It’s the end of year quiz!

Bored with board games? Fed up with Holiday Specials on TV? Already sold your gifts on e-Bay? Really got nothing better to do? Try the Insights End of Year Quiz! You could win a major prize!(1)(2)

The OECD at 50

1. The OECD’s headquarters at the Château de la Muette in western Paris is associated with which pioneering aeronautical achievement?

A. The first manned flight

B. The first take-off of Concorde

C. The first Sputnik signal captured in the West

2. The OECD is the successor to the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), which was set up in 1948 in part to administer Marshall Plan for war-ravaged Europe. Excluding the post-war German zones, which now-defunct European territory took part in the OEEC?

A. The Royal Republic of Ruritania

B. The Free Territory of Trieste

C. The Hanseatic League

3. OECD members are classed as developed countries. But one OECD member that joined in 2010 also belongs to the Group of 77, which represents developing countries?

A. Israel

B. Slovenia

C. Chile

4. OECD does not set international standards on:

A. Tractors

B. Cucumbers

C. Fertilizer

5. “At 50,” George Orwell once wrote, “everyone has …

A. the face that he deserves.”

B. the right to party.”

C. the need of a good pension plan.”

Healthy, wealthy and wise

6. How many hours of compulsory instruction does the average OECD 15 year-old get each year?

A. 240

B. 1160

C. 902

7. How much does all that education cost, if you take the average per student in primary and secondary education?

A. $95,000

B. $23,000

C. $74,000

8. The New York Times reported results from the latest round of the OECD’s PISA international student assessments under this headline: “Top Test Scores From *** Stun Educators”. Where was it referring to?

A. Shanghai

B. Norway

C. Japan

9. China was widely reported earlier this year as having become the world’s second largest economy. Which country did it overtake?

A. Germany

B. Japan

C. The United Kingdom

10. In which OECD country do people consult a doctor the most?

A. United States

B. France

C. Korea

Men, women and children

11. Hipster economists call it the “Mancession”. What are they talking about?

A. Mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot’s prediction of the financial crisis in The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets.

B. The high rates of job losses among men, compared to women, during the recession.

C. The trendy hip-hop expression, “that recession’s buggin’, man”.

12. The average height of a man in OECD countries is 177 cm. Which is the tallest OECD country?

A. The Netherlands

B. Sweden

C. New Zealand

13. Still on men – sort of – what did Australia, Brazil and Costa Rica do for the first time in 2010?

A. They elected women leaders.

B. They elected women to half the seats in their legislatures.

C. They appointed women as heads of their central banks.

14. Which OECD country has the biggest proportion of children who’ve never been breastfed?

A. Germany

B. Ireland

C. Iceland

15. What is the average gap in earnings between men and women in full-time employment in OECD countries

A. 23.4%

B. 17.6%

C. 8.9%

It’s in the Insights

In this section, the answers can all be found in Insights books.

16. At the movies, this has been the year of 3D, but 3D is far less fun than a cartoon character popping out the screen for:

A. Bankers.

B. Immigrants.

C. Teachers.

17. What’s a wondyrchoum and what did the government do about it?

A. A cattle pest. Ordered a quarantine.

B. A South African co-operative. Financed microcredit facilities.

C. A net. Set up a commission.

18. If you’re worried about your water footprint, you should drink more:

A. Beer

B. Fruit juice.

C. Coffee.

19. Challenged to name one social science proposition that was both true and non-trivial, Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson proposed:

A. Comparative advantage.

B. Quantitative easing.

C. Cognitive dissonance.

20. In 1916, state supervisor of rural schools in West Virginia L.J. Hanifan coined the term “social capital” and defined it as:

A. Goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse.

B. The material of my activity given to me as a social product.

C. Often in the case of professional men, setting out in life … their only capital.

Remember, you read it here on the Insights blog first (or second)

In this section, the answers can all be found in previous posts on the blog

21. Which modern state was once the richest colony in the world, providing half of France’s gross national product?

A. Canada

B. Algeria

C. Haiti

22. Where do children think it’s OK to punch a woman in the face if she’s having an affair?

A. Glasgow

B. Kabul

C. Melbourne

23. Which of these pairs uses the same amount of electricity?

A. Making a tonne of steel and lighting a London street 1.5 km long

B. New York City and sub-Saharan Africa

C. An MP3 player and a heart pacemaker

24. “Rat meat and trichinosis-laced pig parts” was used to describe:

A. The derivatives market

B. The science of economics

C. The accounts of a major financial institution

25. “How come nobody could foresee it?” was:

A. The CEO of Qantas asking meteorologists about the Icelandic ash cloud

B. Queen Elizabeth asking economists about the crisis

C. Bono asking the UN about famine in Niger.

(1) You probably won’t. (2) Our definition of major isn’t everybody’s.

Click here for the answers

Global wage growth cut in half

Got any sardines then?

