A recurrent theme throughout this week’s OECD-B20-BIAC High Level Session on global economic governance was ‘disbelief’.
Policy makers are shocked by the fundamental challenge to their arguments for the benefits of international investment, free trade and open markets.
Populations in OECD countries and beyond were repeatedly said to be involved in a ‘backlash against globalisation,’ a populist revolt apparently sweeping the world.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría berated a growth in global inequality which he acknowledged dates back decades, but said makes the support for international collaboration by those of us in the B20 group of international business leaders at this time “not just welcome but indispensable.”
In the face of the debate about ‘fake news’ and attempts to dismiss all value in expertise, this week’s 300-strong global gathering heard a strong call from governmental representatives for the OECD to remain a ‘house of evidence.’
OECD Director of Trade and Agriculture Ken Ash accepted the challenge, but argued that in the current climate, aggregate statistics would not be persuasive. It is necessary to wage “granular arguments that work while having your hair cut or in the coffee shop,” he said.
In my own contribution to the session on responsibility, trust and inter-connectedness, I stressed that this same argument applies not just to governments and to international institutions, but to businesses too.
I explained how ‘Integrated Reporting’ and the ‘integrated thinking’ which accompanies it, provides this broader, connected and more accessible approach to business reporting.
It is our mission to make integration the global norm in corporate reporting, backed by some significant endorsements from G20 Governments, the United Nations and within the OECD itself.
The OECD Round Table on Sustainable Development welcomed the advances made in Integrated Reporting; the OECD Forum on Responsible Business Conduct called for its improved application; and currently the IIRC is assisting the OECD in its work on developing metrics which measure business impact on people’s well-being.
The G20 Summit in Germany later this year will be invited to endorse the Financial Stability Board Task Force, which itself recommends that climate risk is integrated in company financial planning and reporting.
The case for Integrated Reporting involves the transition to low carbon growth not simply being considered as a potential cost to business, but also as a potential source of value creation too.
We say the same of other ‘capitals’ all too often considered to be external to the company in the current short-term approach to financial reporting. People, ideas and societal relationships have an equal potential to contribute to business success with a broader, longer-term perspective.
The movement towards integration echoes the call at this week’s High Level meeting from the Chair of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee at the OECD, Siemens’ senior executive Klaus Moosmayer, who said the BIAC is championing a more ‘holistic’ approach.
“We need more lighthouse examples for good communication, not only talking about risks, but opportunities too,” he agreed.
“This has to apply to business communications too. We need more integrated policies,” added Ash.
For me, the call for ‘inclusive globalisation’ which promotes international cooperation, but seeks to ensure that the benefits which follow are equitably shared, has to be the right approach.
1,500 global companies are now choosing to ‘tell their story’ through an integrated approach.
It is reporting which is not simply an advertisement of their social responsibility. Nor is it restricted to meeting the compliance requirements of the regulator.
Integrated Reporting is the intelligent way for companies to remain competitive in a new era, where investors perceive different long-term risks, in the world of ‘multi-capitals’ and above all of new citizen expectations.
This week the OECD said that the world must adapt to meet those new challenges.
I say that businesses must make a contribution to achieving that aim.
The Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC)
The IIRC is launching a two-month comment period aimed at listening to and learning from the market. They’re inviting public feedback until April 30 2017 on critical incentives and barriers to applying the International Framework. Click here for the “Invitation to comment”.
Hannah Leckie, Water Policy Analyst, OECD Environment Directorate
On 22 March each year the world turns its attention to the global water crisis on the occasion of World Water Day. Water policies around the world are in need of urgent reform. Water – an essential natural resource on which all life depends – has become a global garbage can.
You wouldn’t think you could kill a freshwater ecosystem or an ocean, would you? But the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems has been degraded more than any other ecosystem. And more than 400 dead zones have been identified in the world’s oceans. Pollution is a major driver of such damage.
