©OECD

Chairman Emeritus of Young & Rubicam Peter Georgescu visited the OECD on 3 May 2016. The author gave a talk on inequality. Part of The Coffees of the Secretary-General series, you can read the complete transcript of Mr Georgescu’s presentation below.  

©Serprix

Recent years have seen a rapid rise in digital transactions, notably through web-based “sharing economy” platforms that have bridged, and indeed blurred, the gap between consumers and producers. But this upsurge has also created new challenges for measuring GDP, and, against a backdrop of slowing rates of productivity growth, has led some to question whether the slowdown reflects these new transactions.

©Thomas Peter/Reuters

Since the 1970s, economic growth in Korea has largely been driven by big companies such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG. These so-called chaebol have been remarkably successful, but have dominated the economy, with little room for small and medium-sized businesses (SME) to gain traction and grow. 

© Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Innovative business models are creating new dynamics between formal companies and informal micro-entrepreneurs.

Screenshot of OECD Chief Economist Catherine L Mann on Bloomberg TV, 9 November Bloomberg TV

The global economy is projected to grow at a slower pace this year than in 2015, with only a modest uptick expected in 2017, the OECD’s latest interim Economic Outlook warns. The Outlook warns that a low-growth trap has taken root, as poor growth expectations further depress trade, investment, productivity and wages.

The world’s oceans, seas and rivers are a major source of wealth, creating trillions of dollars’ worth in goods and services as well as employing billions of people. […] Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped.

While policy making and OECD membership helps explain much of Korea’s successes in the last two decades, major firms have had a role to play too. In fact, Korea is associated with several global household brands, as strong demand for the likes of Samsung curved televisions, Hyundai hybrid cars and K-pop hits like “Gangnam Style” jolting the Land of the Morning Calm into the sixth-largest exporter in the world. But while productivity in many large manufacturers has pushed Korea into the world’s top ten producers of cars, ships, mobile phones and DVDs, productivity in smaller firms and the service industry means overall productivity is half the level of leading OECD countries. 

Boston Tea Party: Americans throwing cargoes of the tea ships into the River, at Boston, 1773. ©W.D. Cooper

Newness in politics has a long and eventful history. Globalisation and the battle for and against are no exception, as the events of the late 18th century show.

©Michael Dean/OECD Observer

Korea’s transition from one of the poorest countries on earth in the early 1960s to the world’s 11th-largest economy and sixth-largest exporter by 2015 is unprecedented. 

Pepper the humanoid robot, at OECD Forum 2016 ©Rory Clarke/OECD Observer

To many workers, the words “digital technologies” may evoke one simple, dismaying image: a human-like robot sitting at their desk, doing the work that they used to do! This anxiety is not different from the fear of coachmen witnessing the diffusion of cars in the 1920s. In a sense, coachmen were right: cars did replace horse coaches. However, their children and grand-children found new and often better paid jobs in the wealth of new activities made necessary or possible by cars: automobile manufacturing, car repair, travelling sales, home delivery, mass tourism, road building, the petrol business, and so on.

©OECD

The digital economy is here, and growing every day, sometimes in surprising ways. As ministers gather for major meetings in Paris and Cancun, government leaders should be in no doubt about the key role they must play in securing the digital economy’s future as a driver of productive and inclusive progress.

Advanced economies remain in the doldrums. People’s incomes are rising at a very low pace, especially in the lower half of the distribution. Two global trends–the slowdown in productivity and the rise in inequality–reflect the state of policy, and point to the challenges policymakers face to change prospects for their citizens and the global economy.

A clash between robots and workers is unlikely. Rather, disruptive technology can make workers more efficient without replacing them, and raise profits, while maintaining or increasing a company’s workforce.

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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. 

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. 

The Internet is now an essential part of our lives and a critical element of the world economy. Internet penetration increased almost sevenfold in the past 15 years, from 6.5% of the world population in 2000 to 43% in 2015.

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Digital innovation is an opportunity—for governments, for business, for the public, and for the way in which they relate to each other.

This year’s OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM), chaired by Chile, is devoted to productivity. Ministers will discuss what governments, firms and individuals can do to improve productivity with the aim of fostering inclusive growth. Their views will no doubt be nourished by public discussions at the annual OECD Forum, which precedes the MCM. The purpose of enhancing productivity should be to make economies grow faster and in a smarter way, while simultaneously decreasing inequalities and allowing everyone to be part of the productive system. The final goal is to improve the well-being of our citizens, providing people with better tools to meet their job requirements and to reach their full potential. This is a main challenge of our time, when the key drivers of growth and well-being will come from capital-based knowledge.

If there is a silver lining to the 2008 financial crisis, it is that it was a catalyst for the unprecedented progress we have made in building robust international tax standards for the interconnected global economy of the 21st century.

The world has seen more than one industrial revolution and another one is already upon us. We should face it as optimists.

Creeping protectionism is alive and well. Last year’s monitoring report on trade for the G20 reminded us that of the nearly 1,500 trade-restrictive measures imposed by G20 countries since 2008, fewer than 400 have been removed. The stock of these barriers continues to grow, despite a pledge by the G20 to reduce protectionism. Not surprisingly, given this context, a recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) report concludes that the risks to the international trading system and to trade flows more generally “are tilted to the downside.”

This year’s OECD Forum coincides with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, which was an important milestone to promote gender equality worldwide. Much has been achieved since 1995, but unfortunately, a lot remains to be done to close the gender gap and increase women’s participation in our economies and societies.

Charlotte Moreau

Algorithms lie at the heart of machine learning, which, in turn lies at the heart of much of modern life–from online shopping to intelligence gathering. But most of us know little about these powerful tools and how they work. Is this wise?

Santiago de Chile alobos Life, on Flickr

For Chile, it is a great honour and opportunity to chair the 2016 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting. It is an opportunity to cele­brate Chile’s first five years as a member of the OECD and is yet another demonstration of the increasing relevance of emerg­ing and developing economies, which today account for more than half of world GDP. It is also a way to influence the OECD agenda from the perspective of a group of prosperous, but still unequal, countries.

©AFP

When it comes to global wealth inequality, we know how bad it’s getting, but what do we know about who is responsible? When Oxfam reports that 1% of the world population owns more than the other 99% put together, the question arises: who or what is making the rich so much richer, and the poor so much poorer?

The UK’s tallest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland. Recently, it became one metre taller, standing now at 1 345m rather than 1 344m above sea level. Of course, the mountain did not actually grow. Rather, the team of Ordnance Survey experts who re-measured it for the first time since 1949 were able to do so more accurately because of improvements in technology, and specifically through the use of GPS.

©David Rooney

Reconciling work and family commitments is a challenge in every country, but particularly for Japanese men and women. Much more so than in most other OECD countries, men and women have to choose between babies and bosses: men choose bosses, women less so, but on the whole there are very few babies and there is too little female employment. These shortcomings are increasingly coming to the fore and will have to be addressed.

Aileen's Wave west of Ireland ©George Karbus Photography/AFP

The recession in Ireland was long and deep, but has been followed by a marked recovery. Why is the expansion in Ireland so strong?

©Adrian Dennis/AFP

If a British referendum on European Union membership scheduled for 23 June led the UK to leave the EU, there would be a severe negative shock to the economy, causing growth to weaken for many years,  an OECD study argues.

©serprix.com

Time was when the only people who had gigs were long-haired types who stayed in bed till noon and played in bars till dawn. These days, it seems, everyone’s hopping from one gig to another–drivers, software designers, cleaners. Bye-bye full-time work, hello freedom and flexibility. Well, maybe…

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