One of the biggest targets for reform in the pursuit of leaner government budgets is public sector pay and performance. Because of the crisis, some countries have frozen or even reduced salaries, while others have preferred to reduce benefits, even pensions. Others have decided to do nothing for the moment.

©TUAC

The last few months have been marked by slightly better news on the economy, with signs of a recovery in the EU area in particular. But these are early days and challenges remain. John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), is not holding his breath. He explains why to the OECD Observer.

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Will this be Asia’s century? When it comes to growth and social progress, there have been heady leaps forward, with every prospect of continued dynamism over the next five years. But according to the Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013, if there is a blot on the map, it is in tackling poverty and the wide development gaps that bedevil the continent.

The shortfalls of GDP that were already apparent before the crisis but made starker during it have led to a panoply of new initiatives to find metrics that can measure wellbeing rather than just economic growth. But while GDP has stood accused of overlooking the environment and human well-being, it has one advantage which policymakers and analysts appreciate: the methods are objective and clear. Whether measuring output or expenditure in an economy, GDP produces a single number that is easy to adjust and compare.

©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

The Arab Spring and the rise of new social and democratic movements throughout large parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) may not have changed the world quite as much as millions had hoped, but at least they gave a new impetus to the use of information and communications technology and the potential of “e-government” to foster participation and engagement, increase transparency and restore public trust. 

©Blend images/Alamy

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were young doctoral students when they created the company we now know as Google. Virgin’s Richard Branson started out in business as a teenager selling records. These big names are just part of a long list of young entrepreneurs that made it in business, a list that could include the founders of Facebook, e-Bay, France’s Free telecom and more.

©Reuters/Andrea Comas

Few countries have suffered the scourge of high youth unemployment as much as Spain has. There, the unemployment rate for under 25-year-olds exceeded 50% in 2012, nearly three times the OECD average. However, the crisis has not been the only cause of this; in fact, high rates of youth unemployment are not a recent phenomenon in Spain.

Lessons for educators

What are the key issues to know when devising better policies for education or simply trying to improve learning programmes? Here are some personal reflections.

1. In the global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer merely improvement by local or national standards, but the best performing education systems internationally. 

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Patients in most OECD countries face long hospital waiting times, whether for primary care, out-patient specialist care or even emergency care. Tax payers rightly expect better service, and hospital waiting times are understandably a contentious political issue.

©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.

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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.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q3 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 22 Nov 2018

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  • 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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