The effects of water pollution imperil not only ecosystems, but also human lives and economic growth. At least half the world’s population suffers from polluted water. Millions of people die each year due to water-related diseases. Pollution hotspots occur in all parts of the world, including OECD countries, where current pollution costs exceed billions of dollars each year.
The situation is set to worsen. Population growth and climate change are placing increasing pressure on the ability of finite water bodies to process wastewater, nutrients and other pollutants before they lose their life-supporting function. This will, in turn, increase risks to human health, economic development and ecosystems.
While we have seen decades of regulation and investment in wastewater treatment plants in OECD countries, with substantial gains for the economy, human health, environment and social values, there are still significant problems stemming from water pollution. Emerging and developing economies are yet to make such progress.
The most difficult part of the job remains to be done: addressing invisible and indirect sources of water pollution. Known as “diffuse pollution”, examples include urban storm water runoff into rivers; sulphur dioxide emissions to the air from fossil fuel combustion causing acid rain and acidification of lakes; and nutrients and pesticides washing off land into surface water or through the soil to groundwater.
Controlling diffuse sources of water pollution is particularly challenging. The reasons, as the OECD report on Diffuse Pollution, Degraded Waters: Emerging Policy Solutions puts it: the complexity of controlling multiple pollutants from multiple sources; their high variability in space and in time; associated management and regulation costs; and limited political acceptability of regulatory measures.
Valuable policy options are emerging in a number of countries and these deserve greater attention, adaptation, replication, and scaling up. In Korea, the government has set periodic phosphorus and dissolved oxygen reduction targets and has assigned pollution load limits using water quality modelling. Denmark and Norway have implemented pesticide taxes to control the toxicity of pesticides used. In the United Kingdom, a novel Government Support Package was developed to attract private financiers and reduce insurance liabilities to deliver the Thames Tideway Tunnel project – a major construction project to intercept and treat London’s sewer overflows. The Lake Taupo nitrogen cap and trade scheme in New Zealand is a policy that gives farmers the ability to buy and sell their established nutrient allocations without going over the overall catchment limit. In Germany, the water provider for Munich has established a voluntary payment scheme with local farmers to encourage the adoption of more sustainable organic low-cost farming practices and avoid a high-cost upgrade of drinking water treatment facilities.
Diffuse Pollution, Degraded Waters presents a risk-based policy framework that can assist policy makers and stakeholders through the myriad of decisions required to establish new, or alter existing, water quality management regimes. Central government has a critical role to play in the transition to more effective management of the risks from diffuse water pollution. This includes strong over-arching regulatory frameworks, stakeholder engagement, and money allocated to initiate experimental projects. In doing so, government sends the right signals to local authorities, stakeholders and investors, and minimises the cost of water quality management for society as a whole.
If we are serious about cutting water pollution, many other sectoral policy frameworks need to be aligned. For example, policies that support agriculture production, fossil fuel use and irrigation can lead to harmful and costly impacts to water quality.
Improving water quality is a critical element of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, fulfilling an essential role in reducing poverty and disease and promoting sustainable growth. Without significant attention to this invisible and growing threat, the future deterioration of water quality poses a major risk to freshwater ecosystems and the people that depend on them. To pretend otherwise would be to sell the citizens of the world – and the environment – down the river.
To learn more, join the OECD Green Talks: LIVE on “Degraded Waters: Emerging Policy Solutions to Diffuse Pollution”, 13:00 CEST, 6 April 2017. Register today to join the livestream.
Access the report Diffuse Pollution, Degraded Waters: Emerging Policy Solutions
For more information on OECD’s work on water, see: www.oecd.org/water
Addressing the imbalance between investment protection and people protection: Making globalisation work for all
Roel Nieuwenkamp, Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct (@nieuwenkamp_csr)
We are facing a backlash against globalisation. This has gone hand in hand with a push back against investment treaties and trade agreements: just watch the election campaigns and the downfall of TTIP and TPP negotiations.
Nowadays, at the OECD many policymakers talk about “Making globalisation work for all”. If we really want to achieve this, policymakers have to take another critical look at the following.
