OECD Secretary-General

International Conference: Jobs, growth and values - Creating opportunities for new generations


Session 1: The roots of jobless growth


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Milan, 9th May 2011
Minister Tremonti,
[Minister Sacconi],
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to close a very productive first Session.

As we discussed, the world economy is going through difficult times. The good news is that the economic recovery is widening and strengthening. But the global crisis has bequeathed several countries a legacy of high unemployment, large fiscal imbalances and lower potential output.

The unemployment rate in the OECD area is still close to the peak reached during the crisis. About 15 million jobs are still missing to bring the employment rate back to where it was before the crisis. One of the most worrisome dimension of this jobs crisis is its effect on youth: one in five young people in the labour market is without a job in the OECD. 

This crisis has also added to other underlying social problems. The gap between the rich and the poor has increased in most OECD countries in the decade prior to the crisis. And it has widened further during the crisis, as low paid workers often on precarious jobs, have been hit the hardest by unemployment. The social impact of this is huge. As our new publication, Doing Better for Families shows, one in five children in Israel, Mexico, Poland, Turkey and the United States lives in poverty.

We need to address these challenges. We need to go “social”. Growth is important but growth alone will not solve all our problems.

This is why our 50th Anniversary Ministerial, which will take place in Paris in three weeks, puts Better Policies for Better Lives at the core of the debate

Our priorities going forward are clear:

First, a shift towards new sources of growth is necessary. The OECD Green Growth Strategy, which will be delivered during the 50th Anniversary celebrations, presents an actionable framework focusing also on innovation and new skills for creating new green jobs.

Equipping youth with adequate skills and ensuring workers can adjust their skills for new jobs are key elements of promoting stronger and inclusive growth. We also need to ensure equality of job opportunities, including to women, who are often under-represented in labour markets, especially in leading positions. This is the purpose of two major OECD initiatives: the Skills Strategy and the Gender initiative.

In a few minutes I will launch the new Economic Survey of Italy, during a joint press conference with Minister Tremonti, Minister Gelmini and Minister Sacconi. The Surveys puts special emphasis on some of the essential drivers to sustainable growth in Italy, including education and environmental policies.   

Second, the way we do business matters for growth. This is why at the 2010 OECD Council Ministerial Meeting, under Italian chairmanship, we adopted the Declaration on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency in the Conduct of International Business and Finance (the PIT Declaration). These principles are the keystone of an economy which commands the support and confidence of the people and serves their needs and aspirations.

I welcome that this Conference focuses on ways to promote them and I look forward to further our discussion at our 2011 Ministerial Council Meeting later this month, in which I hope we can count on Minister Tremonti’s presence. Two of the main delilverables at our 50th Anniversary Ministerial are fruits of the seeds planted by the Italians last year: the adoption of the new OECD Multinational Guidelines, which encourage corporations to behave responsibly, and the accession of Russia to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which fights bribery in international business transactions.

Third, now more than ever, social policies must play a role in helping better lives for all. Under the theme “Building a fairer future”, Ministers from OECD member states and partner countries gathered a week ago to discuss the main social policy challenges that we are facing and how best to address them.

One very fundamental principle they affirmed is that the present framework of fiscal consolidation should not prevent us from continuing to give maximum priority to the most vulnerable. In other words, the long term pay-offs of maintaining adequate social spending are very high.

The OECD will continue to focus on social policy issues. This certainly includes strengthening our activities on policies for youth and for children, so important to help the young generations get off to a good start in life, on support to families and child development, on gender equality in paid and unpaid work.

Last but not least, it is crucial that all these challenges be tackled from a truly global perspective. Today’s inter-dependences among developing, emerging and advanced economies and the global impact of the crisis indeed call for broader approaches to development. Exploiting synergies, drawing from each other’s experiences with development assistance, with inclusive growth and poverty reduction, is essential in this context. The OECD is the main platform for this knowledge sharing. And we should strengthen this work.

We have a very timely opportunity for developing a new paradigm for development, including domestic resources mobilisation, innovation, gender equality, good governance and anti corruption.

This is important to all regions in the world. But all the most important with the Middle East and North African region, with which we have been working for several years now to address issues of institutional capacity building, improving governance and investment climate.

Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen,
I greatly enjoyed listening to your views and wisdom. I am looking forward to continuing our discussions on Better Policies for Better Lives at our 50th Anniversary Ministerial.
Thank you.


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