The only time I’ve had more money than I could spend was in Warsaw in the 1980s. You had to change a certain sum from hard currency into zlotys for each day on the visa, and though I like a nice tin of sardines or an attractive wood carving as much as the next man, the thrill starts to fade after a while.

So there we were on the night before we left, rushing round the shops at closing time trying to convince ourselves that a dozen AC/DC transformers would make an ideal gift and that you can never have too many hammers. Our other memorable shopping experience had been taking turns with our Polish friends to wait in a queue all afternoon to buy meat.

Since then of course, Poland has been transformed out of all recognition, and joined the OECD in 1996. The queues have gone and living standards have been rising steadily.

The latest ILO report on global wages doesn’t show the difference between the 1980s and now, but even taking 1999 as a baseline (= 100), real wages in Eastern and Central Europe rose by over half in the past ten years (index =161). For Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the rise is even greater, at 334, although for many of the countries included, this is because the baseline is so low.

There was less progress elsewhere, especially in the advanced countries (index = 105) and Latin America and the Caribbean (index = 114).

This positive trend doesn’t tell the whole story however.

The crisis cut growth in global wages by half in 2008 and 2009, and the report also shows that the proportion of people earning low pay – defined as less than two-thirds of median wages – has increased since the mid-1990s in more than two-thirds of the countries for which data are available.

In countries with a high or growing share of low pay, the probability of moving into better-paid jobs remains low, and the risk of being trapped into low-paid jobs is high.

The report also argues that discrimination is partly to blame for the persistence of both low pay and wage gaps. In both industrialised and developing countries, low-paid workers tend to be young, are disproportionately female, and are more likely to be members of a disadvantaged ethnic minority, racial or immigrant group.

The ILO also note that amount of national income going to paid labour (wage share)has been declining since the mid-1980s in OECD countries as a whole, although with significant fluctuations over time and among countries. Apart from a redistribution from wages in favour of profits, there has also been a redistribution from median earners to high-wage earners.

Not surprisingly, the ILO is worried about “social tensions” that could arise due to another widening gap: that between those who caused the crisis and are now doing well again, and those who paid for it and see little hope of improving their lot.

Useful links

Growing Unequal: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries

OECD work on employment

OECD Insights: From Crisis to Recovery has a chapter on employment

Happy birthday to us!

Some of you may have noticed our new logo. It’s to celebrate the OECD’s anniversary. The OECD’s founding convention was signed 50 years ago this week, and today our Secretary-General Angel Gurria is at the Elysée, the French presidential palace, to mark the occasion at the launch of France’s presidency of the G20.

So, what does the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development do? One answer would be that it improves people’s lives by helping governments to design better policies. Another answer would be that it works alongside governments to understand the forces of economic, social and environmental change and to devise policies based on facts and comparative data.

It sets international standards on an astonishing range of things from the quality of cucumbers to the safety of nuclear power plants. It compares how well schools all over the world are doing their job. It measures global flows of investment and trade, but also how much leisure time women and men have. You could even say that it makes life harder too – for terrorists, tax dodgers, polluters, and crooked businessmen.

Although we’re celebrating our fiftieth, the OECD’s origins go back much farther. In 1920, Australian artist Will Dyson published a cartoon about the Versailles Peace Treaty. The treaty marked the formal end to the First World War, but in Dyson’s drawing, we see a baby behind a pillar, and Clemenceau, the French President, is saying “Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping”. By the time that baby was old enough to join the army, the Second World War had broken out.

When that war ended, leaders were determined to avoid the mistakes of the past and realised that the best way to ensure lasting peace was to encourage co-operation and reconstruction, and not to punish the defeated.

The Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was established to run the Marshall Plan in 1947. While US financing was important, it was actually by making individual European governments recognise the interdependencies of their economies that the US made its greatest contribution to the economic rebirth of Europe.

The success of the OEEC and the prospect of carrying forward its work beyond Europe, led Canada and the US to join OEEC members in signing the new OECD Convention on 14 December 1960.  Others followed, starting with Japan in 1964, and now 34 member countries worldwide regard it as normal to turn to one another, within the OECD, to help identify problems; analyse them; share experiences; and devise solutions. Another 100 other countries also take part in OECD work.

The OECD has been at the forefront of efforts to address several global challenges. Many international agreements on the environment started out within the Organisation, from applying the polluter pays principle to international policy in the 1970s, to setting the frameworks for carbon trading as a weapon against climate change today. The OECD started examining the public policy implications of the Internet economy just a year after Amazon issued its initial public offering of stock and before most of today’s biggest sites went public.

The crisis and recession that marked the end of the first decade of the 21st century bring new challenges. Some of these, we hope, will be short term only, such as restoring public finances and bringing down unemployment, but the events of the recent past have prompted the OECD to ask questions about the very fundamentals of a market economy such as trust and sources of growth, and also what we actually mean by progress.

Useful links

Visit the new OECD website to find out more about the topics mentioned above.

