Friday, 29 November 2013

Unfinished business: women and girls front and centre beyond 2015

This post, by Emily Esplen, Policy Analyst on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights at the OECD, is based on a speech prepared for the Secretary General of the OECD for a joint workshop of the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the UN Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality on the MDGs and post-2015. This blog is a part of the Wikiprogress series on Post-2015.

There is no chance of making poverty history without significant and rapid improvements to the lives of women and girls. Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG 3) recognised that gender equality is important both as a goal in its own right and as a prerequisite to the success of all other development goals. That gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of only eight global goals has proven to be a powerful stimulus for action.

Yet despite hard won gains, we are a long way from achieving gender equality. All over the world, women and girls continue to face discrimination, exclusion, poverty and violence on the basis of their sex. The figures are stark. Gender parity in primary education has not been achieved in 68 countries. Women still face gender pay gaps, occupational segregation and glass ceilings. They hold less secure jobs than men, with fewer social benefits. 800 women die every day from preventable pregnancy and childbirth related causes. One in three women experience violence in their lifetime.

We must do everything we can to achieve the MDGs by the end of 2015. This means meeting existing aid commitments and investing in the right strategies to accelerate progress for women and girls in the time that remains. Finishing the job we started with the MDGs will also require an ambitious and inspiring post-2015 framework that builds on and expands the priority given to advancing gender equality in the MDGs.

Agreeing an ambitious agenda 


This was the focus of much lively debate at a workshop in early November in Paris, which drew together gender equality advocates from the United Nations, governments and civil society. Participants echoed the strong consensus emerging from across the globe that addressing the "unfinished business" of gender equality and women’s empowerment means putting women and girls front and centre in the post-2015 framework. This will require a strong stand-alone gender equality goal and the comprehensive integration of gender-specific targets and indicators across the new framework.

Now is time to go beyond business as usual and step up our efforts to empower girls and women. Participants were unequivocal that a new framework will need to address the structural factors that underpin the widespread persistence of gender inequality. This calls for a transformational agenda that is anchored in and aligned with existing international human rights standards. Priority must be given to addressing the disadvantage experienced by the most marginalised women and girls.

Fighting for the targets and indicators that will really make a difference 


When the time is right, we need to be ready with the targets and indicators that will really make a difference to the lives of women and girls. Already clear areas of consensus are emerging about what is needed. We know that quality secondary education has huge pay-offs for women’s empowerment. We know that putting an end to early marriage would transform girls’ lives – enabling them to stay in school, fulfil their potential and make choices about their futures. We know that expanding women’s economic opportunities is a key driver of development with multiplier effects for societies, economies and women themselves. We know that women’s capacity to influence the decisions that shape their lives is a basic human right and a prerequisite for responsible and equitable governance. We know that ending violence against women is essential for women’s full participation in economic, social and political life. Each of these must be priorities in the post-2015 framework.

Backing up political rhetoric with action


Building a framework with teeth will require adequate and sustained financing, and strong accountability mechanisms. Political promises must be backed up with the resources required to do the job. We need to gather and use high quality data to monitor our progress and build evidence about what works. We also need to track governments’ expenditure and the proportion of aid focused on achieving gender equality, and hold ourselves to account for the promises we make.

Towards a universal agenda


At the OECD, we know that there is no country in the world where gender equality has been achieved. That’s why we need to keep a strong focus on gender equality beyond 2015. It is also a potent reminder that gender equality is a universal concern that applies to all countries, including OECD countries.

The OECD aspires to play the role of “best supporting actor” in support of these global processes – recognising that real progress is only possible if countries themselves own the agenda and are in the lead. Bringing gender equality and women’s rights to the centre of government attention is a challenge for the months ahead.

Arriving at global consensus will not be easy. With gender equality and women’s rights we can never afford to be complacent – it is not a done deal. And the post-2015 agenda is a high-stakes game. But success is within our grasp if we build a broad base of support and work together with our allies in the global south to position gender equality as a “must have”.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Job Quality - It's not just about having a job

This blog by Anne Saint-Martin, Economist at the OECD, is part of the Wikiprogress focus on the “Well-being in the workplace: Measuring job quality” chapter of the How's Life? 2013.

Workers in high-strain jobs, who lack the support they need to cope with difficult work demands, are more likely to suffer from job burnout, to develop musculoskeletal disorders, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. The list is long, and worrying. For instance a recent study published by Harvard researchers suggests that women in demanding and stressful jobs have a 38% increased risk of heart disease. Compared with those in low-strain jobs, they have a 67% raised risk of a heart attack, the study shows.

