Remarks at Generation Unlimited: Third Global Board Meeting

The Third Global Board Meeting of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited took place on 23rd September 2019 in New York City on the occasion of the UN General Assembly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to represent the OECD in this discussion.

Let’s remember that almost 1 in 10 jobs held by workers under 30 were destroyed during the crisis. In Spain, Greece and Ireland, the number of employed youth halved between 2007 and 2014. A decdade since the crisis, despite rapid technological change and growing global integration, many young people have grown up with persistent unemployment, poor quality jobs, high social exclusion, and stalling social mobility.

The OECD’s recent study The Broken Social Elevator, showed that it takes on average five generations for a child born in the poorest families in OECD countries to reach the median income.

Youth are being left behind. Almost 14% of OECD youth are not in employment, education, or training (NEET), with the rate for young women five percentage points higher than for young men. Migrant youth are also affected. In most OECD countries, youth born outside their country of residence are 1.5 times more likely to be NEET than native-born youth.

As the future of our youth remains uncertain, and inequalities prevail, young people are losing hope and losing trust. Trust in government among youth is below the level of the 50+ generation in the OECD, and the civic disengagement  of youth with a migrant brackground is even higher.

Despite this crisis, existing youth policies remain insufficient: over one fifth of countries do not have a youth policy, and many do not invest sufficient resources in young people.

The OECD is working across many fronts to address these shortfalls: we have over 20 country-specific youth action plans and we are developing national policy reviews to promote youth entrepreneurship, youth well-being policy reviews, and country-tailored analysis advice for migrant integration, including migrant youth.

The OECD is also working with countries to equip youth with the skills, the resilience and the confidence to seize the opportunities of the digital age, including through the PISA Global Competence Framework and national skills strategies.

The OECD is committed to continue our collaboration and stands ready to collaborate on (1) GenU country work; (2) the creation of a knowledge platform; and (3) the update of the 2007 World Development Report.

The OECD will support GenU by working to refine and measure targets, making countries aware of specific GenU initiatives and sharing relevant information and knowledge gained through OECD engagement with member countries on youth policies and projects.

Additionally, the OECD can support GenU in developing youth action plans. Looking at the list of countries that GenU plans to work with [Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, Mexico, South Africa and Ethiopia], the OECD is particularly well-placed to mobilise its extensive knowledge on Mexico, South Africa and Ethiopia.

The OECD can also contribute to the update of the World Development Report of 2007: Development and the Next Generation, to analyse what has happened since 2007, what worked, what did not, and where that ‘next generation’ stands now.

The OECD would also like to draw attention to vulnerable youth in developed countries. For example, young people who are living in foster families or institutions. OECD countries are working to address the distinct challenges and exclusion they face, but initiatives are often difficult to scale up.

The OECD therefore encourages GenU to expand its framework and strategy to include vulnerable youth in developed countries.

We look forward to deepening our engagement with GenU in the ways I have just described, to give all young people the skills to thrive in the future they deserve.

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Launch of the 2019 UHC Global Monitoring Report at UNGA

The first UHC monitoring report, produced by the WHO and the World Bank was published in 2015. In their 2017 declaration, G20 health ministers invited “the WHO to identify appropriate indicator frameworks and to monitor progress on HSS [health systems strengthening] and UHC worldwide, working jointly with the World Bank, the OECD and other relevant stakeholders”. Both the 2015 and 2017 Global monitoring reports had two main chapters – service coverage and financial protection. The 2019 monitoring report focuses for the first time on gender issues and primary health care (PHC). The OECD has previously provided data, particularly in the development of the 2017 report.  We also contributed to the drafting of the 2019 report. Chapter 1 presents data on service coverage.  Overall coverage is improving, although the rate of improvement is slowing.  At the same time coverage of non-communicable diseases and service capacity have hardly changed. Chapter 2 covers financial protection.  The overall finding is a situation where financial protection is deteriorating, pushing more people into poverty.  The World Bank will cover this chapter in the panel discussion.

What for you are the key messages on social determinants and data gaps in this report?

As the report shows, poor people have lower coverage, even for basic health services., including those that have achieved universal or near-universal coverage of services, health outcomes are directly linked to the socio economic status of people. And according to OECD evidence, some low income group  life expectancy is lower among the poor and less educated. In some East European countries the gap is larger than 8 years!

We know that across the OECD people with low income are less likely to see a doctor or utilise preventive services, the poor are 12% less likely to see a specialist than the rich and  are more likely to smoke and be obese.

The OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative has led the way in demonstrating that one dimension of inequality can serve to entrench others,  they reinforce themselves in a vicious cycle of accumulated disadvantages (which is why it now takes an average of five generations in the OECD from a child from the lowest income group to reach the median). Poor education contributes to poor health, and you add the low quality jobs, and you have a tragic picture. No wonder people are angry and lack trust.

Being in the climate weak, environmental impacts on health outcomes are also strongly determined by our socio economic status.

As we take this inclusiveness approach, we also have to apply the gender lens and this report shows that health coverage is lower among women living in poverty and in rural areas, and while access to sexual, reproductive and child healthcare services is improving, many women and children are still not being reached, especially in Africa.

The push back to progress in this field is also being affected by a new wave of highly conservative attitudes in major economies.

To address these challenges we need healthcare systems that put people’s health outcomes at the center. Managing complex health systems could push goverments to focus on inputs, and on pressures from different interest groups, but the focus should be people’s health.

At the OECD this is what we are trying to do with our policy tools on health, ranging from tackling the opioid crisis and obesity, to looking at the quality, beyond the the covereage of healthcare.

We need data and policy analysis that goes beyond national averages and sheds light on inequalities by gender and socioeconomic status, as well as on people’s experiences and needs as patients.

This is why the OECD has created a new Patient-Reported Indicators Survey, called PaRIS.

Yes closing data gaps is key, but what really matters is what we measure, and how to ensure it is connected to people’s experiences.

 We also need to increase spending, but the finance will deliver better if we bring it together with an strategic approach focused on best practices and knowledge sharing, because countries are spending vastly different amounts with very diffierent outcomes.

In education, we have this with PISA, and I invite everyone to join PaRIS, to help shape healthcare systems that delivers for the SDG’s.

Please count on the OECD to keep working with all of you in this collective effort.

Key message: what would your take away message be?

One key takeaway – we need to do better. Much better. We need to ensure health systems are responsive to people’s needs; and we need to improve our measurement of the quality of care across socioeconomic groups.

How do we do this? – We do this by incorporating the outcomes and experiences of patients and communities into health policy. We need to move to a situation where patients and local communities help to design and build the health systems of the future, making them truly people-centred.

These are areas where the OECD can make a difference, including with our PaRIS survey. We are looking forward to working in collaboration with you, our partners, to make progress.

Opening Remarks: NAEC Conference: Averting Systemic Collapse

Opening of the NAEC Group Conference on 17 September 2019 with Gabriela Ramos, Laurence Boone and Martine Durand at the OECD. Photo OECD / Maud Bernos

Welcome to the NAEC group. I am very pleased to welcome a record participation of the Chairs of OECD committees. I would also like to welcome the Ambassadors and Economic Counsellors. We are looking forward to your views and guidance on how to take NAEC forward.

This gathering is timely as the global community grapples with an urgent set of interconnected and complex economic, environmental and social challenges.

It brings together experts who believe our current policy approaches are no longer adequate to address them, and that have worked with us to develop a better understanding of the interaction of risk and complexity.  They have also joined us in adopting a “systems thinking” approach to promote anticipation and resilience.

Our point of departure is that the systems that govern our lives are under stress. Conservation scientists warn that up to a million plant and animal species face extinction and we see our kids striking. Ocean acidification and warming is driving rapid and dramatic changes in marine ecosystems and nearly one million species are currently threatened with extinction driven by our increasing demands for food and energy.[1] After a three year plateau from 2014-2016, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising again, reaching unprecedented levels in 2018.[2] Climate experts say rising sea and temperature levels will impact the health and security of billions of people, and is already destroying the life in the sea. Economists wonder when the next global financial crisis or economic recession will hit. They are also puzzled by the secular stagnation in many countries. People worry, with good reason, about widening social divides and societal and political fragmentation, and the fast pace of digital transformation. Social mobility is broken: OECD evidence shows that for the child of a poor family to reach the average income would take 5 generations on average across OECD countries. Meanwhile, the Amazon burns.

The question is straightforward. Are our strained systems meeting their limits? Are we approaching a tipping point? How resilient are our systems to shocks?

Fundamentally, these challenges are to the systems we inhabit and interact with, the biophysical environment, the socio-political system and the economic system. These are interlinked, and complex, made up of the interactions of billions of actors in trillions of exchanges. These interactions generate convoluted causal chains, emergent macro-phenomena, and are often governed by non-linear dynamics including tipping points and feedback loops.

We must acknowledge that the understanding of such systems and the devising of solutions to wicked problems more often than not stand in opposition to the mainstream linear thinking that has been dominant in economics. We must recognize the shortcomings of our models, that include many assumptions that are at odds with reality, including the general equilibrium, the representative agent, or the rational behaviour. Looking at aggregate outcomes and average results, on stocks and not flows is not going to help.

The obvious place to start was with the models being used across the world by financial institutions, governments, international organisations and academics. In the field of economics, we are often told the story of homo economicus as guiding principle. A rational individual capable of complex optimisation problems. Under the false premises of homogeneity, we can aggregate all such individuals in a linear fashion, reducing the complex dynamics of groups, regions or countries down to a single, or few, representative agents. Real people are not like that.

The economic, social and environmental crisis we are confronting tell us that life is more complex than what our models can capture, that our economic systems are influenced by culture, hope, fear, perceptions, and a host of other fundamentals of human interactions that sociology, psychology, history and biology, to name but a few, can help us understand.

Indeed we are seeing the weaknesses in our existing economic models exposed with every step taken to adapt them to our complex reality. Essentially, economics in the early 21st century was, and still is, in a position similar to that of astronomy in the middle of the 16th century, just before the Copernican revolution, where the models were becoming ever-more sophisticated technically to try to compensate for the fact that they did not correspond to reality.

Opening of the NAEC Group Conference on 17 September 2019 with Gabriela Ramos, Laurence Boone and Martine Durand at the OECD Photo OECD / Maud Bernos

Solving issues in our world of complex, inter-connected systems requires transformative change in the fundamentals of economics and a new narrative underlying the need for a systems approach to human well-being and sustainability.

One of the tranches of rethinking starts with the core mission of the OECD – economic growth. Neoclassical economics painted an attractively simple and easy to understand narrative: Grow first, fix later. This all hinged on the belief that GDP growth was an end in itself building erroneous beliefs that simply growing the pie would reduce inequality, or that technological progress would automatically take care of environmental damages resulting from growth. This overarching idea gave priority to economic efficiency. The stride for economic efficiency, and its benefits, were supported by “evidence” from incomplete, “objective” economic models. However, the social and environmental consequences of this narrative, along with the remaining imbalances that brought on the 2008 crisis in the first place, show us that the myopic focus on economic growth through economic efficiency has dire consequences.

We must understand that the implications of a faulty “grow first, redistribute later” throws the ecosystem of complex systems that we live in completely out of balance. We must understand that GDP growth is not an end in itself but rather a means to prosperity. Most importantly though, we must ensure that growth is inclusive for all and makes use of our natural resources sustainably and safely. An additional advantage with such a narrative is that our policy options become more clear, allowing us to exploit synergies and trade-offs between different objectives.

We also need to redefine the role of the state. The orthodox view is that markets generally produce positive outcomes that eventually increase welfare, and so the state should “interfere” as little as possible, and only to correct market failures. However, we need states to provide a sound regulatory framework that invests in people, places and firms that are left behind, and direct markets and growth to promote the well-being of planet and citizens.

The state also has to change its silo-based approach to capture the complexity of the systems policymaking is dealing with. We need to think about how policies interact and influence each other, and be prepared to react to unintended consequences. 

If we are to succeed in a transforming the system we currently inhabit to generate a sustainable society with increasing well-being we cannot limit ourselves to the “safe space” of established ideas, where like-minded people discussed how to adjust their techniques and practices so they would do better next time. That’s not easy, as any criticism is characterised as opposition to free market economics.

Nothing could be more wrong. The role of the market in economics does not lose its central role in the functioning of an economic system, but we need to listen to those that think differently. Those that do not see the market as efficient or optimal, but as a means for exchange and the evolutionary selection process for business plans and ideas. Roberto Unger, another NAEC contributor, put it well when he said that sometimes what we need is “disensus”, to avoid the herd thinking that blinds us to reality.

Opening of the NAEC Group Conference on 17 September 2019 with Gabriela Ramos, Laurence Boone and Martine Durand at the OECD Photo OECD / Maud Bernos

Therefore, the OECD launched the New Approaches to Economic Challenges Initiative, often referred to simply as NAEC, in 2012 to understand the shortcomings of the predominant analytical frameworks we rely on, and to establish the basis for new frameworks, approaches and techniques to produce sound people-centric policy advice.

We need to give policymakers more information, but it’s most likely impossible to design a single GDP-like figure that would reflect the many different aspects that need to be considered in any meaningful way. A new suite of indicators is required, and this what the Framework for Policy Action for Inclusive Growth aims to do, as well as the Well Being Framework, that broadens the dimensions of well being.

NAEC is helping us to do all this.

This conference together experts who believe our current policy approaches are no longer adequate to address the complex, interconnected and dynamic nature of today’s environmental, economic and social problems. Meeting systemic challenges requires a better understanding of the interaction of risk and complexity. Greater collaboration across scientific disciplines is needed to strengthen public policy.

We will explore new analytical tools and techniques and promote “systems thinking” to improve anticipation and resilience. Contributing to the debates will be experts from a range of fields, including economics, political science, engineering, physics, and biology.

Beyond the discussions, we have produced a number of reports on a new economic narrative, and I want to welcome our partner institutions and people of NAEC who have worked with us all year through to better address and understand the complex time we are living in. With their help, we have prepared several reports for this discussion to:

First, explore a new growth narrative with the support of the HLAG of the SG.  I welcome its members with us today,

Second, to advance new analytical frameworks with the task force of Complex Systems Thinking and IIASSA and we have its Chairman Martin Lees,

Secretary General, Angel Gurria’s Intervention at the NAEC conference in the headquarter of the OECD ; 17 septembre 2019 ; Photo : OECD /Maud Bernos

Third to advance resilient strategies and approaches to contain systemic threats, prepared by Igor Linkov,

Fourth, to inform on progress on the NAEC Innovation Lab, including agent based modelling, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and even neuroeconomics (thanks to Alain Kirman) will allow us to capture better the interaction of risk and complexity. This joint work with the Chief Economist and Chief Statistician looks promising.

Our gratitude to Slovakia, Sweden (The Swedish Innovation Agency – VINNOVA), Partners for a New Economy (P4NE) and Leslie Harroun with whom we are co-organising this event and the Investment firm Baillie Gifford for their support for these work, and their financial contributions. And thanks also to our co-chairs, Ambassador Erdem and Irena Sodin.

All of this contributes to the development of a new framework that integrates the economy, and economics, with a range of other activities, insights and approaches to help tackle the environmental, social and economic challenges that dominate the global policy agenda.

Over the next two days, we will have the help of some of the world’s best thinkers to help us develop that framework. We will discuss very technical subjects, but this is not an academic debate – time is short – action is needed and that is what NAEC is about –not just new thinking but new acting.

We want to apply your insights to policy. We want you to analyse with members and Committees how new approaches will provide different and better analyses. Give us the ideas, concepts, tools and narratives to help make our systems work better for better lives. I am looking forward to a fruitful discussion.

Thank you.


[1] IPBES (2019). Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science- Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo (editors). IPBES Secretariat, Bonn.

[2] IEA (2019), Global Energy and CO2 status report, IEA Publishing, Paris.

Panorama de la Educación 2019: Presentación del informe para España

Es un honor presentarles nuestra edición 2019 del estudio Panorama de la Educación, que este año se centra en la Educación Terciaria. Se trata de un tema cada vez más importante porque, hasta donde podemos predecir, la demanda de personas con conocimientos y habilidades avanzadas seguirá aumentando.  

Además, una Educación Terciaria de calidad mejora la movilidad social y provee oportunidades a la población para ampliar sus horizontes, perfeccionar su capacidad de pensar de forma crítica, y prepararse para la vida en un mundo que evoluciona rápidamente. 

La Educación Terciaria no solo es importante para los individuos, sino también para la comunidad y para la sociedad.  

Por ejemplo, los adultos con Educación Terciaria poseen mejores habilidades y una mayor productividad, mientras que también afirman tener un mejor estado de salud y estar más implicados en su comunidad y en la sociedad. Además, la inversión en la calidad y la participación en Educación Terciaria devuelve beneficios a la sociedad: mayor recaudación de impuestos, menores transferencias sociales y criminalidad, mayor productividad, y, en general, mayor prosperidad económica y mejores niveles de vida.  

Permítanme destacar algunos de los hallazgos clave de este informe y sus implicaciones para España.  

Los datos del estudio Panorama de la Educación confirman la creciente importancia de la Educación Terciaria.  

Las competencias que provee dicho nivel educativo siguen siendo muy demandadas en el mercado de trabajo, a pesar de que el número de personas con un título a nivel terciario creció en los últimos años. El porcentaje de jóvenes entre 25 y 34 años que posee un título de educación terciaria es de 44% en España, mismo porcentaje que el promedio de la OCDE: ¡mayor que nunca! 

DIAPOSITIVA (desempleo por nivel educ.)  

La Educación Terciaria tiene un fuerte impacto positivo en el mercado de trabajo, tanto a nivel de empleo como de salarios. Entre los adultos de 25 a 34 años en España, la tasa de desempleo es de 25% para aquellos con un nivel educativo por debajo de la segunda etapa de Educación Secundaria, de 18% para los que sí la superaron, y de solo 12% para aquellos con Educación Terciaria. 

Además, en España, un nivel de educación más alto protege a las personas frente al desempleo de larga duración: el 40% de los desempleados con Educación Terciaria han estado desempleados durante un año o más, frente al 48% de aquellos que no alcanzaron la segunda etapa de Educación Secundaria. 

En términos de salarios, en España, los adultos con estudios terciarios ganan un 57% más que los graduados de la segunda etapa de Educación Secundaria, porcentaje similar al promedio OCDE y ligeramente superior al promedio UE23, de 52%. 

Además, esta brecha aumenta con la experiencia profesional.  

Pero el mercado no recompensa a las mujeres con estudios terciarios en la misma medida que a los hombres. 

Entre los empleados a tiempo completo con estudios terciarios, las mujeres ganan menos que los hombres en todos los países de la OCDE, si bien la brecha de género en España es menor que la brecha promedio en la OCDE.  

En 2017, las españolas entre 25 y 64 años con Educación Terciaria cobraban el 82% del salario de los hombres con el mismo nivel educativo, frente al 75% en promedio en la OCDE.  

En todo caso, en los países que cuentan con datos por ámbito de estudio, se observa que en algunos ámbitos las mujeres están más “penalizadas” que en otros. Es el caso del ámbito de los negocios, la administración y el derecho en la mayoría de países con datos.  

La incorporación al mundo laboral de un creciente número de mujeres ha suscitado un mayor interés por parte de las autoridades en la expansión de los programas de Educación y Atención a la Primera Infancia (EAPI). Dichos programas constituyen un pilar fundamental sobre el que asentar las bases del desarrollo cognitivo y mitigar los efectos de la falta de equidad a lo largo de la vida. 

En este rubro, España cuenta con mejores resultados que la mayoría de países de la OCDE. En 2017, el 97% de los niños de 3 a 5 años estaban matriculados en programas EAPI, frente al 87% en promedio en la OCDE.  

Los datos también nos muestran la importancia que España concede a las primeras etapas de EAPI, con un 36% de niños menores de 3 años matriculados en programas EAPI, 10 puntos porcentuales por encima del promedio de la OCDE y 21 puntos porcentuales más que en 2005.  

Un financiamiento público sostenido es esencial para asegurar la calidad y el buen desarrollo de los programas EAPI. Una dotación económica adecuada facilita la contratación de personal cualificado con suficiente experiencia para apoyar el desarrollo cognitivo, social y emocional de los niños. En 2016, el gasto total en los programas educativos para los niños de 3 a 5 años ascendió a 0.5% del PIB en España, siendo el promedio en la OCDE del 0.6%. Y el gasto anual por niño (6,900 dólares) fue inferior al de los países de la OCDE (8,100 dólares). 

En España, la ratio entre niños/personal docente en Educación Infantil se encuentra por debajo del promedio de la OCDE y de los países UE23 en el nivel de educación preprimaria (CINE 02): 14 alumnos, frente a los 16 en promedio en los países de la OCDE, y a los 15 en el entorno UE23. En el ámbito de los programas de desarrollo educacional de la primera infancia (CINE 01), la ratio en España es similar a la de los países de la OCDE y la UE23, situándose en 10 alumnos por grupo.  

Un descenso de las ratios entre niños y personal docente en el ámbito de la educación de la primera infancia no solo favorece las relaciones interpersonales, sino que, además, permite al personal docente y de apoyo volcarse más eficazmente en las necesidades individuales de los niños, a la vez que se reduce el tiempo de clase dedicado al tratamiento de situaciones disruptivas. 

Ahora bien, la educación requiere un gasto público acorde a su importancia. 

En 2016, el gasto educativo en los niveles desde Primaria a Terciaria en España fue del 4.3% del PIB, del cual 3.1% se destinó a la educación no terciaria y 1.2% a la Terciaria. En cada nivel educativo, el gasto directo en España fue similar al promedio de la UE23, aunque inferior al promedio OCDE.  

Cabe destacar que, en el período 2010-2016, el gasto total como porcentaje del PIB en todos los niveles educativos en España se redujo en un 4.7%, un descenso menor que el del promedio de la OCDE (7.7%) y de la UE23 (10.3%). 

Sin embargo, el gasto educativo por estudiante a tiempo completo en España es menor que en la mayoría de países de la OCDE.  

En 2016, España gastó un total de 9,500 dólares por estudiante, frente a los 10,500 dólares en promedio en los países de la OCDE. La diferencia se debió principalmente al gasto por estudiante en Educación Terciaria, que en España fue de 12,600 dólares, frente a 15,600 dólares en promedio en la OCDE.  

Sin embargo, en términos de PIB per cápita, España alcanza el promedio OCDE: el gasto por estudiante a tiempo completo desde Educación Primaria a Terciaria fue del 26% del PIB per cápita, y del 23% el destinado a la educación no terciaria. 

Ahora bien, ¿cómo se financia la educación? No solo el sector público invierte en este rubro, sino que también el sector privado contribuye de manera importante.  

En 2016, el 14% del gasto total en instituciones educativas de Educación Primaria y Secundaria en España procedió de financiamiento privado, por encima del 10% en promedio en la OCDE y del 8% en promedio en países de la UE23.  

El financiamiento privado es especialmente importante en Educación Terciaria, donde el gasto privado cubre el 33% del coste educativo de este nivel, similar al promedio de la OCDE (32%) y superior al de la UE23 (24%). 

Un requisito indispensable para el éxito de un sistema educativo son los profesores, y hay que poner el foco en atraer a los mejores a la profesión docente.  

Los salarios reglamentarios iniciales del profesorado en España son considerablemente más elevados que en promedio en la OCDE.  

Al igual que en el entorno OCDE, el salario del profesorado incrementa con la experiencia, aunque no crece a la misma velocidad que en otros países.  

La diferencia en los niveles retributivos entre España y el promedio OCDE se estrecha para el profesorado con 15 años de experiencia. Por ejemplo, los docentes españoles de primera etapa de Educación Secundaria al inicio de su carrera ganaron 11,300 dólares más que el promedio OCDE, aunque esta ventaja se redujo a los 4,800 dólares para el profesorado con 15 años de experiencia. 

Señoras y señores,  

Los datos que se presentan en nuestra serie Panorama de la Educación ayudan a informar sobre el rango de intervenciones y políticas que se necesitan para lograr el objetivo de una educación equitativa y de calidad. 

Es nuestra responsabilidad compartida ayudar a los jóvenes a aprovechar al máximo las oportunidades existentes y tomar decisiones informadas sobre su futuro.  

Para lograr esto, debemos ampliar las oportunidades, aumentar las opciones de programas y calificaciones, y construir puentes más fuertes con el mercado laboral. Esto también significa invertir en la orientación de los estudiantes para que cada uno encuentre su lugar en la sociedad y pueda contribuir con el máximo de su potencial.  

Solo entonces los estudiantes podrán adquirir el conocimiento y las competencias que puedan llevarlos adelante y cambiar sus vidas para mejor. 

Opening Remarks: Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum

A successful mission to Cairo, Egypt on September 9 to open the Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum with Minister Sahar Nasr and discuss the OECD-Egypt Country Programme.

Minister Nasr, Ambassador Thesleff,

Excellencies and Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today to welcome you to the National Consultation on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Egypt. I would like to thank Her Excellency Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Co-operation of Egypt, for hosting this meeting.

Minister Nasr co-hosted the launch of the MENA-OECD Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum (WEEF) here in Cairo two years ago and is co-Chair of the Forum, alongside Her Excellency Marie-Claire Swärd-Capra, Swedish Ambassador to Algeria.

I would also like to thank His Excellency, Jan Thesleff, Ambassador of Sweden to Egypt, for his strong personal support for this meeting and more broadly for Sweden’s leadership in the OECD’s gender equality work.

It is particularly fitting to discuss women’s empowerment here in Cairo. For centuries, Egypt has been called “Masr, oum el dounia” – the mother of the world. Indeed, its history has been shaped by powerful women.

Many of the women (and men) sitting in this room today are continuing in their footsteps! Over the centuries, Egypt has succeeded in blending many cultures and religions to become a dynamic, diverse society, and it has become one of the MENA region’s biggest economies. However, this pre-eminence also comes with growing expectations from its burgeoning, young population.

Egypt has taken important steps to further women’s rights. I am very glad that H.E. Ambassador Moushira Khattab accepted to be with us today and to moderate this afternoon’s discussion on the power of role models in achieving gender equality. During the 2000s, the remarkable work she led at the institutional level resulted in a range of reforms meant to put an end to early marriages, human trafficking, and female genital mutilations (FGM). Egypt played a leading role among African countries in the fight against FGM, and the law that was adopted to criminalise it in 2008 was taken as an example by many African countries.

Efforts to reduce gender-based discrimination continued. In 2014, Egypt prohibited gender-based violence in its constitution – which is not the case for all OECD countries – and formulated a National Strategy for combating violence against women.

In 2017, President Al Sissi declared the “year of Egyptian women” and released the “Egyptian Women Vision 2030: Women Empowerment Strategy”.  The same year, Minister Nasr helped champion Egypt’s Investment Law No. 72 to protect women investors from discrimination.

The National Council of Women, presided by Dr. Maya Morsi (in the audience), is leading a number of efforts, including a campaign to ensure that women are no longer denied the right to inherit. Most recently, at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, President Al Sissi reminded world leaders of the importance of boosting women’s empowerment.

Additionally, women in the MENA region are proving increasingly qualified to take advantage of opportunities. While in many Western countries, low female participation in STEM fields is a significant concern, the opposite is true in many MENA countries.

According to UNESCO, 34-57 percent of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women and one in three start-ups in the Arab World is founded or led by women.

Although these are just a few examples, they show the growing momentum in Egypt in support of greater women’s economic empowerment. But the fact remains that despite these efforts, gender equality remains a long way off in Egypt, as it does to varying degrees in countries across the world. 

In Egypt, as elsewhere, the challenges women face from economic, political and legislative barriers are compounded by deeply-held gender stereotypes. 

Sixty-three percent of Egyptians (almost two thirds) think that children will suffer when the mother is employed outside the home.[i] More than 70% of men and women believe that wives should tolerate violence to keep the family together.[ii]

Let me share with you a shocking statistic: eighty-seven percent of Egyptian women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced female genital mutilation, the highest in the world.[iii]  

These practices not only endanger people’s well-being and the social fabric, but they also threaten the economy: it is estimated that violence against women and families cost an estimated 2.17 billion Egyptian pounds (over € 115 million) in 2015.[iv] I hope very much to see Egypt represented at a global conference the OECD is holding in Paris on tackling violence against women on 5-6 February 2020.

We at the OECD are fundamentally convinced that gender equality is a pre-condition for building happier, healthier and more prosperous societies.  For this reason, we have made women’s economic, political and social empowerment a core pillar of our work.

Our 2017 publication “The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle” shows that gender inequality still pervades all aspects of social, political and economic life, in countries at all levels of development. The OECD SIGI 2019 Global Report shows that at the current pace, it will take more than 200 years, or nine generations, to achieve gender equality and fully unlock women’s empowerment opportunities!

Side-lining women from the economy comes at a great cost. Our data shows that the impact of discrimination in laws, attitudes and practices costs the MENA region a staggering USD 237 billion.[v] So how can we move past these barriers to unlock the potential of women in Egypt? 

This was the question that we first asked in our 2017 publication Women’s Economic Empowerment in Selected MENA Countries: The Impact of Legal Frameworks in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia (hold up report).  As I have mentioned earlier, significant changes are underway to advance gender equality – including legal reforms and other grassroots initiatives – in Egypt and other MENA countries. 

To capture this progress, and gain greater insight into the drivers of change, the OECD is partnering with the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) on working on a follow-up publication to our 2017 report.

The purpose of today’s consultation is thus to listen and learn from our Egyptian partners about how they have succeeded in advancing legislative reforms in favour of women’s economic empowerment and pinpointing which challenges remain to be addressed.

This meeting provides an opportunity to brainstorm potential solutions together; solutions that could work for Egypt and perhaps also inspire change elsewhere.

But let us not making the mistake of thinking that the law is enough and is the only solution. I really hope that today’s meeting will also mark the start of a renewed commitment in setting the priorities for a successful reform process. Administrative tools and policy support are crucial for the legislative measures to be implemented and enforced. There can’t be effectiveness without implementation and enforcement. Let’s keep this in mind.

During today’s event, we will also have an important session on how role-modelling programmes can help combat engrained gendered stereotypes. I am proud that the OECD launched an initiative in Mexico – NiñasSTEMPueden – that has been very successful in using role models to encourage girls to enter the STEM field, and it has been chosen to be showcased in November’s Paris Peace Forum. 

I look forward to hearing from the inspiring women and men role models here about the innovative ways they have pushed the envelope for greater gender equality in Egypt. 

I look forward to the rest of the day’s discussions. Thank you


[i] OECD (2019), Gender Institutions and Development Database, https://oe.cd/ds/GIDDB2019

[ii] UN Women, Understanding Masculinities, 2017

[iii] Thomas Reuters Foundation, Egypt: The Law and FGM, June 2018, https://www.28toomany.org/static/media/uploads/Law%20Reports/egypt_law_report_v1_(june_2018).pdf

[iv] Based on the cost of the most recent severe incident of violence. UNFPA, CAPMAS and NCW, The Egypt economic cost of gender based violence survey, 2015.

[v]OECD (2019), SIGI 2019 Global Report: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities, Social Institutions and Gender Index, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/bc56d212-en.

Presentation of the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Coalition ahead of the G7 Summit in Biarritz

B4IG was presented to President Emmanuel Macron by the OECD and CEOs of the 34 leading international companies composing the B4IG coalition at the Elysée Palace on Friday, August 23, ahead of the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz.

The G7 B4IG coalition, coordinated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is the first business-led initiative of its kind, thanks to its 360° approach to tackling inequality, international dimension, and multi-stakeholder approach focused on building synergies between companies, governments and philanthropic organizations.

Cher Président, Chers Ministres, Chers Très Hauts Responsables d’Entreprises,

A la OCDE nous sommes fiers de conjuguer nos forces avec celles de 34 entreprises mondiales pour combattre les inégalités, , et de repondre a l’appel de la Presidence Francaise du G7, et du President Macron, pour addresse cet defi majeur pour nos economies et nos societes. Je voudrais remercier  le Secretaire General Gurria pour son soutien, et aussi Emmanuel Faber et toutes ses équipes, ainsi que celles de l’OCDE, pour avoir travaillé avec tant de passion pour ressembler ces entreprises, leaders dans leur domaine et dans la pratique de nouveaux modèles d’entreprise inclusifs.

 Pour l’OECD c’est claire. La croissance des inequalities n’est pas seulment un problem social, ou un problem politique, mais c’est aussi un grand probleme economique car ilya une impact negative des inegalites dans la productivite et la croissance economique. Nous comprenons donc, l’interet des entreprises que se sont joint a les addresse.

At the OECD we have been documenting the nexus between inclusion and productivity. But we have also confirmed how inequality of income can bring inequality of opportunites and outcomes, and even of life expectancy. This touches 40% of the OECD population. We have  confirmed the stalled social mobility, the shrinking middle class, the lack of gender parity,  the increased job precariousness, and the fact that the top income earners in the world  concentrate 80 percent of wealth, while the bottom 20% only holds 1 percent. No wonder why there is such an impact on trust.

But  the priority placed by the G7, and the actions of the companies that now join us in the B4IG, demonstrates that a new reality is feasible. We will prove that integrating equity and inclusion at the heart of the business models,  create new economic opportunities.. This is  beyond  corporate responsibility, it is the future of the business sector

B4IG will amplify, track and learn from the pioneering solutions proposed by companies, and will bring the connection with the public sector efforts, leveraging the synergies of the financing mechanisms. The OECD will put its rigour, its evidence and its data to the service of the platform  But we will do something else. With the companies, we will be assessing impact. We are convinced that commitments are great and we are proud of them, but delivery and change are much more important.  So count with the OECD to make change happen.

FORO ECONÓMICO DE MUJERES LATINOAMÉRICA: La Búsqueda de la Igualdad de Género: una Batalla Cuesta Arriba

Discurso de apertura de Gabriela Ramos

Señoras y señores,  

Es un placer reunirme con ustedes en tan inspirador foro y formar parte de esta comunidad que trabaja por una América Latina y mundo con igualdad de género. 

Como muchos de ustedes saben, la OCDE ha trabajado durante décadas para combatir la desigualdad de género, en particular a partir de 2011 cuando publicamos la Estrategia de Género y la Recomendación de la OCDE sobre la Igualdad de Género en Educación, Empleo y Emprendimiento, seguidas por la Recomendación de la OCDE de 2015 sobre la Igualdad de Género en la Vida Pública. 

Asimismo, la OCDE también jugó un papel fundamental en la inclusión de este tema en la agenda multilateral por primera vez durante la Presidencia australiana del G20 en 2014, cuando los líderes se comprometieron firmemente a reducir la brecha de género en la participación en la fuerza laboral en un 25% para 2025. 

No fue fácil, pues se trata de un grupo mayoritariamente masculino, centrado en temas “serios” vinculados con la economía mundial. ¡Muchos Sherpas incluso comentaron que el género no es un asunto que deba ser abordado por los líderes! 

Ahora bien, a medida que la economía mundial seguía registrando malos resultados, buscábamos nuevas fuentes de crecimiento, por ejemplo, al propiciar que las economías se beneficiaran del talento de las mujeres.  

La OCDE y la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) hicimos cálculos conjuntamente y demostramos que, si se lograba reducir 25% la brecha de género en la participación en la fuerza laboral para 2025, 100 millones de mujeres ingresarían en el mercado laboral. Esta conclusión atrajo el interés de los líderes. 

Desde entonces, todas las presidencias del G20 incluyeron el combate a la desigualdad de género en su agenda.  

No obstante, los avances han sido muy lentos. Aún recuerdo cuando, en mis inicios como Sherpa, empecé a percatarme de las brechas y la desigualdad de género que imperaban por doquier, como si me hubiera arrancado la venda de los ojos. Cuando comenzamos a darnos cuenta de las brechas, es muy difícil percibir algo más. 

Pero lo más grave de todo es la violencia y el feminicidio. Hoy, las mujeres aún enfrentan niveles de violencia inaceptablemente altos. Un tercio de las mujeres del mundo han sido víctimas de violencia doméstica y en América Latina 2,795 mujeres fueron asesinadas en 2017 por razones de género.  

En un estudio realizado recientemente en los países de la OCDE sobre las prioridades en materia de política de género, la lucha contra la violencia de género se reveló como una prioridad. 

El aspecto económico también sigue siendo apremiante. Las mujeres todavía reciben una remuneración considerablemente menor que la de los hombres. En la década pasada la brecha salarial de género disminuyó ligeramente en casi todos los países del G20, pero el promedio es aún de 17%, justo por encima de la cifra de 16% de la región de América Latina y el Caribe (ALC) y también mayor que el promedio de la OCDE, de cerca de 14%. 

Y la maternidad —¡pese a todos sus aspectos positivos!— se convierte en un castigo financiero para muchas mujeres, al contribuir a la desigual participación en el trabajo no remunerado e impedir que las mujeres se involucren de lleno en el mercado laboral. En los últimos 10 años aquí en América Latina la tasa de participación laboral de las mujeres se estancó en cerca de 50%, en comparación con el 75% de los hombres. 

¿Por qué? Porque los países latinoamericanos tienen algunas de las mayores brechas de género en el trabajo no remunerado.  

En América Latina las mujeres dedican cinco horas en promedio al día al trabajo no remunerado, en comparación con menos de dos horas en el caso de los hombres (cifra superior al promedio de la OCDE de cuatro horas para las mujeres y dos horas para los hombres). La OIT estima que en el mundo 606 millones de mujeres, o 41% de aquellas que se encuentran inactivas en la actualidad, están fuera del mercado laboral por responsabilidades familiares no remuneradas. 

Dichas brechas no son aisladas ni están relacionadas con capacidades o características intrínsecas de las mujeres; más bien, tienen su origen en estereotipos de género y normas muy arraigados e incorporados en nuestra cultura. 

Desde temprana edad los niños y las niñas son ubicados en la “casilla” azul o rosa, con sus correspondientes conductas y expectativas: las niñas son frágiles y bonitas, en tanto que los niños son valientes y osados.  

Esto puede ayudar a crear posturas de masculinidad potencialmente peligrosas que se autodefinen mediante el conflicto e incluso la violencia, pero también fomenta las brechas de género, en particular en los sectores de gran crecimiento como el de STEM (ciencias, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas) y las funciones de liderazgo político. 

Investigaciones realizadas por la OCDE por medio del Programa para la Evaluación Internacional de los Alumnos (PISA) indican que a los 15 años de edad, las niñas ya tienen dos veces menos probabilidades de aspirar a estudiar para ser ingenieras, científicas o arquitectas.  

No es de sorprender, por tanto, que en los países de la OCDE menos de uno de cada tres egresados del área de ingeniería y menos de uno de cada cinco egresados de informática sean mujeres.  

Esto es así pese al mayor nivel educativo logrado por mujeres y niñas, que ahora representan la mayoría de los egresados universitarios en  los países de la OCDE y pese a que, según conclusiones del programa PISA, las niñas superan a los niños en el tema de la solución de problemas en colaboración. 

Los estereotipos también abren una brecha de liderazgo. En los países de la OCDE, las mujeres constituyen la mayoría (58%) de los empleados del sector público, pero, en promedio, representan solo 29% de los congresistas y 28% de los puestos ministeriales.  

Las brechas de liderazgo también prevalecen de manera similar en el sector privado. Según la publicación OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019, la cual cubre 49 jurisdicciones, incluidos todos los países de la OCDE, del G20 y del Consejo de Estabilidad Financiera (FSB), solo el 10% de las jurisdicciones incluyen a las mujeres en al menos un tercio de los consejos de administración de las empresas que cotizan en bolsa.  

De las 49 jurisdicciones cubiertas, 21 tienen menos de 15% de mujeres en sus consejos de administración. Necesitamos que muchas más mujeres ocupen puestos de alto nivel para avanzar en la calidad de la gestión y mejorar el desempeño de las corporaciones. 

Mientras tanto, en todos los países de la OCDE, las mujeres tienen también cerca de la mitad de probabilidades que los hombres de ser emprendedoras, no porque carezcan de competencias, sino porque no tienen confianza en sus habilidades: solo un tercio de las mujeres dice tener competencias suficientes para abrir una empresa, en comparación con la mitad de los hombres.  

E incluso cuando logran arrancar un negocio, tienen menos probabilidades de hacerlo crecer. En los países de la OCDE los hombres emprendedores tienen dos veces más probabilidades que las mujeres de tener empleados.  

Estimaciones recientes sugieren que si se eliminara la brecha de género en la actividad empresarial, el PIB mundial podría aumentar hasta 2%, es decir, 1.5 billones de dólares estadounidenses.  

La buena noticia es que vamos progresando. Algunos países ya han conseguido reducir bastante las brechas de género. En todos los países del G20 se ha registrado un incremento de la participación de las mujeres en la fuerza laboral y ha habido reducciones de la brecha de género particularmente grandes en Japón, Argentina, Brasil y Corea. En cerca de la mitad de los miembros del G20, la reducción de la brecha de género coincide o supera la disminución prevista para alcanzar la mencionada meta. La disminución real fue considerablemente mayor que la proyectada en Australia, el Reino Unido y Alemania. 

Trabajar en estos temas nos ha ayudado a alternar herramientas eficaces, lo cual ayuda a impulsar los avances. Como sabemos, las cuotas son un ejemplo relevante.  

Basta observar lo que se logró en el Senado y en la Cámara de Diputados de México. Además, al solicitar estadísticas de desempeño, detectamos que la paridad de género ha aumentado la productividad de dichas cámaras en términos de promulgación de leyes.  

El permiso parental para ambos padres es también una herramienta clave y al respecto el Reino Unido tiene dos modelos interesantes: mi amiga la ex embajadora del Reino Unido tomó un año para atender a sus gemelos, para luego recibir la recompensa de ser considerada en primer lugar para buenos destinos. Recuerdo también a una directora general de asuntos globales que trabajaba en ese puesto los lunes y los martes, mientras otra ejecutiva que recién había tenido un hijo ocupaba el puesto de directora general el resto de la semana.  

Varios países de la OCDE han puesto a prueba diferentes programas para estimular el uso de permisos de paternidad con, por ejemplo, incentivos financieros y planes sin negociación.  

En países como Suecia, Islandia y Alemania dichos planes han aumentado considerablemente la participación de los padres en las labores de atención a los hijos.     

La OCDE también encabeza iniciativas para romper con los estereotipos, como la iniciativa NiñaSTEM Pueden implantada en México, que inspira a las niñas, a través de ejemplos positivos de mujeres, a desarrollar una carrera exitosa en las áreas STEM. Tenemos que proporcionar esos modelos de rol pues la mayoría de las niñas no aspirarán ni se esforzarán por convertirse en algo que no pueden ver. Así que invitamos a mujeres astronautas, pilotos, ingenieras, arquitectas, y el efecto que causan en las niñas es asombroso. Es una idea muy sencilla y, sin embargo, sumamente transformadora. Me siento orgullosa porque este proyecto fue elegido para presentarse en el Foro de París sobre la Paz.   

Necesitamos también transparencia y legislación contra la remuneración desigual, la ausencia de mujeres en los consejos de administración y su escasa representación en los puestos de dirección general. Las empresas ciertamente se están quedando atrás en este sentido.  

La legislación del Reino Unido que exige a las empresas que revelen sus brechas salariales entre los géneros ya ejerce un extraordinario impacto desde su promulgación en 2018. Las cifras obtenidas de la encuesta sobre tendencias de empleo realizada por la Confederación de la Industria Británica (CBI) muestran que 93% de las empresas están tomando medidas para reducir la brecha salarial entre los géneros y aumentar la diversidad de su fuerza laboral, en comparación con el 62% de aquellas a las que se les planteó una pregunta semejante en 2017.   

Somos una organización económica que centraba su atención en asuntos económicos, pero también estamos trabajando en las normas culturales y sociales que alimentan las brechas, como señala nuestro Índice de Instituciones Sociales e Igualdad de Género (SIGI). La violencia es una prioridad particular en la que nos enfocaremos a principios de 2020 mediante una gran conferencia mundial sobre el combate a la violencia contra las mujeres. Invito a todos ustedes a participar en ella. 

La herramienta más eficaz para reequilibrar las brechas de género y tratar a las mujeres con dignidad, es educar a niñas y niños libres de estereotipos. Esto quiere decir tener escuelas, docentes y libros de texto neutrales en materia de género, pero también seguir de cerca a los medios de comunicación y la manera como se retrata a las mujeres en los mensajes publicitarios y las redes sociales.  

Esto forma parte del trabajo constante de la OCDE orientado a proteger a los niños en la red y enmarcar las políticas digitales también en torno a objetivos de bienestar más amplios, lo que constituye el núcleo de nuestro proyecto Going Digital. 

Una enseñanza clave es que en todas estas áreas, ¡no podemos lograr lo que nos proponemos sin los hombres! Cada vez son más los hombres que se pronuncian a favor de la igualdad de género y de todos los beneficios que pueden recibir en un mundo en el que la igualdad de género prevalezca.  

Los hombres deberán tener la libertad de desarrollarse en carreras profesionales tradicionalmente desempeñadas por mujeres, de trabajar de manera flexible y de pasar más tiempo con su familia y en su hogar.  

Los resultados que obtenemos en todos los campos en nuestras sociedades y economías con la profundización de las divisiones, la exclusión, la violencia, el rechazo de enfoques multilaterales y el populismo en aumento, nos indican que las circunstancias tienen que cambiar. 

El peligro más apremiante en el futuro es que los buenos resultados que hemos obtenido están en riesgo, como lo están todos los objetivos multilaterales cuando grandes países del mundo han optado por la confrontación y la exclusión por encima de la cooperación internacional. No solo en cuestiones de género, sino incluyendo las cuestiones de género.  

Encontramos que es cada vez más difícil mencionar el género en nuestras declaraciones negociadas, ¡ahora no podemos ni tan siquiera mencionar los derechos reproductivos! De modo que en la lucha por promover el empoderamiento de la mujer, debemos seguir construyendo un mundo más amigable y más cooperativo.  

Estos dos intereses van de la mano y se refuerzan mutuamente, por lo que les invito a seguir luchando y, al igual que dijo Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Directora Ejecutiva de ONU Mujeres ¡empujen cuando te empujen hacia atrás! (push back against the push back) 

Muchas gracias. 

OECD Horizontal Housing Project: First Steering Group Meeting Welcome Remarks

Dear Ambassadors, Committee Chairs, Delegates, TUAC and BIAC Members,

I am very pleased to be here to  open the first steering group meeting of the horizontal housing project “Building an OECD Housing Strategy”.

This work is of key as we observe rises in housing prices in many countries, inequality of access to quality safe housing, rapid transformation of urban and rural landscapes, and widespread demographic changes as a result of migration.

As part of our mission to promote sustainable and inclusive growth, access to good-quality housing is fundamental to improving the well-being, health and opportunities of people around the world.

It is important to emphasise that sharply rising house prices are not inevitable. Indeed, real house prices rose only little in the 75 years to 1945, but they have trebled in the following 75 years.[1][MES1] 

The OECD’s recent publication “Under Pressure: the Squeezed Middle Class” shows how housing has become increasingly unaffordable over time: In 1985, it took 6.8 years of annual income to buy a 60m2 flat for a middle class family.2 It now takes 10.2 years, which is a third more.

The middle class lifestyle is now facing increasing financial pressure partially as a result of the cost of housing rising well above inflation in many countries.[2]

In sixteen OECD countries in 2016, more than 40% of low‐income owners with a mortgage spent over 40% of their disposable income on a mortgage. The same was true for low-income renters in private rentals in fourteen OECD countries. In Greece and the United States, low-income dwellers face a similar housing cost burden, regardless of tenure: in both countries, more than half of the low-income population spent over 40% of disposable income on rent or a mortgage in 2016.

Innovations in transport mobility have meant that we have easier access to faster forms of transport and we are able to move quickly and easily between urban, suburban and rural areas.

But gains in mobility have faded and many cities suffer from urban sprawl, heavy congestion, pollution. At the same time, land use regulations have become less and less friendly to building new homes, pushing up house prices.

If business stays as usual, paying for rent or paying back a mortgage will eat up an ever larger share of income, limiting opportunities to save and stifling social mobility.

Rising house prices also expose people to financial risks. As we learned ten years ago, elevated house prices have a tendency to crash. Some countries are still suffering from the ramifications of the latest crash ten years ago. We cannot afford another one.

There is also the question of unequal access to quality housing. Today, about 15% of people in the OECD live in overcrowded housing.[3] This contributes to deepen inequalities, passing disadvantage from one generation to the next, as children are particularly affected.

On average, more than one-in-five children aged 0-17 live in an overcrowded household in European OECD countries. In Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and the Slovak Republic, over half of all children live in overcrowded households. Such housing conditions have been shown to inhibit learning capacity at school, as overcrowded dwellings may bring higher levels of stress that hinder learning.[4]

Countries are stepping up the plate to address these challenges. Across OECD countries, we see governments increasingly engaged in improving the quality and affordability of housing. For example, Berlin and New York have both enacted stricter rent control regulations recently. Seeing this growing appetite for promoting affordable, quality housing, it is time for the OECD, as the house of best practices and evidence-based policy recommendations to step in in support of our members.

This horizontal housing project does not start from scratch, building on years of work across several directorates.

ECO took on a very successful housing project 10 year ago. ELS launched the third wave of the Questionnaire on Affordable Housing (QuASH) in May. CFE has already done a considerable amount of work on land use governance and has recently launched work on smart cities, which is critical for both the inclusive and sustainability agendas.

Housing has also been an important area for the OECD’s Inclusive Growth Initiative, including the Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth.

These are just a few examples. But, as it stands, this work is often piecemeal and stands to gain from increased coordination and horizontality.

This is why the horizontal housing project will dig into the impact of housing on well-being and inclusive growth in a more holistic way.

The project leverages the unique capacity of the OECD to bring together insights that the different OECD directorates have developed on housing to enhance policy coherence across the many objectives and dimensions of housing-related challenges.  

Ultimately, the housing project will deliver a blueprint for achieving an inclusive housing strategy.

This framework will evaluate policy measures and objectives across multiple policy dimensions in a coherent way rather than evaluating measures within separate silos.

The indicators identified as most meaningful will enrich the OECD’s toolkit for measuring well-being along the housing dimension.

I look forward to a stimulating discussion and to hearing about your experiences, challenges and policy solutions. You will be guiding, providing advice to, and shaping the important work the OECD will do on designing policies for efficient, affordable, inclusive and sustainable housing. We count on you to help us advance in this domain and we look forward to working with you all to ensure everyone has access to a quality, affordable home for them and their children.

Thank you.


[1]. Katharina Knoll, Moritz Schularick, and Thomas Steger. No price like home: global house prices, 1870-2012. The American Economic Review, 107(2):331-353, 2017.

2. Middle class family refers to a median income couple with two children.

[2] https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/OECD-middle-class-2019-main-findings.pdf

[3] See https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/5jm3p5gl4djd-en.pdf?expires=1562322402&id=id&accname=ocid84004878&checksum=C4A0B21A4EEDCECAC5D09B5009CC7776

[4] https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/society-at-a-glance-2019_soc_glance-2019-en


 [MES1]Maybe not necessary?

“How can experts recover their legitimacy?” Session at the Rencontres Économiques d’Aix-en-Provence

This session at the Rencontres Économiques d’Aix-en-Provence on July 5th focused on the role of and trust in experts in today’s world. Below are my thoughts on the issue:

The growing influence of “fake news” and the expansion of post-truth politics is evidence of a growing mistrust in scientific knowledge and evidence. But the key to understanding this loss of trust in science is to look not specifically at science itself, but at the broader context of inequalities and trust in government and institutions. Trust in governments stands at around 40% in OECD countries.[1] This lack of confidence in governments and experts is a result of our economic models having failed a large share of people and the planet. We have long operated on a mantra of “grow first, redistribute later.” But with a small portion of the population capturing majority of the benefits of growth while the rest face the tough effects of the decoupling of wages from growth, we must recognize that this mantra does not deliver. In essence, the benefits of growth and integration have not trickled down.

