News brief– Q4 2013

OECD Observer

Brake on health spending—

Total health spending fell in a third of OECD countries between 2009 and 2011, in a sharp reversal from the strong growth in the decade prior to the crisis. Health at a Glance 2013 says that spending per capita fell in 11 OECD countries in 2009-11, notably by 11.1% in Greece and 6.6% in Ireland, after strong increases in the previous decade. Falls were noted for Denmark, Spain and the UK too. The rate of increase slowed to 1.3% in the US and to below 1% in France. Only Israel and Japan saw the rate of health spending growth accelerate in 2009-11.

Governments have lowered spending through cutting prices of pharmaceuticals, budget restrictions and wage cuts. Over three-quarters of OECD countries reported a cut in real-term spending on prevention programmes in 2011 over 2010, which is a cause for concern in light of obesity, alcohol abuse and smoking, the report says.

For more data and information, see

–as tax revenues rise

Government tax revenues have continued to recover since the depth of the crisis in 2008 and 2009, according to new data in the annual Revenue Statistics, issued in December. The average tax-revenue-to- GDP ratio in OECD countries was 34.6% in 2012, compared with 34.1% in 2011 and 33.8% in 2010.

The ratio of tax revenues to GDP rose in 21 of the 30 countries for which 2012 data was available, and fell in the other nine, albeit with a trend towards higher revenues. The largest increases in 2012 occurred in Hungary, Greece, Italy and New Zealand. The largest falls were in Israel, Portugal and the UK.

The average OECD tax burden also increased, by 0.5 percentage points to 34.6% in 2012, Revenue Statistics notes. Compare tax rates using our active charts at


New tour de force
The notoriety of the Tuscan edifice, built in 1173, runs a serious risk of being supplanted by a popular acronym. When we say PISA, everyone now thinks of the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Jean-Pierre Robin, in Le Figaro 9 December 2013

Don’t bank on it
The message for banks and utilities: no one trusts you. Now deal with it.

Foggy thinking
Sceptics argue as if uncertainty means that the right thing to do is nothing. On a foggy road, the number and speed of other cars is particularly uncertain. But this very ignorance makes cautious driving essential. The same applies to climate.

Martin Wolf, Financial Times, 27 November 2013

Privacy point
There are so many ways in which our data are being accessed that changing our behaviour only takes us so far.

Joe McNamee, director of European Digital Rights, in European Voice 14 November 2013


The recovery looks set to continue, the latest OECD Economic Outlook says (see page 9), a view which is backed by the latest leading indicators. OECD composite leading indicators, which are based on the likes of order books, building permits and long-term interest rates, point to firmer growth or positive momentum in all G7 OECD countries (US, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Canada). Positive momentum is detected for China, but below trend in India.

Meanwhile, stockbuilding proved to be the main driver behind the 0.6% real GDP growth in the OECD area in the third quarter of 2013, contributing 0.3 percentage points. Net exports reduced GDP growth by 0.1 percentage points, as import volumes grew faster than export volumes. OECD-wide inflation rose by 1.5% in the year to November 2013, compared with 1.3% in October. This increase in consumer prices was mainly driven by energy prices, which rose by 0.1%, after a decrease of 1.3% in the year to October. Food price inflation was down slightly.

Merchandise trade grew in most major economies during the third quarter of 2013, rebounding strongly in the euro area. In Germany, imports and exports grew by 4.7% and 4.6% in the third quarter following declines of 2.2% and 1.9% in the previous quarter. Imports contracted by 2.3% and exports grew 0.7% in Brazil; and in India imports dropped by 7.3% but exports rose by 9.8%.

The OECD area’s unemployment rate stood at 7.8% in November 2013, down 0.1% from the previous month. Some 47.1 million people were out of work, 12.4 million more than in 2008, but still lower than in mid-2013. In the euro area, the unemployment rate was stable at 12.1%, but reached a new high in Italy of 12.7%. It decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 12.3% in Ireland, and remained stable in France and Germany, at 10.8% and 5.2%. It also remained at 4% in Japan. Data for December show a decrease in the United States of 0.3 percentage points, to 6.7%. In November, the OECD youth unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points, to 15.7%.

Unit labour costs in the OECD area were unchanged in the third quarter of 2013, with growth in labour productivity of 0.4% only slightly outpacing a rise in labour compensation of 0.3%.

Visit for updates

Country round-up

In the two decades since apartheid ended, South Africa has made large strides to catch up with, and in some cases surpass, the developed world’s environmental standards, according to the fi rst Environmental Performance Review of South Africa. Despite this, many of its rivers and lakes are polluted, and indoor coal and paraffin stoves harm air quality for millions.