A number of people have argued that investment policy today is marked by an imbalance between investor rights and investor responsibilities. I would frame it slightly differently.
We have developed investment protection of foreign investment because of states with failing policies and inadequate legal systems to safeguard investor rights. In regions where courts are dysfunctional, corrupt, politically biased or incompetent, foreign investors want extraterritorial protection. Fair point.
A related issue is that some people are victims of foreign economic activities. They also lack protection and remedy because of the exact same reasons: failing policies and weak legal systems. However, they do not have access to extraterritorial protection of their rights. So there is a fundamental asymmetry between investment protection and people protection. There is hard protection of investments and soft protection of people. Why do we protect investments with hard law and protect people with soft law? We have no credible answers.
This imbalance is fuelling two trends: a declining support for investment protection, which even undermines trade policy in general and free trade agreements in particular, and on the other hand societal and political pressures towards mandatory legislation on responsible business conduct, such as the recent due diligence law in France and the modern slavery act in the UK. It has also led to discussions in the UN on a binding treaty on business and human rights.
This topic will not disappear from the agenda. The imbalance will haunt policymakers for decades.
There should be at least two responses in my view: first, strengthening access to remedy for people, for example by strengthening the National Contact Points for responsible business conduct under the OECD Guidelines, and second, making investment protection more responsible. The inclusion of aspirational provisions on corporate social responsibility and cooperation in this field will not do the trick. It will only lead to accusations of “greenwashing” investment treaties.
Are there feasible options? Yes there are. We have seen recent precedents to make investment protection more responsible. Not all of them are easy or without controversy, but worth exploring.
One option is to exclude sectors that are considered as not responsible. There is a precedent for this approach: the TPP exemption of tobacco products from protection. This is controversial and the question remains whether this the way forward: will the coal sector be excluded in the future too?
A second option could include a provision ensuring that only those investors that comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are assured protection under such a treaty. This would be very complex from a procedural point of view, but not impossible.
A third option, which is more easily conceivable, is to exclude protection for investments that are linked to corruption and egregious human rights violations. This would be nothing more than “codifying” the “clean hands doctrine” that is already accepted by several arbitration tribunals. In the cases Metal-Tech Ltd v the Republic of Uzbekistan and World Duty Free Company Limited v The Republic of Kenya (2006) the tribunal excluded jurisdiction because of corruption related to the investment.
A fourth feasible option worth exploring is to include a provision that specifies that material breaches of the OECD Guidelines – for example severe human rights violations – are taken into account by a tribunal when deciding on the merits of a claim or on potential damages awarded.
Of course these ideas are controversial and complex. It takes investment policymakers and treaty negotiators out of their comfort zone. As a former investment negotiator myself it even makes me uneasy, but we have to explore these options further. This is not impossible: precedents are available. Doing so requires political will and action is urgent. Why? Because we must respond to the backlash against investment and trade policy and make globalisation work for all.
 Metal-Tech Ltd v Republic of Uzbekistan (2013): http://www.italaw.com/sites/default/files/case-documents/italaw3012.pdf para110 iii ‘clean hands doctrine’165 &166; 236,237; 243; 372; World Duty Free Company Limited v The Republic of Kenya (2006): http://www.italaw.com/documents/WDFv.KenyaAward.pdf
Women in the Judiciary: What solutions to advance gender-responsive and gender-diverse justice systems?
Kate Brooks, OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development (GOV)
In recent decades, the number of women in the judiciary has significantly increased worldwide. In many countries around half of law students are women, and 2014 data shows that women in OECD countries make up more than 54% of professional judges. But women are still vastly underrepresented in top-ranking judicial positions including on High Court benches and other senior roles in the legal profession. What are the obstacles to women’s legal leadership? How can we overcome them?