Corruption … on the rise?

People around the world believe corruption has worsened since the financial crisis struck, according to a survey from graft-watchers Transparency International, which was released today to mark World Anti-Corruption Day.

Developed regions saw the biggest rise in the numbers of people who felt the problem was now more serious than three years ago: 73% in Western Europe and 67% in North America. According to Huguette Labelle, the head of Transparency International, that’s in part a consequence of the recent economic turmoil: “The fall-out of the financial crises continues to affect people’s opinions of corruption,” she said.

 Transparency International surveyed more than 90,000 in 86 places around the world for the 2010 edition of its Global Corruption Barometer, and the report  offers some fascinating insights into how bribery affects people’s daily lives.

In total about one in four people said they had paid a bribe in the past year, a level unchanged since 2006. In regional terms, the proportion ranged from 56% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa to 5% in both North America and the European Union.  

The police were the institution most associated with bribe-taking, with 29% of people who had contact with them saying they paid up. Next were registry and  permit services (20%) and the judiciary (14%).

Half of respondents felt their government’s actions to fight corruption were ineffective, but – more positively – a big majority (almost seven out of ten) felt the general public could make a difference in the fight against graft.

Separately, a BBC survey suggests corruption is the world’s most-discussed problem. Just over one in five respondents to the survey said they had discussed corruption with family and friends in the past month. The survey also suggests that corruption is regarded as the world’s second most serious problem, just behind extreme poverty and ahead of environmental degradation/climate change and terrorism.

Useful links

 OECD work on bribery and corruption

Progress is … a trip to Paris in the Spring?

What is progress? If you think you know the answer, and fancy yourself as a filmmaker, you could win a trip to Paris in May 2011.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the OECD is inviting young people (ages 18-25) from around the world to make a short video that completes the phrase, Progress is …

Videos should be …

  • No longer than three minutes;
  • Made in English or French (the OECD’s two official languages)
  • Submitted – along with the online registration form  – by midnight (Paris time) on 1 March 2011.

Interested? Find out more  and check out the terms and conditions.

 Good luck!

 Useful links

 Contact the competition [email protected]

PISA … headlines and more

Boys and girls scored equally badly on hairstyle

Lots of reaction – and a certain amount of handwringing – following the publication yesterday of results from the latest round of the OECD’s PISA student assessments.

The very strong showing by students in the Chinese city of Shanghai got a lot of attention: “I’m kind of stunned, I’m thinking Sputnik,” one former US educational official told The New York Times.

On the Atlantic’s website, former China resident James Fallows admitted to some reservations about the Shanghai results, but hoped they would spur a renewed focus on educational reform in the US: “I’m happy for people to be as startled as possible by these results. Anything that will direct attention to American fundamentals – education, infrastructure, research, that sort of tedious thing – is fine with me.”

Incidentally, the lessons for the US from PISA are dealt with in this report.

A few other stories from PISA 2009:

Trends: For the first time ever, PISA includes a separate report this year on trends in student performance since its first round in 2000. Some countries have much to celebrate, with new OECD member Chile seeing a very large fall in the number of students scoring at the low end. The news was less good for Ireland, where The Irish Times’ Seán Flynn noted that “on literacy, Ireland has fallen from fifth place to 17th, the most dramatic drop of any OECD state”. He hoped the results would have a “transformative effect” on Ireland’s schools.

The impact of social background: One of the key findings from PISA is that students’ social background is one of the main determinants in educational success. But as the programme also shows, some countries – for example Canada, Finland, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong-China and Shanghai, do a very good job of minimising this impact.

In Wales, there was concern that the latest PISA results showed social background remained a high obstacle to success: “In essence if we want to explain the PISA outcomes, a large part of that will lie in the insidious effect which poverty continues to have on our nation and its people, particularly our children,” wrote Professor David Egan.

Girls and boys: One of the issues PISA examines is the difference between how well boys and girls do. In reading literacy – the focus subject in PISA 2009 – girls did better than boys in every place that took part. Among the OECD countries, girls were about a year ahead of boys in reading. By contrast, boys did better than girls in mathematics, but the difference was not as great.

In Finland – which lost its top spot in PISA this year, although it remains an extremely very strong performer – boys’ relative lack of interest in reading was a concern for Education Minister Henna Virkkunen, AFP reported. “Ten years ago, one in five youths said they did not read for pleasure. Now that figure is one in three, and 50% for boys,” the minister said.

In Australia, education research leader Geoff Masters was worried that girls are slipping behind in mathematics. “The gender gap in mathematics, which appeared to have closed in recent decades, has re-emerged, with boys again significantly outperforming girls,” he wrote in The Australian.

Useful Links  

 OECD PISA – the Programme for International Student Assessment

 OECD educationtoday blog   – Spotlight on PISA 

OECD work on education

OECD Insights: Human Capital

PISA at the OECD iLibrary

 PISA video – What do students know and what can they do?

Video series: Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education