purpose is to reduce and ideally eliminate the gender gap, so that every girl and every woman in the world can fulfil their potential.” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría discusses the challenges of gender inequality on International Women’s Day 8 March. Watch the video:

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More women are going into postsecondary education than men: women’s enrolment rates are 11 percentage points higher on average than that of men. 

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Some 99% of firms in the OECD are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and they generate about 70% of all jobs. But in order to stay vital and competitive in today’s global economy, SMEs need support. We ask our panel of experts for their views.

©OECD/Michael Dean

Many OECD countries are seeking to scale up the performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They already generate around 70% of total employment. On average, they account for 50-60% of gross value added in the OECD area, and more than 80% in countries such as Italy, Greece and Korea. SMEs range from local micro-enterprises to “born global” technology leaders and firms whose raison d'être from the moment they are founded is to operate internationally. These smaller firms are essential for achieving societal goals of productivity growth and greater inclusion, but many face challenges in making the most of today’s opportunities. How can policy better help them scale up and go global? 

©2016 by NASA/ZUMA/REA

The Paris climate summit in November 2015 was a great diplomatic success but aviation, like shipping, was not included in the final agreement. International air transport currently represents about 1.5% of all man-made emissions, though with a projected doubling of demand for air travel over the next 10-20 years, up from approximately 3.5 billion in 2015, action had to be taken. 

A skilled labour force can help countries integrate into the global market, but which skills are in demand and are countries able to supply them? OECD Skills Outlook provides some answers.

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BEPS multilateral instrument will close loopholes in thousands of tax treaties worldwide.

The deep recession of 2007-08 hit young people hard, but it hit foreign-born youth even harder. While 13.9% native-born 15 to 29-year-olds in OECD countries were neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) in 2015, the rate for foreign-born in that demographic was 21.5%. 

©Roy Philippe/HEMIS.FR

In September 2017, the United Nations (UN) adopted a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water. For years water had been under-valued, under-priced and too often taken for granted, so Goal 6 on water and sanitation was a momentous recognition of water’s crucial policy importance. Though just one of 17 SDGs, this goal also sits at the heart of many of them: water is essential for food security, health, cities, sustainable consumption and production, and terrestrial ecosystems. 

©Christopher David Rothecker

Plutarch once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” The educational prospects of indigenous students in Canada, New Zealand and Queensland, Australia, are getting brighter, a new study of the OECD finds. 

"The markets have moved on, the world has moved on, coal is not coming back," said Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Change Minister of Canada when she launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance with the UK and 23 partner countries, states and regions at the COP23 climate conference in Bonn on 16 November 2017.

At the 2009 UNFCCC negotiations, developed countries committed to mobilising US$100 billion each year for climate action in developing countries by 2020. As negotiations on a new climate agreement intensified in the lead-up to COP 21 in 2015, an understanding of the progress made towards this commitment was important in keeping everyone around the table. In this context, the OECD estimated that US$62 billion had been mobilised in 2014, up by US$10 billion since 2013. Updated estimates towards the US$100 billion commitment will be needed in the lead-up to 2020, along with new information about climate finance beyond this goal. But further progress relies on robust and transparent tracking of the different streams of climate finance. 

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Fossil fuel subsidies keep fuel prices artificially low, and weigh heavily on government budgets and on the climate too. Phasing out these subsidies will help reduce CO2 emissions and possibly raise public revenues as well.

Click to read our seasonal cartoon. By Stik, especially for the OECD Observer

The OECD Observer team would like to wish all our readers a very happy festive season, and a safe and prosperous New Year.

©David Rooney

Blended finance is not a new concept but it certainly has returned as a new buzzword. 

©David Rooney

A systems approach can be applied to more complex administrative challenges, from transport and tourism to the environment.

Cultura/Janie Airey

There is enough capital out there and renewable energy technologies have become more cost-competitive, so why is investment still wanting? Policymakers hold the key.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Apr 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.4% Mar 2018
Last update: 06 Jun 2018

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Don't miss

  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • International co-operation, inclusive growth and digitalisation lead the themes of the 2018 OECD Forum in Paris on 29-30 May, under the banner of What brings us together www.oecd.org/forum. It is held alongside the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 30-31 May, chaired this year by France with a focus on multilateralism www.oecd.org/mcm.
  • 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.
  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • 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.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • 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.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • 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 www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

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