In 2015 the UK’s only female Supreme Court judge, Baroness Hale, criticised all-male appointments. Hale has been a strong advocate of improving diversity, questioning whether an element of positive discrimination may eventually be needed to redress gender imbalance. Increasing gender balance on high court benches helps to preserve the legitimacy of the courts as representative of the societies that they serve and enables courts to understand the real-world implications of their rulings. Enhancing gender diversity in the justice system helps maintain public confidence, reduces barriers to women’s access to justice, such as stigma associated with reporting violence and abuse, and ensures a more balanced approach to enforcing the law. A higher presence of women jurists is vital to ensuring the implementation and safeguarding of equality rights. Courts that operate free of gender bias and other forms of discriminatory practices can be powerful drivers of social change.
The under-representation of women in high-level courts partly relates to horizontal gender segregation in the judiciary in OECD countries. Usually, women tend to be better represented in family and other first-instance courts, resulting in fewer women being promoted into upper courts. On average, women hold 45.9% of Presidencies in Courts of First Instance, 28% in Courts of Second Instance, and 18.6% in Supreme Courts (CEPEJ 2016).
The barriers faced by women in the judiciary are similar to those encountered in other areas of public life. In addition to challenges in balancing work/life commitments, persisting gender stereotypes, lack of development opportunities and gender bias in promotions; stringent requirements for judicial appointments and selection methods tend to impede women from becoming top judges.
Since women are often successful at gaining entry into the legal profession but progress slowly into senior posts, re-visiting the corporate culture and working conditions, and introducing mentorship schemes are necessary considerations. Regardless of government policies, leadership and independent monitoring of outcomes are essential components to ensure a more diverse judiciary.
Note: Data not available for Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States
Source: European judicial systems Efficiency and quality of justice, CEPEJ STUDIES No. 23 (Edition 2016, 2014 data)
The 2015 OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life provides a range of options to enable equal access to leadership opportunities- including in the judiciary. It includes measures to strengthen institutional capacities for effective governance and the mainstreaming of gender equality across all policy areas. The OECD continues to work to support countries in addressing the remaining barriers to gender equality in public life. A toolkit to guide both members and non-members is currently in development.
On March 10 high-level government officials and non-governmental experts will share their experiences and views on how countries can better respond to the needs of women and girls by linking gender equality perspectives with improved access to justice. The event is open to the public.
Valerie Frey and Lucy Hulett, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs
It’s 11:00 on Saturday morning. Both you and your partner had exhausting weeks at work, and so far the day has been spent preparing and cleaning up breakfast, wrangling children out of pyjamas and into real clothes, and running to the store for yogurt and bananas. Your kids are finally playing quietly with Lego bricks in the living room. At last, a break!
(a) Relax on the couch with an iPad?
(b) Go tidy up the bedrooms?
(c) Gather laundry to toss a quick load in the washing machine?
(d) Start meal prep for the week ahead?
If you answered b, c, or d, odds are good that you’re a woman. But don’t just take the word of two working parents. Survey data tell us so.
In every OECD country, and indeed throughout the world, women do more unpaid housework and childcare than men. Norwegians nearly equally share unpaid work, but women there still do thirty additional minutes of childcare and chores than men every day. In countries like Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Turkey, women do more than three times as much unpaid work as their partners. Recent OECD research finds that Mexican women spend especially long hours on childcare and chores, spending over six hours each day, on average, while men spend fewer than two. Inequality in unpaid care work is even worse in developing countries.
Women do most of the unpaid childcare and housework in the OECD
Proportion and total minutes of unpaid labour per day carried out by men and women, select OECD countries
This unpaid work burden takes its toll. Women are less likely to engage in the labour force when they put in long hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for kids. When women do work, they’re more likely to work part-time and earn less than their male counterparts. This reflects some women’s preferences to stay home after becoming parents, but it also reflects deep-seated gender norms, stereotypes, and sometimes discrimination on the part of employers, who may anticipate that women are less committed to their jobs.
