©Shutterstock

“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.”

OECD countries and key emerging economies have made headway in closing gender gaps, but not nearly enough. Gender equality is still a long way off. This is the latest assessment of gender parity in education, employment, entrepreneurship, and public life in The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, released 4 October. 

OECD/Julien Daniel

The President of the Homeless World Cup, Mel Young, is recognised as one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and is a Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum. He was named a Senior Fellow by the Ashoka Foundation in 2014.

Over 46 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with dementia, with the numbers projected to almost triple to 132 million by 2050. The strong link between dementia prevalence and age means that it is currently more common in OECD countries with older populations, though global population ageing means that the rest of the world is catching up. Between now and 2050, the number of dementia sufferers in high income countries is expected to rise by over 50%, but in low income countries, which have less developed health and social care systems, the number will more than triple.

The late Olof Palme, former Swedish prime minister, at the OECD in 1968. ©Sabine Weiss/OECD

Income inequality is relatively low in Sweden compared to the OECD average, but a rapid rise from the 1990s has threatened this hallmark of Swedish society and has led to calls for policies to promote equality again. What are the options and can those policies work? 

Germans are considered to have some of the most egalitarian attitudes in the world when it comes to sharing responsibilities between mothers and fathers, second only to Sweden, according to a survey of the International Social Survey Programme. But how does this attitude translate into practice? 

Human resources: Just some of the 12 million immigrants that arrived in the US via Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954 ©Archive/Alamy

The public is losing faith in the capacity of governments to manage migration. Opinion polls in a wide range of countries suggest that the share of the public holding extreme anti-immigration views has grown in recent years and that these extreme views are more frequently heard in public debates. In part, this is due to the perception that no end is in sight for large migration inflows and that countries have lost control over them. 

Code is the next universal language. In the 1970s punk rock drove a whole generation. In the 1980s it was probably money. For my generation, the interface to our imagination and to our world is software. This is why we need to get a more diverse set of people to see computers not as boring, mechanical and lonely things, but as something they can poke, tinker with and turn around.

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Traditionally, men have tended to be more educated than women in Korea, especially when it comes to higher education. Only 34% of doctoral graduates or equivalent graduates are women, which is among the lowest shares across G7 and OECD countries. However, women in Korea have made great strides in educational attainment over the past decade. 

©Dylan Martinez/REUTERS

Healthcare is not the only service feeling the effects of ageing populations. Pension systems are also under financial pressure, with policymakers in many countries struggling to find long-term solutions (see for instance www.oecd.org/pensions). We ask a range of experts: 

©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.

©OECD

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Global Forum for Ethics in Business. He visited the OECD on 19 October 2016, giving a talk on ethics and sustainability. Part of The Coffees of the Secretary-General series, you can read the complete transcript of Mr Shankar’s presentation below.  

©Rights reserved/UNHCR

Over 65 million people, or one person in 113, were displaced from their homes by conflict or persecution in 2015. This troubling statistic comes from UNHCR–also known as the UN Refugee Agency–and was a higher number than at any time in the agency’s history. UNHCR signed a memorandum of understanding with the OECD in June 2016 to increase collaboration between the two organisations in addressing the problems that arise from such forced displacement, both for the people themselves and the communities that host and shelter them.

Do you know what an arithmetic mean is? Or a polygon? On average, fewer than 30% of students across OECD countries understand the concept of an arithmetic mean, while less than 50% are comfortable with elementary geometrical shapes known as polygons. Yet with numeracy skills needed more than ever in the work place, today’s students should be able to compute, engage in logical reasoning and use mathematics to tackle novel problems. However, only a minority of 15-year-old students in most countries grasp and can work with core mathematical concepts. To what extent can teachers and schools break this pattern? 

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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.

©Alamy

The rapid rise of a new generation of connected, intelligent devices—collectively known as the Internet of Things, or IoT—is more than just the latest digital enabler to impact organisations of all sizes. The IoT presents vast opportunities for governments and businesses to improve internal efficiencies, serve their customers or constituents better, and enter new markets or provide new services. Such services will transform the way we work and live every day. As the IoT develops, it is essential that security-by-design be a core feature of the connected device ecosystem.

