©Ciric

In the coming two decades, it is expected that the number of individuals aged 65 and over will nearly double, so that there will be over 1 billion older adults worldwide. With our health care systems struggling to cope, this prospect has been characterised by some as a “grey tsunami” that threatens to raise costs, create inefficiencies and ultimately bankrupt us. Describing our changing demographic as a tsunami is problematic.

©National Board of Health and Welfare, Sweden

The word “patient” comes from Latin, and means “the one that suffers”. Health care has historically been about “taking care” and “protecting” the patient that suffers. Under this view the patient is more or less helpless. The healthcare professional on the other hand plays the dominant role, as an authority, to be heeded and obeyed. This attitude is all too prevalent today, in that the passive patient is not seen as having useful knowledge or capacity, and so must wait patiently for the doctors’ orders. With people-centred care comes a new, fresher attitude and perspective, which highlight the patients’ capabilities, knowledge and own value-setting.

OECD Observer: On the OECD health care conference website you paraphrase Donald Berwick: “We are all guests in our patients’ lives”. What exactly do you mean by this eloquent phrase? 

©Rights reserved

For everyone working in the healthcare sector, 2017 arrives with much to celebrate and a great deal to ponder. On the one hand, we can look back on decades of sustained progress, with universal coverage of healthcare rising and people enjoying generally healthier and longer lives than ever before. Funding is increasing and the OECD’s figures on the state of play show the number of doctors and nurses has grown significantly across most OECD countries since 2000.

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Which country does best at reading and science? Are young students well equipped with the 21st-century skills they will need to face tomorrow’s challenges? The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in science, reading and mathematics, intends to answer these questions.

©David Rooney

The political landscape of global governance is changing profoundly. This is posing great challenges to policy makers and organisations such as the OECD.

©Ogilvy

Women 20 (W20) was launched by the G20 in 2015 as a step forward for gender equality. Including men in the challenge could make a telling difference in 2017.

From the OECD Observer team.

Is there such a thing as a right amount of health spending? In an ideal world, this would likely mean spending that achieves effective healthcare services, with good outcomes for patients, the right number of professionals with the right skills, and delivers good value for tax payers with little, if any, wastage. Finding that balance is a difficult challenge. 

Fifteen years ago, the OECD started evaluating education systems worldwide by testing the knowledge and competences of 15-year-old students through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Right from very first PISA exercise in 2000, we noted that although the results for France were around the OECD average, they revealed a system where children’s socio-economic status had a disproportionate influence on their school grades, and where children from disadvantaged backgrounds did not receive enough support.

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.

©Alamy

Cities around the world are taking impressive initiatives to tackle climate change and reduce inequalities, but more can be achieved by aligning these policy agendas in mutually beneficial ways. 

©Dennis MacDonald/Alamy Stock Photo

Connectivity is the foundation for the digital economy. The Internet has already connected more than three billion users across the globe and about 14 billion devices. 

Sea change for the Moroccan port of Tangier ©Alamy

Tangier in 2000 was a sleepy coastal city in the north of Morocco. Fifteen years later, Tangier’s population has exploded three-fold into a vibrant metropolitan area of 1.5 million inhabitants. The city’s free-zones have attracted new industries, such as automobile producers. A new business district called Tangier City Center and new satellite cities arise around Tangier’s old town, providing local inhabitants with modern infrastructure and amenities that have been sorely lacking. A new high-speed train is being built to connect people with the state-of-the-art Ibn Batouta International Airport.

Joan Clos ©UN-Habitat

If urbanisation is one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, with some 70% of the world’s population forecasted to live in cities by 2050, then urbanisation in Africa–and the ways in which that growth occurs–marks one of the most significant opportunities for achieving global sustainable development.

African nations are exploring how best to harness the potential of cities as agents of change to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The current African Economic Outlook (AEO), jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme, warns that policy makers and donors too often are blind to the territorial realities of the economies they are trying to help develop. Economies are seen as sectors rather than places. And thus sectoral lenses tend to limit policy action to a few specific tools, regardless of the complexity of problems that demand a place-based, multi-sectoral and participatory approach.

Julien Daniel / OECD

Shimon Peres paid a memorable visit to the OECD on 8 March 2013.

The OECD PISA surveys of educational competence among 15-year-olds have taught policymakers many lessons since the programme was launched in 2000. They have revealed several myths as well.

Top earners are more likely to be salaried executives or company founders, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ©Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

Across much of the OECD, the share of national income taken by the top 1% of earners has risen, sometimes sharply, in recent decades. 

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Real GDP growth slowed in most of the emerging economies in Asia in 2014 and remained subdued in 2015, the Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India 2016 says. In fact, most countries in the region recorded slower growth in 2015 than in 2014–the exceptions being Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Viet Nam and India. China and the ASEAN region recorded their slowest growth since the start of the global financial crisis. 

Kieran Clarke in his London classroom in the 1970s ©Rights reserved

Graduate teaching courses are becoming more popular again in many countries, though ageing continues to affect the profession, and making the career more attractive for longer remains a challenge. For insight, we asked a retired teacher to explain why, despite the challenges, he stayed in the job.

©Alamy

What do sunscreen, deodorant, smartphone batteries and tennis rackets have in common, besides being everyday items? They are all likely to contain nanomaterials. These very small objects–from 1nm to 100nm–are increasingly used for industrial, commercial and medical purposes. The number of products containing them leapt fivefold from 2006 to 2011. Nanotechnology may be revolutionary, but is not without risks. 

In 2011 the Social Movement for Public Education led the biggest demonstrations since Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. Since then, one of the main campaigns in Chilean society has been for the recognition of education as a social right, under the slogan of “free, quality, public education” (educación pública, gratuita y de calidad).

©Serprix.com

Schools are places of learning and producing the innovators of tomorrow. But did you know that in most OECD countries, schools lag behind workplaces and homes in the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) tools?

Do you know the acronym for objects that are connected online  (3 letters)? Another word for "erased data" (5 letters)? Or what Leonardo's nobiliary particle was (2 letters)? Try our latest OECD Observer Crossword, this time with a digital angle.

© Steve Allen Travel Photography/Alamy Stock

The OECD welcomes Latvia as its 35th member country. Latvia joined the OECD on 1 July 2016. 

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

©Rights reserved

On 21-23 June Mexico hosts the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy. The first ministerial of its kind on this subject (then called “electronic commerce”) was held in Canada in 1998, and the second one in Korea in 2008; hence Mexico is the third country to have this distinction and the first Latin American country to organise and lead this undertaking. As the use of information and communications technology (ICT) is favourable for productivity across a large number of strategic industries in any economy, we have chosen "Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity” as this year’s theme, three goals that can hardly be achieved without the impetus of digital technology.

©David Rooney

Three out of four people access the Internet everyday across the OECD. But one-third of those daily users don't yet buy online. Why not? According to a 2014 consumer survey the top two concerns reported by EU Internet shoppers are the misuse of personal data and security of online payments. 

Mutual enrichment. The postcard reads: “Greetings from Paris where I’ve been working for the past seven years.” ©Charlotte Moreau/OECD Observer

When nearly a million Vietnamese “boat people” fled their country in the late 1970s and early 1980s and sought refuge elsewhere, they were typically seen as a burden and often turned away. Eventually, many were allowed to settle in the US. Most arrived speaking little or no English and with few assets or relevant job skills. Yet Vietnamese refugees are now more likely to be employed and have higher incomes than people born in the US.

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