©Vanderlei Almeida/AFP

Growth is not enough

Brazil’s labour leaders have long argued against pursuing economic growth for its own sake. What matters most, they believe, is not the size of the economic pie but how it’s carved up. In recent years, calls for social justice have increasingly informed policy in Brazil, bringing about a veritable “revolution” in the economy.

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The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.

This year the parliaments of two OECD member countries passed legislation broadening the institution of marriage to include same sex couples. Such marriage is now legal in 14 countries worldwide, 11 of which are OECD members.

Education for all

Young people from poorer families are badly underrepresented in higher education. That risks exposing them to a lifetime of reduced earnings and undermines the foundations of wider economic growth. What can be done? Economically disadvantaged students benefit from a mix of grants and loans in third-level education, but they also need better support from the earliest years of their school careers.

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©Norwegian government

Ultimately the economic crisis is about people, says Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs. That is why respecting human rights and adherence to democratic principles are fundamental when addressing the current economic crisis. We are in this together, so we need multilateral solutions more than ever.

©Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The cost of mistrust

Trust is at the heart of today’s complex global economy. But, paradoxically, trust is also in increasingly short supply in many of our societies, especially in our attitudes towards big business, parliaments and governments. This decline threatens our capacity to tackle some of today’s key challenges.

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©DR

The new performance frontier

By helping emphasise the importance of a “better life” as a key component of societal progress, the OECD has made considerable efforts in recent years to help promote a school of thought that places people’s well-being at the heart of economic growth. After examining the issue of growth and productivity gains, and recognising the question of the environmental cost of our economic activity, the time has come to turn our attention to another area that is equally crucial: fostering a more human economy.

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©DR

Trusting in crowds

“Crowdsourcing” pools the strength of the many to perform complex tasks–everything from funding a film to sequencing DNA. At its heart is trust–not a blanket belief in great institutions, but rather the confidence among individuals that each will do the right thing. Its power is being increasingly felt today, even in the world of international development.

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©Charlotte Moreau

As humans, we face a constant internal conflict between immediate gratification and more prudent living. This conflict is also apparent in society. How can we ensure that the homo economicus within us takes the decisions that best affect our lives, and economies?

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©REUTERS/Mike Segar

A major step forward towards putting the measurement of well-being at the heart of policymaking was taken at the OECD’s World Forum on Measuring Well-Being for Policymaking and Development, a four-day international conference held in New Delhi in October.

©Blogads

In 2002 Henry Copeland, chief of Blogads and Pressflex.com, wrote about how blogs, largely unknown at the time, would change web writing and publishing forever. He was right. Then in 2008 in these pages, he told us to bet on Twitter several months before it took off (the OECD opened its first accounts in April 2009). So where is the information world taking us now? Henry provides some fresh thoughts.

The rise of IT and the Internet have been boons to Asia, but not everyone has benefited. There are challenges to overcome, not least in the area of governance.

©Tim Wimborne/Reuters

People create policy, but underpinning their work, and in some ways hidden from view, is a well-developed, smart information and communications infrastructure. It is a fundamental driver of progress.

©REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Did you know that the organisation that brought you the Higgs Boson (“god particle”) also brought you the world wide web? Robert Cailliau, one of its founders, and James Gillies, a first-hand witness, retrace the story.

©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

The media is changing, but must assume a leading role in the unfolding narrative of the information world. That includes building trust and involving new voices in the discussion.

Translators are at the forefront of global communications and knowledge. Yet their work has not always been helped by the information revolution. Here are the challenges.

©Christian Charisius

Education is one OECD department that has embraced the information revolution.

The future will be inherently knowledge-based. Are we moving in the right direction? What must we know to be able to get there? Understanding knowledge-based capital is an important first step.

Click to enlarge

Cities that want healthier populations should get them moving. In the US, where urban sprawl and personal motorised vehicle are prevalent, walking makes up only 8.6% of all trips, by far the lowest proportion in our chart.

Did you know that, according to the UN Global Pulse, more data was created in 2011 than in the whole of human history, or at least, since the invention of the alphabet?

©Tomas Bravo/Reuters

Democracy is a good thing; transparency is too, and so is openness. Nothing too controversial in this statement, you might think. The veil of ignorance is slowly but steadily being lifted from the eyes of the general public across the world thanks to thriving media, innovation in global communications and the pressure on governments to open up and reach out.

In a globalised world, social unrest occurring far away can have transnational ramifications, with effects nearer to home. This has been evident in recent years with movements such as Occupy and Indignados, and the Arab Spring. Unrest could also be the consequence of a terrorist attack, but even the threat of one can lead to widespread panic. The upshot can be disorder and economic turmoil.

©Saatchi&Saatchi

Politicians have long called on the services of public relations firms, design experts and advertising agencies to help them communicate. What impact do they have, and how has their role changed? We asked one of the very biggest in the business, Saatchi & Saatchi, for some insights.

©Charles Platiau/Reuters

Getting information and communications “right” has always been a necessary condition for delivering sound policy advice; today, there are many more possibilities to generate and to share evidence-based policy insights, but there are also many more competing messages and messengers. Here are two examples.

©Larry Downing/Reuters

The OECD Observer is celebrating its 50th anniversary: no better time than to turn our focus to the currency of information itself.

Changing world of migration

While there has been progress in immigrant integration on many fronts, much remains to be done. The crisis has rolled back progress in some countries, so catching up is still the name of the game. Better policies mean better outcomes. The future depends on it, says the OECD.

See www.oecd.org/migration

©OECD Observer No 293 Q4 November 2012

Are you able to make sense of the barrage of opinion poll data that is currently being published in the lead up to the US presidential election on 6 November? Bruce Stokes, Director of Pew Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center, sheds light on the poll trends and assesses to what extent issues such as the economy will be deciding factors when voters approach the ballot box.

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

Over the next 50 years, life expectancy at birth is expected to increase by more than seven years in developed economies. While this is good news for many, it will also be a strain on pension systems. To be sure, governments will need to address increasing life expectancy by raising retirement ages gradually. This is a key conclusion of the first Pensions Outlook 2012, a new OECD report which looks at the future of pensions.

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