Less time on housework means more time for paid work
Young couples may start out sharing laundry duties, but gender gaps in unpaid work widen when men and women become parents. Childbirth represents an important milestone, as it is the time when many couples revert to more “traditional” roles: mothers are more likely to opt out of the workforce or reduce their hours to care for kids, while fathers are more likely to be employed, across OECD countries, than men without children. The gender gap in the employment rate between men and childless women is a relatively small 4.8 percentage points, on average, across the OECD. This gap more than quadruples, to nearly 23 percentage points, when comparing men to women with at least one child under age 14.
An old-fashioned economist might claim, “Ah, but this is a natural and efficient division of labour – women and men specialise in household and market tasks!” This argument may have made sense fifty years ago, when many men’s education and earning potential outpaced women’s, but that is no longer the case. In most OECD countries, young women now have higher levels of education than men. And while the gender wage gap is relatively small in young adulthood, it widens around childbearing age as the so-called “motherhood penalty” takes effect.
Even when women earn more than their spouses, they still do the majority of unpaid housework and care. Theorists point to this as evidence that gender norms outweigh economic efficiency as high-earning women do more housework to conform to gender norms at home, if not in the labour market.
Unpaid work is unbalanced even in couples where the woman earns a higher income
Minutes spent in unpaid work, per day, according to women’s income relative to their partner’s income
But there is hope. Policymakers, employers, and families are starting to take action.
Governments increasingly recognise the importance of couples equally sharing childcare and chores. About two-thirds of OECD countries now offer paid paternity leave around childbirth. A growing number of countries reserve (or award “bonus”) days for fathers within parental leave schemes. As a new OECD report details, Germany went even further by introducing the Parental Allowance Plus (ElterngeldPlus) and Partnership Bonus (Partnerschaftsbonus), which provide financial incentives for both parents working part-time and sharing caregiving when children are young. Other countries, including Australia, Portugal, and Slovenia, have run awareness campaigns to promote men’s work-life balance and equal sharing at home.
Workplace policies matter, too. Many employers now offer flexible work options and care-related leave, but workplace cultures often stigmatise fathers who take up such benefits. These measures must be accompanied by employers’ normalisation of men’s leave-taking and by better efforts to evaluate employees based on actual output, rather than “face time” on the job. Hours are a poor proxy for performance and typically disadvantage women.
Of course, policies can only go so far in promoting equality at home if gender stereotypes persist in society. Although fathers’ leave-taking and working part-time are steps in the right direction, they will likely produce only slow changes in unpaid work behaviour.
So how do we keep our daughters from making the dough and sweeping the breadcrumbs?
Perhaps the most important step is to teach your sons to clean and teach your daughters not to. Early gender socialisation, at school and at home, has long-lasting effects. A strong predictor of an adult’s behaviours and expectations is their parents. Across countries, adult children tend to mimic their mothers’ and fathers’ division of paid and unpaid labour. Children with working mothers expect women to work outside the home, and children with dads who do housework expect that, too. By “dropping the ball” and encouraging their partners to pick up the slack, mothers can relax on the couch safe in the knowledge that they are doing their bit to encourage gender equality in future generations.
While differences in average longevity, or life expectancy, between countries are well-documented, inequalities in longevity within countries are less well-understood and are not fully comparable beyond a handful of European countries. A recent OECD working paper (Murtin et al., 2017) fills this gap by analysing inequalities in longevity by education and gender in 23 OECD countries in 2011.
Measures of inequalities in longevity show that, on average, the gap in life expectancy between high and low-educated people is equal to 8 years for men and 5 years for women at the age of 25 years; and 3.5 years for men and 2.5 years for women at the age of 65. Cardio-vascular diseases, the primary cause of death for the over 65s, are the primary cause of mortality inequality between the high and low-education elderly.
Figure 1 shows the longevity gaps between high and low-educated people at the age of 25 and 65. At age 25, life expectancy is 48.9 years for men with low education, 52.6 years for those with medium education and 56.6 years for those with high education. The corresponding figures for women are 55.5 years, 58.3 years and 60.1 years respectively.