This is worrying as high-strain jobs are relatively widespread. A recent OECD study shows that in Europe, 20% of employees report difficult work situations, facing multiple job 'stressors' without adequate support and resources to cope with. And half of those in high-strain jobs report that work impairs their health, compared to only 15% for those in low-strain jobs.

People spend most of their day and a significant part of their life at work. Employment is not only a major driver of material living standards but also powerful determinants of one’s quality of life.

It is not just a question of having a job, it’s also about of job quality.

So what are the elements that make up a quality job?

The features of a job that contribute to the well-being of workers include interactions with colleagues, support from managers, work content, autonomy in decision-making, earnings and job security. Job quality has multiple facets.

In the current economic climate, insecure employment and in-work poverty are at the heart of policy debates in many OECD countries. But looking beyond these economic aspects and opening the Pandora box of job quality remains a key challenge for economists and policymakers. As a matter of fact, measuring well-being at the workplace, its determinants and its consequences on life quality, is not an easy task. 

People may face a variety of stress factors at work, such as dealing with heavy workload and time pressures, coping with conflicting demands, or performing physically demanding tasks. What matters for their well-being is both the accumulation of such 'stressors' and whether they are given a fair chance to meet these multiple requirements. Without well-defined work goals, sufficient work autonomy, support from colleagues and managers, demanding jobs can impair people’s health. But with adequate resources and support, they can be conductive to personal achievement.

In part due to an increasing awareness of work-related health problems among the public at large, well-being at the workplace has gained momentum in the public debate. This change has emerged alongside a wealth of research in occupational health, epidemiology, management and sociology, indicating that there is a strong relationship between job quality and peoples’ physical and mental health.

But the difficulties of defining and measuring the quality of work organisation and that of workplace relationships in ways that are amenable to comparisons over time and across countries remain a major obstacle to giving more prominence to these aspects of job quality in the policy debate, despite their importance for people’s well-being. Further work is needed to develop cross-country comparable indicators so as to identify best practices. This is in the agenda of the OCDE, as part of a major project on job quality: “Defining, Measuring and Assessing Job Quality and its Links to Labour Market Performance and Well-Being”.

Slopen N., Glynn R., Buring J., Lewis T., Williams D. and M. Albert (2012), “Job Strain, Job Insecurity, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Study: Results from a 10-Year Prospective Study”, PloS ONE, Vol.7, No.7.

OECD (2013), “Well-being in the workplace: Measuring job quality” in How’s life? Measuring Well-Being.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Ending chronic poverty: Breaking down a policy no-man’s land

This post by Marie-Claire Tuzeneu, Production Manager of the Development Co-operation Report at the OECD, provides a first look at Andrew Shepherd’s piece for the OECD Development Co-operation Report 2013.

The previous two blog posts on the Development Co-operation Report (DCR) 2013 – which discussed key points from Andy Sumner and Li Xiaoyun’s chapters – focused on what is needed to help people get out of extreme poverty (defined as an income of USD 1.25 per day). In his chapter “How do we get to zero on poverty – and stay there?”, Andrew Shepherd (Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, Overseas Development Institute) emphasises the importance of also developing policies to support those that have escaped extreme poverty and are just above the poverty line, thereby ensuring that that they don’t fall back into extreme poverty. To achieve this, he calls for a post-2015 framework that directly addresses and includes targets for ending chronic poverty.

Who are the chronically poor? Within his chapter, Shepherd defines chronic poverty as “extreme poverty experienced over many years, a lifetime, or perpetuated from generation to generation”. Chronic poverty is often multidimensional in nature and, therefore, cannot be fully captured by measures of income poverty alone. Using a measure combining income and consumption, the 2008-09 Chronic Poverty Report estimated that there are currently between 320 and 443 million chronically poor people.

What policies could help end chronic poverty? The local context – as well as related economic, societal, political or institutional factors - plays an important role in whether or not a household is able to escape extreme poverty over the long term. These factors may create barriers that make it more difficult to end chronic poverty. These barriers cannot be removed through “Business as usual” policies and programmes. Shepherd calls for a root-and-branch re-orientation and reprioritisation of policies and programmes under the following four categories:

  1.   Social protection: Solid systems of social protection must be backed by national political commitment. For example, employment guarantees must be extended to jobs within the informal economy so that all employment is an avenue out of poverty, not just a survival option.
  2.  Growth that reaches the poorest: Within the agricultural sector, policies should focus not only on crop productivity, but also on building the asset bases of poor farmer households. Policies and programmes must be put in place that help increase access to electricity by reducing the upfront costs for families to connect to electrical grids.
  3.    Human development for the hard to reach: For this category, policies in a wide variety of areas – ranging from health to gender equality – must be revisited. Taking the example of education, current development programmes, which focus on increasing attendance rates for primary education, should be expanded to also include pre-school and post-primary education.
  4.   Transformative social change: Regardless of the specific model chosen to support the chronically poor, a country must have “far-sighted political leadership with a strong nation-building plan” in order for its programmes and policies to be effective.