In Austria, environmental goods and services are now a bigger economic driver than traditionally strong sectors like tourism and construction. The OECD’s latest Environmental Performance Review of Austria credits the government’s policy of subsidising green investments for much of this growth.

In December Slovenia became the 29th member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the leading international forum for providers of development co-operation. The country’s 2012 official development assistance stood at US$58 million, or 0.13% of its gross national income.

Greece has made impressive headway in consolidating its public finances and undertaking key structural reforms to boost productivity and enhance competitiveness, according to the latest Economic Survey of Greece, which also says that the crisis has been much deeper than expected.

Liechtenstein announced plans to sign the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and take further steps to increase transparency and international cooperation. Hungary also deepened its commitment to fight offshore tax avoidance and evasion by becoming the Convention’s 61st signatory in November.

Improving France’s competitiveness is essential for boosting the economic growth needed to create jobs and allow citizens and businesses to develop their full potential, according to a report. A key focus is to ensure that the country’s education system and professional training infrastructure provide people with the right skills.

Ireland should increase its resources to detect and investigate foreign bribery more efficiently, a report said in December.

Trust deficit

The economic crisis has undermined trust in government, with only four out of ten people in OECD countries expressing confidence in their national authorities, a new report warns. Yet building trust is crucial for growth and well-being. Government at a Glance gauges countries against more than 50 indicators, such as hospital waiting times and public procurement policies. Measures can be taken to rebuild trust: governments must be more inclusive, transparent, and efficient, quality services delivered and fscal houses put in order, the report says. See

Well-being worry

How’s Life?, a study which looks beyond growth measures, reports that subjective well-being deteriorated in countries most affected by the crisis. In 2007-12 reported life satisfaction declined by over 20% on average in Greece, 12% in Spain and 10% in Italy, but rose modestly in Germany, Israel, Russia, Mexico and Sweden.

Trade breakthrough

An historic deal to boost global trade was reached by the WTO in Bali on 7 December. The deal, which would help cut red tape and speed border crossings worldwide, addressed the concerns of developing countries in particular. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría described the breakthrough as a victory for the world economy and multilateralism, and urged all parties to maintain momentum.

Plus ça change…

It is vital that the more-developed countries increase the export opportunities in their markets for the products of the less-developed nations. this is as important a factor as the fl ow of capital resources itself. But actions […] have been slow.

Sherwood fine, in OECD Observer No 5, August 1963 

©OECD Observer No 297, Q4 2013

Economic data


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 print editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • In Iceland, geothermal power is being used for almost everything. Scientists and engineers from around the world are participating in a course at the United Nations University (UNU) to learn how to use geothermal energy in their own countries.
  • They are green and local--It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa.
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • Send a message from #EarthToParis.
  • From the World Bank: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty
  • Black carbon causes millions of deaths every year and contributes to the warming of the planet. The United Nations Environment Programme explains how reducing black carbon can save lives and help combat climate change.
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • 10 climate-friendly habits everyone should adopt: Although the main aim of COP21 is to reach an international agreement on climate change between government stakeholders, it is also the perfect opportunity to remind citizens of how everyone can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their day-to-day lives.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it. Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Do you know the OECD’s web ending? Or which Serbian American engineer is famous for his electric cars? Try our latest OECD Observer crossword. It’s full of fun facts, simplex in style, and gives you the solution at the tip of a button. You can time yourself too.
  • French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron came to the OECD on 18 September for a webcast discussion on economic reforms, inequality and the outlook, with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. You can watch the event by clicking on the photo.
  • Climate change: “We should not disagree when scientists tell us we have a window of opportunity–10-15 years–to turn this thing around” argues Senator Bernie Sanders.
  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down. Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • An employee prepares breakfast in front of the Eiffel tower at the Parisian luxury hotel Le Plaza Athenee, France July 30, 2015. Nowhere in the world has more accommodation available on Airbnb than Paris. Now the home-sharing website that has transformed budget travel to the French capital is giving its super-deluxe hotels a fright too (©REUTERS/Stephane Mahe).
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on
  • Low interest rates here to stay for half a century, says OECD director Adrian Blundell-Wignall.
  • Bill Gates visited the OECD on 26 June. He met with the Secretary-General Angel Gurría to discuss areas of collaboration with his foundation and participated at a briefing session on official development assistance modernisation with OECD experts.
  • The People’s Republic of China decided to enhance longstanding collaboration with the OECD and to join the OECD Development Centre, in a historic visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on 1 July to the OECD in Paris.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • 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 .
  • Come va la vita in Italia? How's life in Italy? The OECD Better Life Index is an interactive online platform in seven languages that goes beyond GDP by offering important insights into measuring well-being and quality of life. Try it for yourself!

Most Popular Articles


What issue are you most concerned about in 2015?

Euro crisis
Global warming
International conflict

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 2015