We are celebrating the OECD’s 50th anniversary during the tail-end of the worst financial and economic crisis of our lifetimes. It’s a good moment to take stock and to ask the right questions. Why couldn’t we avoid the crisis? Were the policies and the policy mix we promoted the right ones, and how can we adjust these polices to new realities? What is more, are we doing enough to prevent another crisis? Are our economic theories, our models and our assumptions still appropriate? How should our organisation’s work be adapted so that we continue fulfilling our founding mission of promoting better policies for better lives?

The OECD, a pioneer in the quest to measure the progress and well-being of societies, is launching an exciting new initiative, incorporating Your Better Life Index. The initiative is not only a major step forward in assessing people’s true welfare, but involves people in the process too.

Strategic foresight is an essential tool in any government’s toolbox. It’s what enables policymakers to anticipate developments better, encouraging them to be more creative in reflecting on their options, and offering them more time to prepare and set in train their programmes. It is an area in which some governments excel, while others perform less well. It is also an area subject to much misunderstanding and confusion.

Economic growth is not an end in itself: higher levels of productivity and rising national income are only important insofar as they contribute to better standards of living and of improved well being of people.

Has gender equality improved since International Women’s Day was first launched a century ago? The answers heard during this year’s global events on 8 March were mixed. Yes, progress has been made, but discrimination continues everywhere, which not only harms women but holds back society’s potential too.

©André Faber

Long ago I gave up trying to break through the so-called “glass ceiling” that has kept women like me out of higher management. Instead I decided to create new enterprises in which management could be reinvented by women. On 8 March 2005, I launched a business incubator devoted exclusively to projects by female entrepreneurs.

©Reuters/Adnan Abid

Just how significant is international migration in the light of other globalisation developments? One obvious starting point for answering the question is to ask how many of the current world population of 6.7 billion people are international migrants, defined as persons living outside their country of birth.

Which came first, working mothers or day care centres? More mothers in the workforce generally spur the development of childcare facilities. In this study of four of the wealthier OECD countries–Canada, Finland, Sweden and the UK–where three out of four women between the ages of 25 and 54 hold down jobs, the Swedish experience suggests that without publicly-assisted childcare, the upper limit for female employment would be around 60%.

Can anything be done to tackle transport problems and steer them to a more manageable level? There has been no shortage of trying.

Transport is a cornerstone of modern civilisation, but at what cost? Heavier than you might think.

©Ruairi O Brien (www.robarchitects.com)

Road congestion and pollution are a fact of life in cities and towns, but road pricing could stop it from being an inevitable one.  

Sustainability, the triple bottom line of economic profitability, respect for the environment and social responsibility: these are the new buzzwords of many a corporate annual report. Global companies everywhere are falling over themselves to declare their adherence to the principles of sustainable development. Is this a new moral crusade on the part of big business, or simply the result of pressure from demonstrators like those in Seattle and Genoa?

Click for larger graph

Environmental issues feature highly on the international agenda. What are the main threats, and what does the future hold? 

Economic data

GDP growth: -1.8% Q1 2020/Q4 2019
Consumer price inflation: 0.9% Apr 2020 annual
Trade (G20): -4.3% exp, -3.9% imp, Q1 2020/Q4 2019
Unemployment: 8.4% Apr 2020
Last update: 9 July 2020

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