What targets and goals should be included in the post-2015 framework? Shepherd calls for a post-2015 framework that focuses on eradicating extreme poverty, arguing that “If the factors keeping people poor over long periods of time (or in chronic poverty) are not explicitly addressed, there is no chance of getting to or near zero.” To that end, the post-2015 goals and targets should not just focus on USD 1.25 per day income poverty, but should also look at the poverty lines just above that threshold. Under the current system, those households that have escaped USD 1.25 per day income poverty and are living on USD 2 or USD 4 per day fall within a “policy no-man’s land”. If programmes and policies are not also developed to support those just above the extreme poverty line, they risk falling back into extreme poverty. To address these concerns, Shepherd would propose a series of three targets that are illustrated in the figure below. While this specific set of targets only addresses income poverty, it could also be adapted and applied to the other dimensions of poverty.

Ending chronic poverty and other topics explored in the Development Co-operation Report 2013: Ending Poverty will be discussed in a live panel debate, which will be held in London on 5 December and will be viewable via live-streaming. For more information, visit the Intelligence Squared event page or follow the discussion on Twitter using #povertydebate.

A dynamic post-2015 goal: Eradicate extreme poverty

Note: Target 1 should be combined with Target 2 for each country, since some countries need to do more of 1 and less of 2, and vice versa.
Source: This figure is taken from Chapter 4 of the DCR, “How do we get to zero on poverty – and stay there?”, by Andrew Shepherd.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Quality Urban Life: How to make it a reality?

“Quality Urban Life: How to make it a reality?”
The importance of measurement, public policy and implementation

You are invited to join the discussion on the “Quality of Urban Life in Latin America”, hosted by Ethos Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas, el Seminario Satisfacción Subjetiva con la Vida y la Sociedad (SAVISO) UNAM-IIS, International Transport Forum, La OCDE Centro de México, OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV), el Núcleo de Estudios Metropolitanos del Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales de la PUC-Chile, Wikiprogress and Wikiprogress América Latina.

This online discussion will be a unique opportunity to reflect and exchange best practices, relevant research and experiences on the topic. The debate begins on the 21 November 09:00 and continues until 5 December 16:00 (GMT), focusing on the following questions:

  1. Why is it important to incorporate considerations of quality of life, well-being, livability and “Right to the City” in urban public policy? 
  2. What does a liveable city look like? What are its characteristics? (e.g. parks; social events; transport; etc.) 
  3. Which indicators should we consider in order to measure and evaluate the quality of urban life? 
  4. What are some current public policies, social programs and urban development strategies aimed at improving the quality of urban life in Latin America? 
  5. What additional public policies could be incorporated to improve the quality of urban life? Who should be in charge of implementing them?

We invite you to leave your comments in Spanish, English or French in the section entitled “Contribute” of the discussion webpage. To participate, click here.

In Twitter, you may follow the hashtags #CalidadDeVida and #Bienestar and use the shortlink

Also, check out the blog for longer contributions from specialists:, as well as the Facebook page:

We look forward to reading your contributions.

Your Wikiprogress Team

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

“Society has become much more polarised”

This is an interview between Rosa Gosch, editor SGI News and political scientist Thomas Kalinowski. This post is part of the Wikiprogress series on Governance

Political scientist Thomas Kalinowski talks about South Korea’s first female president, quality of democracy and social justice as well as the role of the country’s national intelligence service.

SGI News: Mr. Kalinowski, in the South Korea Report of the SGI Asia study you describe former president Lee Myung-bak as the country’s corporate chief executive officer (CEO). How would you characterize the country’s new president, Park Geun-hye, who has been in office since February 2013?

Thomas Kalinowski: The election of President Park represents a political swing to the right, but her specific political goals have remained fairly unclear so far. Although both are members of the conservative party, the new president’s background is completely different from that of her predecessor. She is the daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979. She became Acting First Lady after her mother was murdered by North Korea. After her father was assassinated in 1979 by his own head of intelligence, she disappeared from politics and only re-emerged as a member of parliament in the 1990s. Park’s critics have accused her of having an authoritarian leadership style like her predecessor. Her supporters, however, are hoping she will bring Korea the same kind of strong economic growth as her father did.

In your opinion, what are the biggest political challenges facing the new president?

