What to do? A woman stands on the porch of a flooded home in Sorrento, Louisiana, 17 August 2016. ©Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Flood management in coastal areas is becoming a major challenge of our times, not least because of climate change. With floods turning into a structural problem for many littoral communities, there is an urgent need to build flood resilience in vulnerable areas. This study, prepared as part of the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) initiative, shows a way forward.

First Artek shop in Helsinki, 1936; photo provided especially to OECD Observer by Artek. ©Artek Collection, Alvar Aalto Museum

Finland has a reputation among designers, architects and artists for being a land, a nation, a culture that produces high-quality design and architecture. It tops happiness polls and educational surveys, can produce determined sports champions, and world-class high-tech products and games software, but it also has a relatively high incidence of mental illness and has been battling down its suicide rate. A land of extremes with a wide breadth of emotions, talents and expectations?

Health care facility in Surabaya city, East Java, Indonesia. © spotters/Shutterstock

Anyone looking for proof of the valuable role social protection plays in our economies should look no further than Indonesia. After all, here’s a country of over 260 million people living on more than 6,000 islands where administrative and logistical challenges are simply routine. Even Indonesia’s presidential election, held on 17 April, was hailed as an achievement in itself.

©OECD/Andrew Wheeler

Popular unrest, street protests and calls for a return to protectionism: today’s headlines make it crystal clear that too many people feel left behind or simply left out. The economic and social crisis didn’t help, and and these divides are visible in our regions. We should have seen it coming, that by concentrating too much on national averages, the needs of too many communities would be overlooked. Our regional blindspots and insufficient place-based efforts are showing.  No wonder people’s patience has run out. But a closer look at these regional divides shows that by reinvigorating regional development policies in strategic ways, particularly in our age of digital transformation, today’s geographical disadvantages could be turned into tomorrow’s opportunities.

Ultra-light graphene aerogel resting on a flower at Zhejiang University, China. ©PLANET Pix/ZUMA-REA

Ever heard of “magic-angle” graphene? This is a next generation material and newly-found superconductor that could revolutionise energy efficiency, and much more. It could help us address climate change. AI could play a key role in this. But real scientists are needed too… 

Two decades ago the OECD held its first international ministerial meeting on the digital economy. A lot has changed since then, but some old challenges persist while new ones have emerged. Food for thought as we embark on the next 20 years and prepare for the transformative effects of the digital economy.

In 1969, Finland became an official member of the OECD. Since then, this Nordic nation has transformed into an innovative, knowledge-based society. And set an example for OECD countries, and the world, with its educational system, IT prowess, and inclusive, egalitarian outlook.

©Laurent Grandguillot/REA

The fire at Notre Dame has struck at the soul of Paris, at the spirit and memory of Christianity and of the world itself.

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The digital transformation is not new, but the pace of change has quickened, with our hyperconnected societies generating huge volumes of data of all kinds.

©Serprix

At some point in just about everyone’s life, we are affected by poor mental health.­ In the EU an estimated 1 in every 6 people experience a mental health problem. In Finland, which has the highest estimated incidence of mental disorders in the EU, close to 1 in 5 are affected. Mental illness has a high economic cost–the cost of treatment, social security programmes, lower employment and lost productivity add up to a total average of 4% of GDP in EU countries. In Finland it is higher still: an estimated 5.3% of GDP in 2016.

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In 1969, when Finland became an OECD member, you were delicately balancing between the West and the East. Finland’s road to prosperity was neither obvious nor predetermined. Per capita income was almost 30% lower than in Sweden. 

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Back in the 1960s, when my dad wanted to make an international call for work, he had to order it 24 hours in advance. Today, he uses WhatsApp to make toll-free calls from anywhere, anytime, in just a couple of clicks.

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To mark Finland’s 50th anniversary as a member of the OECD, we have invited a range of representatives to answer the following question: What Finnish achievement would you most celebrate from the last 50 years, and what would you see as the main policy challenge for the next 50?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sometimes thought of as something esoteric, a shiny idea that may become real at some distant point in the future. But the reality is that although AI is developing globally at different rates, AI is already being integrated rapidly into the internal workings of governments, business, civil society, and more.

At age 15, 5% of boys in OECD countries want to work in information technology. And girls? 0.5%. With society digitalising fast and the current gender gap in science/technology/engineering/maths (STEM) widening, the future still looks to be a “man’s, man’s, man’s world”. But Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20, is betting against James Brown. She urges girls to set their ambitions high and calls on policymakers to break down the policy barriers that are holding women back.

©Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/AFP

Smart communications technology has enabled people to hire themselves out as independently contracting workers in everything from taxi drives to video producers and gardeners. But what is the status of these workers, and what are the challenges of the so-called gig economy?

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Climate change appears to be gathering pace, with the four years since 2015 being the hottest on record. Of course, 2015 was also the year the Paris Climate Agreement was signed by 195 countries, with the goal of holding the rise in the global average temperature to well within a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels over the long term. But that goal is in peril, which means efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions must be stepped up.

Conversations on corruption: Konilo, one of Greece’s most popular vloggers (right), interviewing young Athenians on Ermou Street. ©Rights reserved

Some young people are walking down a busy street. A man with a video camera stops them and asks some questions about what they like best about their country. They say they like the food, the beach, and a few other things. Then the man asks what they don’t like about their country. The conversation soon turns to corruption. Want to get your driving licence? “Bribing’s the only way to pass the test.” Want to get your student papers without having to wait forever? “Throw in an extra €10.”

Everybody agrees that tech giants and all other businesses should pay their fair share of taxes where they create value. But is a digital tax the way to go? OECD tax chief Pascal Saint-Amans says no. The OECD has secured an agreement among 127 countries and jurisdictions to spearhead talks on changing the rules of the taxation game: shifting more taxing rights to market jurisdictions where goods and services—digital or not—are being consumed…away from the countries where multinational companies are headquartered. What’s at stake? Nothing short of changing fundamental tax rules to address the 21st century’s globalised and digitalising economy.

Who are the Gilets Jaunes and what do they want? We talk to Sophie Pedder, who is Paris bureau chief of the Economist and author of Revolution Française: Emmanuel Macron and the quest to reinvent a nation.

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Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most profitable forms of illicit trade worldwide, a multibillion-dollar international industry that has grown in sophistication, and volume. Estimates value the trade at somewhere between US$7–23 billion annually, making it a lucrative part of a wider environmental crime industry worth over US$175 billion.

Finland prepares to join: OECD Secretary-General Thorkil Kristensen (right) welcomes Tankmar Horn, Undersecretary of State, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ©OECD Observer archive 1969

Finland marks its 50th anniversary as an OECD member country on 28 January 2019. Though not a founding member when the OECD commenced in September 1961, Finland’s interest in joining was never in doubt. However, it adopted a cautious approach.

©Rights reserved

“Workin' 9 to 5; What a way to make a living”, Dolly Parton sang in her classic hit. The year was 1980, and Parton’s character in the eponymous film, 9 to 5, already pioneered numerous policies of the new world of work to come, such as flexible work hours and a job-sharing programme. Some of these changes have since become widespread in certain countries and industries. And they affect social protection policies, too, as the OECD report The Future of Social Protection: What Works for Non-standard Workers? shows.

In the early 1600s in North America, colonists ruined by a bad crop would often move on to new territory. In order to save on costs, they would burn down their homes to collect the nails, which would be used to build their next house. The image is one of restlessness and ingenuity, and mobility, contributing to a myth that many people there still cherish.

While the evidence shows that global integration has pushed down inflation, a stalling in globalisation could cause that trend to slip into reverse. Here is why.

©Suvra Kanti Das/ZUMA/REA

Supply chain management is a tough challenge for global companies. A new OECD guidance can help them get it right.

©Alamy.com

More than seven years after the revolution that toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia is still beset with numerous tensions. These bubbled to the surface in January 2018 with protests against unpopular tax measures and corruption. As in 2001, Tunisia’s young people embody the revolt and fight against corruption that has become endemic in the country. Their angry slogans express the disappointed hopes of a nation that rose up against a dictator and his abusive regime.

OECD

We all come from different corners of the world, from different backgrounds, times and professions. We carry different cultures and stories, different concerns and life expectations, different hopes and fears.

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“Money makes the world go round.” So goes the line in the musical, Cabaret. But probably not even lyricist Fred Ebb, who wrote those famous words, knew how true it is that we need money to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to keep the world, or rather, the planet, going round and round. 

Rina Matsumoto, Student Sakura team leader from Fukushima, plants a cherry tree at the OECD headquarters on the occasion of the Tohoku Cherry Blossom Ceremony, 2 September 2014. For more photographs of the occasion, please click here. ©OECD/Hervé Cortinat

In the garden of the OECD headquarters in Paris, a cherry tree was planted in the autumn of 2014 by a group of Japanese high school students, who had suffered the earthquake in Fukushima in March 2011. 

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.5% April 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.3% Mar 2019
Last update: 28 May 2019

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  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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