Longevity gaps differ markedly across countries. High-educated 25 year-old men for example can expect to live more than 11 years longer than their low-educated counterparts in Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, while the gap is less than 5 years in Portugal, Turkey, Italy, New Zealand and Mexico. In the case of women, inequalities in life expectancy are relatively small in Austria, Israel, Portugal and Italy, but amount to over 6 years in Latvia, Poland, Belgium and Chile.
Large inequalities in longevity by education persist even at older ages. At 65 years, life expectancy for men, on average in the OECD, is 15.8 years for those with low education, 17.1 for those with medium education and 19.2 years for those with high education. The corresponding figures for women are 19.6, 20.8 and 21.9 years. In relative terms, i.e. expressed as a share of the remaining lifespan, gaps in longevity are larger at 65 than at 25.
While differences in average life span (i.e. longevity or life expectancy) between groups of education and gender are large, this masks wider differences in life span within groups when other factors, such as genetics and exposure to risk factors are taken into account. Indeed, combined, education and gender, only account for around 10% of the total variation in lifespan.
Breaking down mortality rates (measured as the probability of death in a given year) of people aged between 65 and 89 years by causes of death (circulatory causes such as heart failure, neoplasms or cancer, external causes such as accidents, and other causes) reveals that circulatory problems are the leading cause of death for both gender and education groups (Figure 2). Indeed they account for about 40% of total mortality, with neoplasms and other causes of death accounting for between 25% and 30%. Circulatory problems are slightly more prevalent among the low-educated, for both men and women.
Focusing on low-educated older men, circulatory problems are the most frequent cause of death in high-mortality countries such as Latvia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, where they account for around half of all deaths, as compared to around one third of deaths in Canada (28%), the United Kingdom (30%), Norway (37%) and Turkey (31%). Conversely, other causes of death are relatively more prevalent in low-mortality countries.
Circulatory problems are also the main factor explaining the mortality gap between education groups at older age. For elderly people, circulatory diseases contribute to 41% of the difference in mortality rates between low and high-educated men and 49% between low and high educated women.
Addressing the risk factors underlying circulatory diseases, in particular smoking, seems as an efficient way of reducing both average mortality rates and inequalities in longevity across education groups. According to Mackenbach (2016), smoking accounts for up to half of the observed inequalities in mortality rates in some European countries; also, while its contribution to inequalities in longevity has decreased in most countries for men, it has increased among women.
The measure explained
Longevity is statistically defined as the average number of years remaining at a given age. It is calculated as the mean length of life of a hypothetical cohort assumed to be exposed since starting age until death of all their members to the mortality rates observed at a given year. Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a particular population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit of time.
Estimates of life expectancy by education are drawn from data compiled in different ways in different countries. Two main approaches (study design) can be distinguished:
- A “cross-sectional’ (unlinked) design implies that information on the socio-economic characteristic of the deceased is drawn directly from death certificates, as reported by relatives or public officials, while population numbers for the same population categories (the denominator of mortality rates) are drawn from the most recent population censuses. An obvious drawback of this “unlinked” design, which is still used by most countries reviewed in the accompanying OECD working paper, is that it can only be implemented when death certificates include information on the occupation and education of the deceased. In addition, even when this information is included in death certificates, it may be affected by (large) recording errors;
- A “linked design” implies that socio-economic information on the deceased is retrieved by individual data linkage to the most recent population census or administrative register records. While both types of data are used in this study the “linked approach” is generally associated with higher quality data. Beyond these differences, a number of data treatments are implemented to correct for statistical biases and anomalies that may arise when calculating mortality rates based on a small number of deceased with specific age, gender and education characteristics.
The measure of inequalities in longevity described above have two specific features that may affect cross-country comparisons: first, life expectancy is disproportionately affected by mortality rates at very young ages compared to mortality rates at older ages; second, measures of life expectancy by education are also affected by the fact that distributions of education vary across countries and time. Alternative measures of inequalities in longevity have been examined, and they all show very large correlations across countries. In other terms, accounting for differences in the size of the various educational groups or using average mortality rates rather than life expectancy measures, does not change the assessment of countries’ rankings significantly. There are also significant cross-country differences between these measures of inequality in longevity and more traditional measures of inequality in, for example, income: longevity inequality are lowest in Italy, where income inequality is relatively high, and highest in many Eastern European countries, where income inequality is relatively low.