Thomas Kalinowski: The biggest challenge so far has been the government transition itself. Park needed a very long time to install her new government. Many of the people she picked to become ministers, vice ministers and state secretaries were not approved by parliament or had to withdraw because their candidacy came under critical scrutiny. Several posts in important government institutions remain vacant to this day. Park rarely listened to advice and tried to push through her nominees despite strong opposition, which ultimately led to many of them being rejected.

SGI’s 2011 ranking of democracy quality put South Korea in 29th place out of 31. How would you assess this score?

Thomas Kalinowski: South Korea is a democracy that can definitely measure up against democracies in Europe and other OECD countries. You need to remember that South Korea has only had free elections since 1987 and that it got its first president without a military background in 1993. I would not say that South Korea has a poor quality of democracy. In the rankings, the country is about where one would expect a young democracy that has undergone extremely rapid social change and economic development to be.

What areas need improvement?

Thomas Kalinowski: One big problem is that South Korea has weak political parties. Politics is dominated by a few strong individuals and their networks. There is very little continuity in the party landscape. For example, the current president simply renamed her party from Hannara to Saenuri in order to distance herself from her unpopular predecessor. In addition, party loyalty is divided along geographic lines. The conservative party is strong in the eastern half of the country, and the opposition, the democrats, is strong in the western half. There are bigger differences in terms of their regional distribution than in policy content.

Is that seen as a problem?

Thomas Kalinowski: Yes, definitely. It is one of the most heated debates right now. A few years ago, a new player emerged on the political stage – software developer and businessman Ahn Cheol-soo. He is already being treated as a candidate for the presidential elections four years from now. Ahn is working to build a movement of his own that represents a political alternative to the “traditional” parties. So far his political movement has focused very strongly on him and his ideas; it remains to be seen whether he will be able to resist the lure of authoritarianism.

Park Geun-hye has been a strong advocate of what she calls “economic democracy.” What does she mean by that?

Thomas Kalinowski: This concept is often misunderstood outside South Korea. It does not refer to employee participation or anything like that. The Korean economy is highly polarised. On one side are large corporations like Samsung and Hyundai, which are active in a wide range of areas. They dominate the country’s economy. The other side includes companies that supply those large corporations as well as smaller businesses and the service sector. Critics say the large corporations exploit these companies, turn them against one another and acquire them at will. The government understands economic democracy primarily to mean large corporations being fair with their smaller partners.

Has the new president done anything to encourage this kind of fairness?

Thomas Kalinowski: It is still too early to say for sure, since Park has only been office for a short time and the transitional phase lasted so long. She has done things like invite the heads of these large corporations to her office and urged them to treat their supplier companies better, to invest more and to create more jobs. The corporations then responded with a few symbolic acts, in which they changed some unstable work conditions to stable work conditions. The government also launched investigations into the business practices of some of the major companies and some high profile business people are currently serving prison sentences.

That sounds more like grasping at straws than a real strategy.

Thomas Kalinowski: Yes. And most importantly, there have been very few institutional changes. South Korea is still ruled through a network of connections between political leaders and the large corporations.

Social justice is another big topic in many Asian countries. Is that the case in South Korea too?

Thomas Kalinowski: Absolutely. There is a lot of discussion of the lack of social justice. South Korea’s economy developed very quickly and this process was not accompanied by the same degree of social inequality as in, say, Latin America. South Korea has always had a few very wealthy business leaders and their families, but the income gap was fairly narrow in the rest of society. This has changed dramatically since the mass layoffs that came with the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98. Many of the people who were laid off then were re-hired later on, but this time with temporary, fixed-term and other unstable contracts that limited their employment to one year and offered less of a safety net. In addition, these workers are far less unionised than regular employees because only regular employees can join enterprise unions in South Korea. And unlike here in Germany, industrial unions in South Korea are very weak. Youth unemployment and old age poverty are also serious problems. All of this has made society much more polarised. Granted, there have been efforts to counteract this trend by developing the country’s social welfare system, but these steps have not gone far enough. Further expanding the social welfare system is one of the biggest challenges facing Korea in the coming years and decades – especially given the demographic changes it is undergoing.

Capital flight and currency decay are shaking many countries in Asia right now, like Indonesia, India and Malaysia. Is this having an impact on South Korea?

Thomas Kalinowski: South Korea has not been hit as hard as those countries. It has a strong export economy, a large trade surplus and vast currency reserves. Korea has seen some impact in the form of an outflow of portfolio investment, where mainly foreign investors sold their shareholdings. The currency has lost some of its value but not a lot – besides, that is good for its export economy. The stock market is suffering but I don’t expect this to trigger a crisis due to capital flight as in 1997–98. Unlike then, South Korea now has very little short-term foreign debt and it can easily settle that debt using its currency reserves. Of course the caveat here is that we do not know exactly how fast the country can mobilize those reserves.
How do you think democracy will develop in South Korea under President Park?