Though mobile technology is making waves in Africa, airwaves still count.

©Tom Gilks / Alamy

Stephan-Noël looks anxiously about the hut at the computer terminals. Through the walls of thatch drifts the faint, pervasive scent of vanilla. A girl saunters in, her face painted with the saffron used by Malagasy women both as make-up and protection against the sun. Stephan-Noël exchanges a few words with her, but his mind is on the eventuality of a connection break.

©Jo Yong-hak/Reuters. From edition No 297 Q4 2013

Korea’s transformation into an economic powerhouse in just 20 years is largely due to what is often claimed to be its only natural resource–its people. Huge investments in education and training boosted productivity and growth, turning the country into an international player with a booming high-tech, export-led economy. 

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If there is one area where Korea has jostled to the front of the OECD field in 20 years, it is in education. Take school performance: according to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a renowned global benchmark which surveys competence among 15-year-olds around the world, Korea’s young students perform better at school than most of their peers in other OECD countries. In the last test in 2012, Korea led the OECD field in mathematics, was second to Japan for reading (our chart), and was in the top seven for science. Some 64 countries and economies with comparable data took the tests. In the 2009 tests Korea had also commanded a top spot. 

I have come here today to talk about the ambition needed to tackle climate change and the policy tools that can get us there. As we approach the Conference of the Parties in late 2015 in Paris, our leaders are facing a fundamental dilemma: to get to grips with the risks of climate change or see their ability to limit this threat slip from their hands.

Few issues are of greater concern to Internet users today than privacy protection. Everyone wants the benefits of Internet access, but few want to sacrifice their privacy or face the risk of cyber theft as a consequence. 

More than a quarter of 15-year-old school students in OECD countries fail to achieve the most basic level of profi ciency in mathematics, reading and science. In other countries, the share is often much larger. Such poor performance at school has severe consequences for individuals: low-performing students tend to have less motivation and self-confidence, will skip classes and perhaps miss days at school. In the long run, this affects their lives and compromises a country’s economic and social prospects. 

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.

When the OECD adopted its first E-commerce Recommendation in 1999, online spending on so-called e-commerce was well-below 1% of total retail spending. Fifteen years later, the figures have jumped to almost 8% in the EU and more than 11% in the United States. This is no longer some future trend: e-commerce is here and is critical for the economy, in which household consumption accounts for about 60% of total GDP in the OECD area.

©Rodi Said/REUTERS

The unfolding refugee crisis requires a bold, comprehensive and global response. At the same time, OECD countries should adapt their policies to foster the integration of those who are going to stay. While this implies significant up-front costs, it is also essential to reaping sizeable medium- to long-term social and economic benefits.

A young boy named Kalu, who had been rescued from a carpet-weaving unit in Bihar, once raised a compelling and very significant question when he met then-President Bill Clinton. In conversation with the President, Kalu politely inquired about his plans and policies with regard to the world’s children and their condition. I remember distinctly Mr Clinton trying to explain to the boy that he had virtually served his tenure and would soon be replaced by someone else who, as President, would be in a more appropriate position to initiate actions and take responsibility. To which Kalu very sincerely asked, “Why do you have to be the president to do anything for children?”

In Hungary, young people want to have bigger families, but concerns over issues like housing and striking a work-life balance appear to be obstacles. In response, the government has introduced a range of family-friendly policies–a vital step in helping families fulfil their dreams and in meeting the challenge of a rapidly ageing population.

©Dinodia Photos/Getty Images

Prince William did it, Justin Timberlake did it, and so did David Cameron and Mark Zuckerberg. All four took paternity leave to spend time with babies George, Charlotte, Silas, Florence and Max. These trailblazers are great role models in combining family and work–at least when a new baby arrives–but men around the world are still too slow in following their example. And this despite the fact that more than half of OECD countries grant fathers paid paternity leave when a child is born; and paid parental leave, i.e. a longer period of job-protected leave open to both parents, is also available in more and more countries.

The River Seine overflowing its banks is not an uncommon sight in Paris, as the winter catchment swells, causing water levels to rise and cover the lower banks, jetties and walkways. 

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +1.4% exp, +1.7% imp, Q2 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

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