Where to find the underlying data
The underlying data can be found online at the following address: www.oecd.org/std/Inequalities-in-longevity-by-education-in-OECD-countries.xlsx
Mackenbach, J.P. (2016), Health Inequalities in Europe, Erasmus University Publishing, Rotterdam
Murtin, F., Mackenbach, J.P., Jasilionis, D. and M. Mira d’Ercole (2017), “Inequalities in Longevity by Education in OECD Countries: Insights from New OECD Estimates”, OECD Statistics Working Papers, 2017/2, OECD Publishing, Paris .
Gender-balance in Parliaments: An indispensable condition for more democratic and sustainable societies
Kate Brooks and Eleonore Komai, OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development (GOV)
The 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life is unique and innovative as it covers executives but also parliaments and judiciaries with clear, timely and actionable guidelines. It represents an important commitment of member and partner countries that wish to join the OECD community towards the realisation of a whole-of-government approach for more gender-sensitive and inclusive public institutions. Notably, it calls on its Adherents to “consider measures to achieve gender balanced representation in decision making positions in public life by encouraging greater participation of women in government at all levels, as well as in parliaments, judiciaries and other public institutions”.
Women’s representation in parliaments remains a global issue. On average in 2016, women constituted 23% of parliamentarians over both upper and lower houses combined, with the Pacific, Arab States and Asia having the lowest representation (16.4%, 18.2%, and 19.2% respectively). However, it must be noted that many countries in these regions have made substantial progress over the past ten years.
Numbers do matter. Parliaments are powerful political institutions where most policies are voted on. They shape important aspects of people’s social, political and economic present and future lives. Parliaments should thus reflect the perspectives and interests of society in all its diversity. A truly inclusive society would have a truly inclusive legislature.
Amongst OECD countries, women’s representation in lower houses and unicameral legislatures is heterogeneous both in terms of percentage and progress. While Iceland reached 47.6% of female parliamentarians in 2016 (39.7% in 2013), some countries such as Chile lag behind with women’s parliamentarians accounting for 15.8% in 2016. In addition, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, New-Zealand, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, France and Greece have experienced a drop in women’s representation from 2013 to 2016.
For young women, adolescents and little girls to aspire to leadership roles in public life, they need to see women leaders. Specific measures, such as quotas, have been implemented to tackle the issue of gender balance in parliaments. Quotas aim to ensure that women represent at least a critical minority. They can take the form of reserved seats, legal candidate quotas or political party quotas and can be legislated or voluntary. 10 of the 35 OECD countries reported having implemented legislated quotas in 2016. Effectiveness largely depends on context.
Share of female parliamentarians in OECD countries, 2013 and 2016
Percentage of women holding seats in lower houses and unicameral legislatures
Data is for 1st December 2016 and 1st December 2013. Bars in light blue represent countries with legislated quotas in 2016
Source: Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) PARLINE database, Quota Project
It is important to point out that gender balance in parliaments, as an important step towards gender equality, is not sufficient in itself. Gender balance does not ensure equal participation or equal access to leadership and decision-making roles among others.
Barriers to women’s equal representation and access to political life – be they structural, functional or cultural – find commonalities among countries but are also specific to local settings. Strategies and efforts to tackle gender inequality within parliaments can start with global strategies and international commitments, but need to be supported by concrete measures and continuously adapted to specific realities and experiences. The OECD continues to work to support countries in addressing the remaining barriers to gender equality in public life. A toolkit to guide both members and non-members is currently in development.
International Women’s Day at the OECD:
- Development seminar on women’s economic empowerment
- Conference on business, finance and gender
- 17h-18h: Webinar on Gender differences and PISA
Friday, 14-17h, Seminar on gender equality before the law