Thomas Kalinowski: That’s hard to say. A big debate is currently going on about the role of the national intelligence service. Among other things, it has come under fire for having allegedly tried to influence the presidential elections in December 2012. The National Security Act of 1948 is also still in force. It allows the government to arrest people who make positive statements about North Korea or travel to North Korea without permission. These examples show how the legacy of the military dictatorship and the way the south is dealing with the threat from the north continue to impede democracy from further evolving and deepening in South Korea. Ultimately, the future of Korean democracy will depend on the degree to which the country manages to strengthen democratic participation and freedom of speech. There are some reasons to be optimistic. Compared to China and even Japan, civil society organizations, for instance, are much better developed in Korea due to the strong tradition of its democracy movement that successfully overthrew the military dictatorship in 1987.

Thomas Kalinowski is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea. He co-authored the South Korea Report of the SGI Asia study.

Rosa Gosch conducted the interview.

English translation by Douglas Fox

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How China’s agricultural miracle combined economic growth with poverty reduction

This post by Marie-ClaireTuzeneu, Production Manager of the Development Co-operation Report at the OECD, provides a first look on Li Xiaoyun’s piece for the OECD’s Development Co-operation Report 2013. This blog is part of the Wikiprogress series on post-2015.

How China’s agricultural miracle combined economic growth with poverty reduction
A first look at Li Xiaoyun’s chapter in the OECD’s Development Co-operation Report 2013

The world has made an important first step towards ending poverty: successfully reaching the first Millennium Development Goal and halving the proportion of people whose income was less than USD 1.25 per day in 1990. This achievement, frequently cited in this year’s Development Co-operation Report (DCR), would not have been possible without the dramatic poverty reduction that took place in China. In his chapter “What can Africa learn from China’s agricultural miracle”, Professor Li Xiaoyun (Research Center for International Development, China Agricultural University) explores the factors that contributed to this success and what possible lessons Africa could take away from the Chinese experience.

From 1978 to 2008, China’s economy grew at an average of 9.8% while its poverty incidence decreased from 63% to 10%. According to Li, this success was largely driven by growth in smallholder farming.  In fact, agricultural growth was responsible for 35% of China’s overall GDP growth and contributed four times more to poverty reduction than all of China’s manufacturing services combined. Li  attributes the large role agriculture played in its poverty reduction partially to the labour-intensive nature of agricultural work – this allowed the sector to absorb a high amount of China’s unskilled labour based in rural areas.

Based on this experience, he cautions countries against developing policies that encourage a largely rural-based population to migrate to urban areas before certain structural preconditions are met. Instead, Li argues that policies should first focus on expanding and increasing productivity within the agricultural sector. Once farmers are able to produce a surplus, this will then both help lower prices for consumers and provide raw material that will help stimulate other markets.

What specific lessons, then, could African countries draw from China’s experience? Li writes, “Given the diversity of the African continent, one of the most important lessons from China’s experience in agricultural development is the need to adapt to local and regional situations.” He emphasises the importance of carefully examining China’s experience to identify what could work in specific national contexts. With this important point in mind, Li developed a list of key general lessons, including:

  • rapidly increasing productivity and total output for crops already grown by a majority of smallholder farmers through techniques such as multiple cropping, inter-cropping and double and triple harvests
  • linking agricultural surplus with investment opportunities so that increasing farmer incomes also contribute to growth in other sectors
  • transitioning from a crop-focused to a more diversified farming system.

Finally, he critically reflects that China’s path towards rapid economic growth and agricultural production has not been without certain negative side effects that African countries should take into account when developing their own policies and programmes. As DAC Chair Erik Solheim states within the DCR Editorial, “The challenge for Africa will be to avoid some of the negative by-products of the Chinese experience, which include environmental damage and growing inequity between rural and urban areas.”

The Chinese experience on how to reduce poverty, its potential lessons for Africa and the other topics explored in the Development Co-operation Report 2013: Ending Poverty will be discussed in a live panel debate in London on 5 December. For more information, visit the Intelligence Squared event page.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Our grandmothers and mothers did not fight for gender equality in vain

This blog by Carlotta Balestra, Policy Analyst in the Statistics Directorate of the OECD, is part of the Wikiprogress focus on the "Gender differences in well-being" chapter of the How's Life? 2013.

Women are now better off and more educated than in the past, have greater career prospects and can decide their own lives. But changes in the status of women are neither uniform nor universal, and full gender equality remains an unattained goal. In many emerging and developing economies women remain second-class citizens, lacking basic rights, and having more limited access to assets. In the rich world, while legal and political rights are granted, large gender gaps persist and in many areas women still walk a step behind men.  

