Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría,
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to launch the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) Website of Regional Well-Being Indicators. Let me thank Mr. Eduardo Sojo and INEGI for their excellent co-operation in our shared endeavour to measure and track well-being to improve public policies in Mexico and the living standards of all Mexicans.
In order to overcome the current economic and social challenges, the OECD has launched a Better Life Initiative, which seeks to measure well-being and societal progress beyond income and GDP, in areas like jobs, health and education to name but a few. And we now have clear evidence to show that living conditions vary not only across countries but within countries.
With the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the release of this data could not be more timely. Indeed, the indicators that result from the Better Life Initiative provide the right measurement tool to track progress and support implementation of the SDGs.
Convinced that policymaking requires a full dashboard of indicators that matter for well-being, including but not limited to economic prosperity, since 2011, we have mapped living conditions at the national level with our Better Life Index. Last year we launched our How's life in your region? website, which extends this mapping to the regional level to show that many of the factors that affect people’s daily lives are actually determined locally. Now with this interactive regional well-being webtool, we can compare 362 regions in 34 countries on 9 dimensions related to quality of life! These are: income; jobs; health; education; environmental outcomes; safety; civic engagement; accessibility to services; and housing.
And now, with this website that we are launching today, Mexico has raised the bar for all OECD countries. This website creates a one-stop-shop well-being portal that delivers objective and subjective indicators on 12 issues covering material living conditions and quality of life, for all 31 Mexican states and the Federal District.
INEGI’s regional well-being portal, constructed in collaboration with the OECD, building on the OECD Better Life framework, is a solid foundation to support efforts in improving people’s well-being no matter where they are born or live. It also offers a pioneering model for other countries interested in developing a comprehensive approach to measuring differences in well-being across regions.
What does this information tell us? Well, for example, that living in one of the worst-performing states in Mexico, compared to living in one of the best-performing ones, has a substantial impact on many dimensions of well-being. If I lived in the worst-off state, I would be four times poorer, would likely to die 4 years younger, would be 7 times likelier to abandon schooling, 7 times more likely to work longer hours for lower pay and three times more likely to feel unsafe in my municipality than if I lived in the best-performing state in each of these different categories.
Having access to such a hard-hitting set of data will have a profound impact on how Mexico designs and implements policy. Our forthcoming report Measuring Well-being in Mexican States, which will be released at the end of this month, shows that income inequality between and within Mexican states is among the highest in the OECD area.
Income poverty is still a concern in many states, and in addition, people are often deprived of a range of fundamental and basic services. According to the multi-dimensional poverty indicator produced by CONEVAL, which goes beyond income, as much as 76% of population in Chiapas qualified as poor in 2014, while that number was 20% in Nuevo Léon, the state with the lowest poverty rate.
Living in a region that is predominantly rural explains some of the regional differences. Clearly, more has to be done to improve access to basic services, reduce informal jobs and poverty in rural areas. However, we should also pay attention to increasing inequality in Mexico’s urban areas. Urban poverty has reached the staggering figure of 38 million people in 2014. Today two-thirds of Mexico’s poor live in cities and the urban population is not significantly better off with respect to access to health services compared to those living in rural areas.
And now that we are referring to inequalities, it is important to highlight that inequalities go beyond income and affect many other aspects of our lives. The harmful effects of inequality are nowhere more apparent than in education. Our data shows that people with a secondary school degree in Mexico can expect to live, on average, 4 years longer than their less educated peers. Seven years longer if you were living in Chihuahua, the Federal District and Sonora.
Mexican states have progressed at very different speeds in dimensions where Mexico as a country has improved dramatically. Maternal mortality rates, for example, have more than halved in Quintana Roo and Queretaro in the period 2000-2013, while they have worsened in Baja California Sur and Campeche.
Regularly updating and disseminating these indicators to the public will help shape and transform the policy debate in Mexico, consolidate the progress achieved and face pressing challenges. Through this data, both federal and local governments will have more elements to ensure that reforms at the national level take into account and take advantage of local conditions.
Ladies and gentlemen, improving the quality of our lives should be the ultimate target of public policy. Like in Mexico, many regions and cities in OECD countries are launching well-being initiatives aimed at improving the effectiveness and coherence of policies to increase regional competitiveness and improve quality of life.
The OECD has been updating its measurement tools to meet citizen expectations. We have shifted from economic growth alone to multidimensional measures of prosperity and well-being, and from nationwide statistics to more local measures of well-being for different places and social groups.
It is time to bring this evidence and diversity to the policymakers’ and to the citizens´ tables, in order to promote an open dialogue, take more effective policy action, and measure its results in a more precise way. The OECD is very proud to have collaborated with Mexico on this crucial and meaningful project. INEGI´s regional well-being portal is an excellent example of Mexico’s effort to design better policies for better lives!