The OECD has been documenting inequalities for many decades. We have found that the average disposable income of the richest 10% is 9.5 times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from 7 times 25 years ago. The richest 10% in the OECD own around half of all household assets, whilst the bottom 40% own barely 3%.[2]

Our recently released report A Broken Social Elevator? How to Promote Social Mobility reveals that social mobility is stalling: it takes 5 generations for the poorest children to reach the OECD mean.

It is no wonder because it is not just the bottom of the income distribution that is losing out, it is also the middle. Our recent report Under Pressure: Squeezed Middle Class shows that middle incomes have grown a third less in the last 30 years than the average of the top 10%, while the cost of housing is growing three times faster than the household median income across the OECD. Costs of healthcare and education are also rising above inflation, while uncertainty and precarity are on the rise.

The frustration of a growing proportion of people left behind by traditional economic models is driving populism. Populism distorts realities, ignores facts and builds compelling narratives based on false information that connects with people’s emotions. For example, the fact that climate change, which has been scientifically proven time and again, can be ignored is an example of the power of populist rhetoric.

Digital technologies are enabling the behaviour, whether conscious or unconscious, of ignoring science and evidence, and promoting instead the information that plays on our emotions and existing views and biases.

Furthermore, digital technologies have unfortunately undermined the relative power and influence of scientific journals. Social media and web-based sources are diffusing information very quickly, irrespective of whether it is grounded in peer-reviewed processes and evidence. When combined with the algorithmic curating and customising that some platforms use to deliver content and ads to consumers, this creates echo chambers.

This has led to the rise of echo chambers as humans have a tendency to look for information consistent with their existing beliefs, or to interpret information according to their beliefs.

Echo chambers can lead to views becoming more entrenched, can cut people off from the full spectrum of mainstream news and opinion, and can reinforce bias, including against legitimate scientific evidence and expertise.

Echo chambers are a growing problem. A 2016 study of around 50 000 people across 26 countries found that social media had overtaken television among 18-24 year olds as their main source of news.

The phenomenon of echo chambers also raises risks of political manipulation, which threatens democracy by fuelling populist and even extremist views.

Political campaigns use echo chambers to promote ideologies and discredit facts, sometimes illegally, as we saw with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the personal data of millions of people was harvested from Facebook for political advertising purposes.

Furthermore, the various elements of these processes are not always overseen by humans anymore. Rather, developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning are taking a lot of the human intuition and ethical instinct out of online services. These dangers add to calls for more transparency and accountability of AI systems. Thus, the OECD’s AI Principles, adopted this May and endorsed by G20 Leaders as the basis of non-binding G20 AI Principles, promote transparency, explainability and accountability in AI systems. We are now working on concrete guidelines to help countries implement the AI Principles.

Echo chambers also enable the dissemination of fake news, a strong indicator of the deterioration of trust in experts and powerful fuel for populist movements. A recent study published in Science Magazine analysed 126,000 news stories shared on Twitter between 2006 to 2017 by 3 million users. It found that a false story reaches 1,500 people six times faster, on average, than a true story does and that is not just because of bots. A key takeaway is that content that arouses strong emotions spreads further, faster, more deeply, and more broadly on social media. Fake news posts are crafted to appeal to its readers’ psychological desires.

This context is particularly alarming, as fake news can have a direct and harmful impact on people’s well-being. In many countries, false health claims are generating mistrust in vaccination programs, with citizens delaying or refusing to get vaccinated.

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF are sounding the alarm about a decline in immunization rates and a rise in measles cases, with 98 countries (among which France) reporting a higher number of measles cases in 2018 than in 2017.

The combined effect of all of this is undoubtedly crippling democracy. But we must also understand that the current state of democracy deserves scrutiny. It is not enough to support free elections. We must ensure that the process of electing leaders is fair, just, and informed by evidence. This includes limiting the influence of economic inequality on political inequality, ensuring that money doesn’t grant undue influence to certain groups or individuals.

Democratic leaders must also, once elected, be ready and willing to debate and look at facts and evidence when making decisions. Democracies will not deal with the challenges of the 21st century – technological change, climate change, rising inequality – without the full contribution of science. And if we do not elect leaders willing to support and engage with scientific fact and debate, we are all losing out. In the face of urgent social and economic needs, this must involve long-term investment in research and development, improving scientific education and training, promoting public engagement in science and helping direct the energies and ingenuity to our most pressing needs.

Cherry-picking the evidence, suppressing findings not consistent with a government or political agenda or censoring and truncating analysis not only undermine the legitimacy of science but also inhibit effective decision-making.

It is evident that ‘more facts’ or ‘more evidence’ are not enough to address these challenges. As a result of growing inequalities, people react increasingly to rhetoric that speaks to their concerns, fears, and emotions. And even if it might be convenient to blame technology, we need to take a look at our human nature and our social structures to find solutions.

If we want to reinstitute trust, we cannot use the same recipes’ that contributed to break it. We need to share the benefits of growth more equally, we need to preserve the environment; we need to move away from the supremacy of the economic profession and decision making, and listen more to people’s concerns and views. In this sense, populism is not to be entirely disparaged. Rather we can learn from it. Populism is proving that people are feeling left behind and are in need of leadership and public policy that works for them. In order to restore the legitimacy of evidence and experts we must build narratives that put people back at the centre of policy.

As an evidence based organization, the OECD is taking this on board. We are channeling new approaches that go beyond outdated models through our New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative, looking at behavioural insights and the role of emotions and narratives in shaping public and political life.

We recognize that we need a multifaceted response. We have to acknowledge the importance of treating the root causes of the problem. This includes fixing the growth model, to make it more inclusive and fuel social mobility. To do so, we have developed the Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth. This requires coordinated investments in the people, places and firms that have been left behind. We need to look at early childhood education and care, at healthcare, education, including digital skills, and quality jobs. We need to strengthen collective bargaining, as well as social safety nets.

We also need to restore trust through more responsive governments, by tackling the failings of democratic systems such as rising inequalities and corruption. The OECD has a wide range of integrity tools and also instruments to tackle tax evasion and avoidance. BEPS and Automatic Exchange of Information have yielded over 95 billion euros in additional revenue collected from taxpayers coming forward and disclosing formerly concealed assets and income through voluntary compliance mechanisms and other offshore investigations.

We also need to develop resilience to misinformation and disinformation. The OECD’s PISA Survey has moved beyond basic competencies (mathematics, science and reading) to assess education systems’ ability to equip students with core competences such as critical thinking, problem-solving, social and emotional skills. These are the “Global Competencies” they will need to develop their own understanding and navigate an increasingly complex world as responsible adults and citizens.

We also need to harness technology to engage people with science. Societal engagement can take place across the research process – from agenda setting to co-production of research and dissemination of scientific information. One example is leveraging public research infrastructures to provide a focus for citizen science. In the field of astronomy, for example, lay persons are helping to classify images of the night sky that are shared on line. Another example is hackathons – these are a common way of addressing software development challenges.

Luckily, trust in science has not collapsed completely. The Wellcome Global Monitor, a global survey of more than 140,000 people in of 140 countries showed that nearly three-quarters of people worldwide trust scientists: 54% at a medium level and 18% at a high level. Only 14% had a low level of trust in science. But it is impossible to ignore the negative consequences of the effect the expansion of fake news and post-truth politics are having on our democracies, societies, and personal well-being. We must work to combat these issues through investments in inclusive growth to ensure no one is left behind.


[1] https://www.oecd.org/gov/trust-in-government.htm

[2] http://www.oecd.org/fr/social/inequality.htm