Women have caught up with men in terms of education. In fact, in most of the OECD countries, girls now overtake boys in educational achievement, but they are still far less likely to choose computing and engineering as fields of study - subjects in great demand on the labour market in OECD countries and other regions.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most prominent gaps between men and women is still in the world of work. In rich countries, women made huge gains into the labour force, since 1970 the proportion of working-age women in paid work has risen from 48% to 59%. However, they still find it much harder to secure the most senior posts and, despite equal pay legislation, are paid less than men. That is partly because women are segregated into low-value jobs and often find themselves as part-timers or temporary workers. Across the OECD area, on average, full-time women’s salary is 16% lower than men’s. The gender wage gap is smaller than it was 40 years ago, but what is troubling is that it seems to have stalled over the past few years.

Many working women continue to have two jobs - one in the workplace and one at home. As the chart below illustrates, women still bear the brunt of household tasks, an imbalance that can hinder them from participating fully in the job market and building their careers. Although, the contribution of men to housework and child care has grown over the last 10 years, it still remains far below women’s. Across the OECD, women spend twice as much time as men on household chores and parenting. There are large variations from country to country: in a week the average Italian woman spends 22 hours (or almost 3 full-time workdays) more than her other half on unpaid work, while this gap averages 5 hours in Nordic countries. If both paid and unpaid work are combined the gender gap narrows, but it’s still the women who put in the longest hours.

Female minus male weekly hours worked

Women have won the right to vote and run for public office almost everywhere, but they still remain under-represented in national politics. In parliaments across the OECD area women hold on average 28% of the seats, though the Nordics do much better. In Finland – the first country to introduce universal suffrage – women make up 43% of the members of parliament. Female political leaders are nowadays less unusual – think of Brazil’s Dimla Rousseff, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Germany’s Angela Merkel and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye – but still far from common, and one in three men across the OECD still thinks that men make better political leaders than women do.

In every country and culture, women face a high risk of being victims of physical or sexual violence by intimate partners. On average, across OECD countries, one in four women reports having been victim of intimate partner violence at least once in her life. This proportion goes up to 40% in Turkey and Mexico.

But life is not all rosy for men either. Men live shorter than women, are the primary targets of contact crime in the streets, have been hit harder by the recent economic downturn and report being less satisfied with their lives as a whole than women do. They are also confronted with new roles and social norms. The increasing share of women earning more than their partners over the past few years has called into question men’s traditional breadwinner role. While men are now supportive of their spouses when they help bring home some of the bacon, husbands aren’t always as enthusiastic when their wives start bringing home the ‘filet mignon’.
How’s Life? 2013 is now available. Read free on-line @ directly on OECD iLibrary:

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A roadmap that goes beyond ‘growth’?

This blog is by Alistair Whitby, Senior Policy Officer at the World Future Council which works with 7 other partners on the BRAINPOol project

It is something of a truism to note that recent decades have seen gross domestic product (GDP) morph from an important measure of economic growth to become the key driver of government decision-making seemingly across all areas of policy.

Less often noted are the increasing numbers of people suggesting that we need to look beyond growth to determine the wellbeing of citizens and the progress of our societies, a view which has become increasingly mainstream, even at times attracting support from the likes of Nicholas Sarkozy and David Cameron.

But the flourishing of these ideas and the emergence of a breathtaking array of ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators which measure everything from subjective happiness to inequality and food security  has not produced much evidence of a resulting impact on policy making. In fact, in these latter years of the financial crisis it often appears that governments are chasing growth to the exclusion of almost anything else; as an end in itself. Thus numbers have become the objective to be reached (in the UK this equates to 0.4%=good, 0.8%=even better!) rather than as a means to achieving something more profound such as higher levels of well-being or a more equal or prosperous society.

It was this dilemma that brought together a group forty indicator experts, economists, statisticians, government officials, trade union representatives and policy makers in Venice this week. Under the banner of the BRAINPOoL project, which was established by the European Commission to shed some light on the relationship between alternative indicators and policy making, participants engaged in two days of workshops, simulation games and finally a round of commitments.

Early discussions focused on the key question of what is preventing the adoption of more integrated policy solutions that are guided by a broader range of indicators, that would allow us, for example, to target ‘good growth’ as opposed to ‘bad growth’, and in some instances even sacrifice elements of growth if it comes at the expense of well-being or long-term sustainability. In essence, attempting to identify the key obstacles to effectively going ‘Beyond GDP’.

