OECD countries are at a critical juncture, as they face deep and often widening inequalities between people and places. Responding to the concerns of communities that feel left behind is a political priority. Policymakers need to focus their efforts more sharply on the places where people live ensuring a more even distribution of services and opportunities. As the OECD Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC) celebrates its 20-year anniversary, its clear voice is needed more than ever.

©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.

Jaana Matila, an unemployed coder, at her home in Oulu, Finland, Nov. 14, 2016. While Oulu's shaky technology industry is trying to regain its footing, the Finnish government will soon be handing out cash to 2,000 randomly selected jobless people as part of a two-year experiment to test the effects of universal basic income on the economy. ©JANNE KORKKO/The New York Times-REDUX-REA

Most people spend their evenings kicking back with a book or whatever’s on Netflix. In Finland, they’re teaching themselves artificial intelligence (AI). In the summer of 2017, computer scientist Teemu Roos heard that the government was looking for ways to teach ordinary people the basics of artificial intelligence. It would be a continuing education initiative­—not necessarily to train people to become machine-learning engineers, but to understand how neural networks work and grasp how AI is changing the way we do things. 

©astudio/Shutterstock

Digitalisation, climate change and urbanisation are changing our lives and forcing us to find new ways to move people and goods. We must cut down on carbon emissions, and make traffic safer and more efficient than before. Digital tools will help us with this. After all, small, wallet-sized devices now enable near-instant data transfer and internet connections all over the world. Mobile phone technology provides us with services we could not even have dreamt of a few years ago.

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.

©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?

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.”

©Rights reserved

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?

©Shutterstock

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.

©David Rooney

In a small town just outside Montreal, Jake [not his real name] struggles with drug addiction. His dependence on numerous substances has brought him in and out of hospital and rehabilitation programmes many times. What is striking about Jake’s addiction is how he acquires the drugs: not from a neighbourhood drug dealer, but through the post and courier companies.  “It’s remarkably easy business,” he says. “Just like buying common, everyday items on the surface–as opposed to dark–web. Only there are a few extra steps. After you provide your false personal and delivery information and whatever sum of money is agreed upon, your package arrives at the designated address disguised as something else in order to get through the postal service.” Read the full article here.

©Rights reserved

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.

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.

©RGA/REA

[…] The French Senate and the French nation, in all their political bodies, are proud to host the OECD in Paris. The presence of a multilateral organisation as eminent as yours is an asset for Paris and for France, as well as a showcase for the French language, which is an official working language of your organisation. […]

©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.

©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.

The celebrated marine scientist Jacques Cousteau once said that “All life is part of a complex relationship in which each is dependent upon the others, taking from, giving to and living with all the rest.” This is especially true of water. Freshwater management, oceans and marine ecosystems are intimately linked to almost every other environmental and humanitarian issue.

©OECD

When the First World War ended a hundred years ago in November 1918, more than a generation would pass before the world order regained some stability. Immediately after the war, there was a short boom followed by a stock market crash in 1929, a worldwide Great Recession, a resurgence of nationalism and then the outbreak of another, even more deadly, conflict. 

Most people probably believe they make decisions with integrity. Yet behavioural evidence reveals otherwise. Often, we’re not even aware when we are deviating from ethical standards, simply because justifications and biased judgments affect our perception of what constitutes a breach of integrity. 

Relaxed learning environment at Helsinki University Library. ©Shutterstock

Finland has consistently been one of the most successful countries in global education rankings. For some, its name has become synonymous with educational excellence. While Finland is not alone in achieving world-class educational standards, what makes the country unique is that all of its schools are, effectively, elite schools: performance differences between Finnish schools account for just 5% of the total variation in student performance.

Migration is nothing new. People have moved across communities, states and continents for millennia. In 2017, about 258 million people worldwide were living outside their country of birth, nearly half in OECD countries. The International Migration Outlook 2018 looks at who these migrants are and maps what is driving their flow into OECD countries, where an estimated 5 million new migrants settled permanently in 2017, representing a 5% drop from 2016 levels.  

Advancing deforestation in the Amazon Basin ©Rickey Rogers/Reuters

We are eating our way through tropical forests. Whether it’s a cappuccino for breakfast, a burger for lunch or a chocolate bar as an after-dinner treat, the things we consume in OECD countries are often linked to deforestation in the tropics, where trees are falling at alarming rates.

©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.

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. 

Click to enlarge

“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. 

©Suvra Kanti Das/ZUMA-REA

On 24 April 2013, the world woke up to the reality of garment factory conditions in Bangladesh when more than a thousand workers were killed and over two thousand injured after the Rana Plaza garment factory complex, supplying western brands, collapsed. 

©Rights reserved

Our world seems to be at a crossroads, and with it, the multilateralism that has been the bedrock of international co-operation since the Second World War. Where do we stand? How do we move forward? The latest international discussions provide some answers.

Since Mexico embarked on reform of its telecommunication and broadcast market in 2013, the results can be roundly summarised in a single phrase: price drop, revenue up. With the exception of the price index for pay TV, which has gone up 5%, the cost of roaming, and domestic and international phone calls has dropped steeply, with Mexicans now enjoying some of the lowest-cost mobile services in the OECD area. 

Operator, did you say co-Operate? ©Mack Sennett Studios

Why is it so important–and urgent–to strengthen co-operation between tax and anti-corruption authorities? 

OECD

We live in challenging times for international co-operation. Against a background in which the voices of protectionism and nationalism seem to be gaining strength, at the OECD we are standing firm in our support for openness and collaboration as the surest means of building better policies for better lives. Otherwise we risk undoing many of the achievements we have accomplished together as an international community since the OECD was formed 55 years ago. Of course, there is much to fix in a system that for many people is not delivering and whose benefits need to be more equally shared. But the reality is that in a divided world, we all lose.

Not so private: Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg in the public lens before a US Senate hearing in April 2018. ©Leah Millis/Reuters

“We care about your data privacy and security. With this in mind, we’re updating our privacy policy by 25 May 2018 in compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Click to learn more.”

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q3 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.1% Jan 2019 annual
Trade: +0.3% exp, +0.7% imp, Q2 2018
Unemployment: 5.3% Jan 2019
Last update: 12 Mar 2019

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • 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!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • 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.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • 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.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019