The exceptional decade of growth in the developing world has lifted millions out of poverty, but within many countries inequalities have widened, threatening social cohesion. The OECD Development Centre, in its 2012 edition of the Perspectives on Global Development entitled Social Cohesion in a Shifting World argues that new resources from improved economic performance can be used to broaden the fiscal space for a more ambitious social agenda. It describes a cohesive society as one which “works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward social mobility.” As such social cohesion is both a desirable end and a means to inclusive development.
Reducing povety is not enough. Policy making must go beyond targeted approaches and consider broader social cohesion objectives that will reduce income inequalities as well as improve access to basic services and opportunities for decent jobs and upward social mobility. New inclusive growth models that encompass more effective redistribution policies and comprehensive social protection programmes are needed to ensure both sustainable development and social cohesion. The OECD Development Centre proposes to look at the state of social cohesion through three lenses: social inclusion, social capital and social mobility.
A new tool
The Social Cohesion Policy Reviews (SCPRs) are a new OECD tool that links social cohesion outcomes to policy interventions. The reviews use a multi-dimensional approach and assess how policies across key sectors such as fiscal, labour, education, environment, civic participation and social protection policies can enhance social cohesion. The objective is to help countries improve their economic and social policies in a way that fosters social inclusion, social capital and social mobility.
The first SCPR is on Viet Nam. It documents the current state of social cohesion in the country, the existing gaps between national objectives and current policies, and offers recommendations to address these gaps. Particular attention is given to identifying inequalities of opportunities linked to geographic, socio-economic, ethnic and gender identities, and their impact on social cohesion. The review uses a combination of traditional objective measures, perception-based indicators and subjective well-being. It is being carried out together with the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affaires (ILSSA) of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the General Statistics Office of Viet Nam.