First up, a sizable challenge. It was noted that there is clearly an entrenched bias in policy making towards striving for GDP growth which is exacerbated by the commonly held belief that maximising growth defines economic competence, which in turn is often a primary factor in winning elections (“it’s the economy stupid”). Getting politicians and particularly Ministers to shift their gaze away from the GDP figures is thus an immediate uphill struggle. It is unsurprising, therefore, to find that the successes that have been achieved through the use of alternative indicators at the national level tend to be outside the economic sphere, in the realms of public health, prison reform or farmland biodiversity.

Other barriers were suggested thick and fast. Making use of Beyond GDP indicators often involves complex analysis which can limit their use to specialists. They are often multi-disciplinary with all the resulting (but necessary) difficulties of working across silos. They reveal long term trends while the rest of world seems fixated on quarterly results and short term election and news cycles. It was suggested that alternative indicators lack a compelling alternative ‘model’ in the way that the Keynesian growth model links with GDP which can lead to perceptions of a lack of realism or even distrust of their ulterior motives.

Day two saw participants focus on how to overcome some of the hurdles that had been identified and delineating the basis of a ‘roadmap’ for the better use of Beyond GDP indicators. Communication was identified as a key feature. A strong Beyond GDP narrative needs to be developed and opportunities to communicate it need to be fully embraced. Clarity around Beyond GDP terminology needs to be improved and concepts like ‘well-being’, ‘welfare’ and ‘sustainable’ need consistency and a common standard. Indicators should be better linked to the lifestyles and concerns of citizens, and the public should be allowed to decide on the choice of important indicator domains through greater civil society consultation. Science should also be fully utilised to demonstrate the consequences of non-action.

Certain fundamentals also need to be rectified, not least in the very education of future economists. It was pointed out that current macro-economic textbooks devote only two pages to a basic summary of the entire ‘Beyond GDP’ field. It was thus cheering to hear the news that undergraduates at Manchester University have this week proposed an overhaul of orthodox economic teachings to embrace alternative theories.

Other opportunities also abound. The world is in the midst of a major policy debate about the objectives of public policy resulting from the Rio+20 conference last year and which targets and indicators should be used to define the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period 2015-2030.

Moving the focus from measurement to action to the actual use of these alternative indicators in the policy making process is going to take commitment, cooperation and years of overcoming entrenched resistance. BRAINPOoL’s roadmap is not going to achieve this on its own.

But the process should also not be insurmountable. Recent polls show there is clear international public support for using health, social and environmental statistics as well as economic statistics to measure societal progress and human well-being, and the positive outcomes for society resulting from such a shift are becoming abundantly clear.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The New Geography of Poverty - OECD Development Cooperation Report 2013

This post by Valentin Lang, Policy Analyst at the OECD provides a first look on Andy Sumner’s piece for the OECD’s Development Cooperation Report 2013. This blog is part of the Wikiprogress series on post-2015.

A critical time for the future of global development has begun. In September, the international community gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to launch the final phase of the international process that will lead to a new global development framework for post2015. The development community has started vigorous work on new approaches to end poverty. A much awaited publication in this regard is the OECD’s Development Cooperation Report 2013: Ending Poverty, the subject of a live panel debate in London on 5 December 2013. 

In his contribution to the report, Andy Sumner, Co-Director of King’s International Development Institute, shows that the global patterns of poverty have changed fundamentally over the past few years. He argues that we won’t be successful in tackling this new pattern of poverty with our current approach to international development. The world economy has changed and so has poverty. The next development framework has to account for this and has to initiate new forms of development cooperation. According to Sumner, a “new bottom billion” lives in middle-income countries. Whereas in 1990, most extremely poor persons lived in a low-income country, today more than 70% of them live in middle-income countries. In the next few years, some of these countries could even develop into high-income countries if they meet IMF growth forecasts.

In short, we see the geography of poverty shifting radically

This new world of poverty consists primarily of countries whose gross national income per capita gives them middle income status but whose “nothing magically happens when a country crosses an arbitrary line into a new classification based on per capita income” population comprises large numbers of extremely poor. Apparently, mere economic growth does not guarantee progress in poverty reduction. Today, the poverty problem is inextricably linked to the inequality problem.

Sumner draws some important conclusions from these remarkable findings. He argues that if we want to eradicate poverty in the future, the traditional approach of “development aid” that flows from OECD countries to the least developed countries is by far not enough. Development cooperation has to realise that. Development cooperation with countries whose populations suffer from poverty should therefore not be less intense only because of their middle-income status – but it should be different:
Development cooperation with middle-income countries can draw on a wider range of resources and policy options than low-income countries. Middle-income countries have a larger tax base and have more domestic resources available for work in poverty reduction. The credit ratings of middle-income countries allow them to borrow capital from financial markets. Therefore, development cooperation can and must take new forms beyond ODA.

