For international Blog Action Day, which this year focussed on income inequality, Brian Keeley from the OECD examines the evolution of inequality over time.

Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills ©Beawiharta Beawiharta/Reuters

What teachers–and the rest of us–can learn from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS).

Launching the ball: Pelé (right) with Brazil’s minister of sport, Aldo Rebelo ©OECD

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death…
I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” This phrase by Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool Football Club, has become immortal for football obsessives of the “beautiful game” (or o jogo bonito as Brazilians call soccer).

© Lionel Bonaventure/AFP PHOTO

The French are noted for their good living as well as a relatively long life span. It’s the so-called French paradox. The southwest in particular is said to have relatively more centenarians than anywhere else in the country. 

Yesterday was the UN International Day of Older Persons and the theme this year is “Leaving No-One Behind: Promoting a Society for All”. Monika Queisser, head of the Social Policy Division in the OECD’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Directorate, argues that the best policy for older people must focus on the young.

Each year about one-third of all the food produced globally ends up wasted even as hundreds of millions of people go hungry.

You say working longer in life is becoming part of a trend, and that it is becoming “more normative to keep working” past normal retirement (“Older candidates, please apply” in OECD Yearbook 2014, www.oecd.org/yearbook). But that does not mean a formal retirement age should be allowed to disappear. Just like a schoolgoing age or a voting age, a retirement age gives signals to guide policymaking as well as personal life decisions.

If you feel like happiness is the truth, you might be well poised to stop clapping along with Pharrell Williams, and start seeking out a new place to settle up north. While Switzerland topped the list of the happiest OECD countries in 2012, the high ranks were dominated by the Nordic circle of Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.

Immigration became a heated subject of debate during the European Parliament elections in May 2014. Economists are now asking whether anti-immigrant sentiment can be attributed to fiscal, as well as social, factors.

The River Seine overflowing its banks is not an uncommon sight in Paris, as the winter catchment swells, causing water levels to rise and cover the lower banks, jetties and walkways. 

©David Rooney

Reconciling work and family commitments is a challenge in every country, but particularly for Japanese men and women. Much more so than in most other OECD countries, men and women have to choose between babies and bosses: men choose bosses, women less so, but on the whole there are very few babies and there is too little female employment. These shortcomings are increasingly coming to the fore and will have to be addressed.

Countries are not doing as well as they could in the battle against cancer, according to Cancer Care: Assuring Quality to Improve Survival. Cancer remains one of the leading health care challenges in all OECD countries, where more than 5 million new cases are diagnosed every year. 

While green growth has been paid a great deal of lip service by policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders, few concrete strategies have been put in place. Perhaps surprisingly, even in agriculture, most OECD countries still do not have solid plans in place for pursuing green growth in this sector. 

©Ralph Freso/Reuters

One of the earliest citations of the phrase “print is dead” comes from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, but almost 30 years later, print is certainly not dead. Print publishing still drives on average 80% of revenues and close to 100% of the profits for general trade publishers. But among reference and science, technical and medical (STM) publishers, digital publishing was embraced quickly and openly at the expense of print. 

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Optimism has proved to be another major victim of the economic crisis, according to How’s Life? Indeed, people’s long-term expectations about their subjective well-being fi ve years from now have deteriorated almost everywhere in the OECD area. And most of them don’t expect things to get much better. 

Dementia is a devastating condition for which there is no cure available. Care is costly, financially and emotionally. The cost for health systems is likely to rise in ageing societies. The condition damages the brain, and leads to a decline in a person’s functional and cognitive capabilities.

How do our young students perform at school compared with their peers in other countries? Are they ready and equipped to take on the world of tomorrow? The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveys competence among 15 year olds around the world, gives ground for encouragement. 

Classrooms need to be places for teaching creativity, as well as basic competence. Can it be done? 

©Rory Clarke

Imagine a house that keeps itself warm in the wintertime. Think of the savings in terms of fuel bills and unfriendly emissions. Such houses in fact exist. Called “passive houses”, the concept of these highly energy-efficient buildings took root in the 1990s, before slowly consolidating as a niche construction concept in the 2000s. Are passive houses now actively moving into the mainstream as sustainable buildings? 

©Ammar Awad

Tourism has shown remarkable staying power in recent years. Despite political instability, wars, natural disasters and a global financial crisis, the industry keeps getting up for another round. Japan is good example. After the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, the number of visitors to the country plunged. But in 2013 more than 9 million tourists visited the country, a record high. 

© Aly Song/Reuters

In a global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer improvement by national standards alone, but the best performing school systems internationally. Latest results from the PISA assessment, the world’s metric for evaluating learning outcomes at school, issued 3 December, show striking changes in the world’s talent. 

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Everyone needs to be sufficiently financially literate to take informed decisions for themselves and their families as to their savings, investments, pensions and more. But in many countries, women have lower financial knowledge than men, and are less confident in their financial knowledge and skills.

Here’s a sobering statistic: in around 20 of the world’s wealthiest countries, at least one in 10 adults can make sense of only basic texts. Ask them a question based on a piece of writing, and they’ll be able to answer only if the text is short, uses simple vocabulary and provides clues by repeating words used in the question. 

Some 21% of workers are over-qualified for the jobs they do. This is a key finding in the first edition of the OECD Skills Outlook, which reports on a survey of skills among 157,000 adults in 24 countries and regions.

 

 

From 1980 till now, the number of people aged 60 and more went from some 380 million to more than 760 million. And the United- Nations projections predict 2 billion by 2050. Those figures are often used to provoke fear. As a matter of fact, since the world population as a whole will continue to increase, in the mid of the 21st century, elderly will represent 15 to 18 percents of our planet’s inhabitants, with peaks until 28/30 percents in the most affected countries. Ageing will obviously transform our societies, but not necessarily break them. It will require a considerable effort of adaptation from not only States, but also from families and individuals. 

©Isaac Kasamani/AFP

Several efforts and interventions have been directed towards resolving the myriad issues that impinge on peace, security and development in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

©Mark Wessels/Reuter

In 2010 South Africa became the first African country to host the FIFA soccer World Cup, which is one of the biggest global sporting events on earth. Was it a triumph and what lessons could be drawn? OECD Observer: You were a member of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup. How big a challenge was that for your country?

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