For instance, Sumner points to the possibility that providers of development cooperation could shift from grants to concessional loans and to the co-financing of global and regional initiatives. Knowledge sharing and joint policy-related research will also have to become more important. Another central challenge for providers of development cooperation is to focus more on policy coherence for development. They must better co-ordinate development and non-development policies and ensure that the latter do not undermine the former.

At the same time, a focus on inequality has to be a key feature of future development cooperation. Combating global poverty means combating inequality inside countries. Mere economic growth will not suffice. It must be inclusive and must be connected to socio-economic policies that tackle inequalities: “Growth with redistribution is the way forward.” Sumner’s analysis, thus, points to the fact that it seems inevitable to address inequalities in the post-2015 development framework.

The new geography of poverty requires new policies to fight it and Andy Sumner’s contribution to the OECD’s Development Cooperation Report 2013 leads the way ahead.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

How’s Life? 2013 – Focusing on people

This blog by Martine Durand, Chief Statistician and Director of the Statistics Directorate at the OECD, is part of the Wikiprogress  focus on the How's Life? 2013 report for the month of November 2013. 

Measuring better lives has become even more important today, as many of our economies and societies have been stricken by the global financial crisis. Understanding how the lives of people have been affected and designing the best strategies to help those who have suffered the most requires looking well beyond the impact of the crisis on economic production and financial markets.

The global financial crisis has seriously affected economic well-being

Many workers have lost their jobs since the start of the crisis in 2007 and many households have registered stagnating or declining levels of income and wealth.Today, there are nearly 15 million more unemployed people in the OECD area than before the crisis, and the number of people out of job for more than a year has reached 16 million. Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2010, relative income poverty rose in most OECD countries, especially among children and young people. Rising economic insecurity and financial strain have particularly hit low-income and low-educated households.

Trust in institutions has weakened

Other aspects of people’s well-being have also evolved in a negative way during the crisis. Life satisfaction fell considerably in the countries most severely hit by the crisis, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, and in these countries more people reported experiencing high levels of stress and worry. Countries’ political capital has been severely undermined, as today only 40% of citizens in the OECD trust their national governments – the lowest level since 2006. And in countries most affected by the crisis, only between one and three citizens out of ten trust their governments, a ratio that has more than halved since the start of the crisis.

New forms of solidarity and engagement have emerged

In some countries, responses to the crisis went beyond public policy and also came from local communities, in the forms of higher interpersonal solidarity and different forms of civic participation. While people have found it more difficult to provide financial help, an increasing number report having provided other types of support to others, and having volunteered their time to help those in need in their community. Families have also been a source of support, both financial and in-kind, and have provided an important safety net, for instance to young people who had difficulty finding a job.

Well-being indicators offer new insights for policy making

Well-being metrics can provide a new and wider perspective to policy-makers in the areas that matter to people. Some of these areas have long been on their radar screen, such as jobs, health or education, but the more comprehensive set of outcome indicators at the individual or household levels contained in How’s Life? and their joint distribution across population groups can offer new insights on people’s conditions. This edition of How’s Life? explores in some detail two measurement issues in well-being that may offer new food for thought for policy making: gender gaps in well-being and well-being in the workplace.

Can women and men have it all?

The question of how well-being varies across population groups and why is fundamental to design better targeted and more effective policies. While much progress on gender equality has been achieved over the past decades, in a number of countries, gender remains an important determinant of well-being inequalities in the population. But contrary to the usual picture that captures economic conditions only, the gender gap is not always just a women’s issue. For instance, women live longer than men on average in the OECD and they are often more educated. However, women report a lower health status, have worse job prospects and fewer networks to rely on when looking for a job. Women also experience more often negative feelings than men.

Well-being in the workplace: The importance of quality jobs

For many years, the focus of policy has mainly been on providing job opportunities and ensuring that people who wanted to work could find a job. However, most people spend a large part of their lives working and what happens in the workplace is an essential determinant of overall well-being. Having a good or quality job does not just mean receiving good salaries or having dynamic careers; it also means working in an environment that is conducive to personal accomplishment and where people are committed. People’s engagement and high sense of well-being at work depend a lot on whether they have autonomy in their job andare given well-defined work objectives. Respectful and supportive management practices and support from colleagues are also important.When jobs and workplaces combine these factors, people are more apt to manage work pressure and emotionally demanding jobs, and they also tend to be healthier and more productive.

Focusing on what matters to people, and improving existing metrics or developing new ones to measure well-being and progress, is the way ahead to achieve better lives, today and tomorrow.

Martine Durand
OECD Chief Statistician
Director of the Statistics Directorate

How’s Life? 2013 is available from 5 November. Read free on-line @ directly on OECD iLibrary: