Perspectives on global development

OECD Development Centre Seminar Series on Social Cohesion 2010/11



Social cohesion is coming to the fore of the public policy agenda. While rapid growth in emerging economies has lifted millions of people out of poverty, it also has led to a growing divide between rich and poor. Many groups in society such as migrants, minorities and the elderly have been largely excluded from the benefits of growth, leaving them more vulnerable to the shocks that come with the opening up of economies. For people living in poor and fragile states – the ‘bottom billion’ – the frustration of persisting poverty and destitution is a recipe for conflict and social unrest.


In this context, the OECD Development Centre is exploring what actions can be taken to encourage and sustain social cohesion in developing and emerging economies. The Social Cohesion Seminars are an opportunity for leading academics and development practitioners working in this field to present and discuss the latest thinking and evidence. This expertise will channel into the 2011 edition of the OECD Perspectives on Global Development.


To register for a seminar, please contact Myriam Andrieux (


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Next seminar


Out of the crisis: labour market recession and the threat to social cohesion
Raymond Torres, ILO International Institute for Labour Studies
Date and Venue: coming soon


Latest seminars


Social cohesion, inequality and financial crises

Sir Tony Atkinson, Senior Research Fellow, Nuffield College, Oxford, UK

Date: 15 March 2011, 10am-12.30pm

Venue: OECD, Château, Room D


This seminar looked at the complex relationship between inequality and financial crises and the implications for social cohesion.  It first examined the impact of the recent financial upheaval on inequality and social cohesion.  What is the distributional impact of a banking crisis? If banking crises are associated with boom and bust, do we see inequality following the same path of rise and fall?  Is the burden shared throughout society?  Does a financial crisis mainly affect the wealthy and a recession the rest of the population?  This was addressed in the first part of the presentation.The second part of the presentation focused on the role of inequality in the origins of the crisis. The period prior to the 2007-8 financial crisis did see rising income inequality in a number of countries, notably an increased share of total income accruing to those at the very top. Have these inequalities contributed to the crisis? Does inequality generate financial and economic instability? 


Sir Tony Atkinson is a Fellow of Nuffield College, of which he was Warden from 1994 to 2005.  He is currently Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. He has been President of the Royal Economic Society, of the Econometric Society, of the European Economic Association, and of the International Economic Association.   He has served in the UK on the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth, the Pension Law Review Committee, and the Commission on Social Justice.  He was responsible for the Atkinson Review of Measurement of Government Output. He has been a member of the Conseil d’Analyse Economique, advising the French Prime Minister. He was knighted on 2001 for services to economics, and is a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.  His most recent book is The Changing Distribution of Earnings in OECD Countries.


Gender equality and social cohesion in Africa

Mwila Chigaga, Regional Senior Gender Specialist, ILO Regional Office for Africa

Date: 24 February 2011, 10am-12.30pm

Venue: OECD, CC 16

Jacques Charmes, Director of Research, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, will be the discussant.


“Thinking outside the box: Facilitating gender equality in Africa through social cohesion”
Social cohesion is strong in many parts of Africa, and women play a key role in organising cooperatives and microcredit groups at the community level. Building on these ties presents an opportunity to address ongoing gender inequalities in the region. Women’s access to decent and productive work is closely linked to gender roles and the division of labour in the household. Women undertake more unpaid work than men, and the demands of reproductive and care work also affect women’s choice of employment and work location. The lack of social protection and support systems for unpaid family responsibilities hits women the hardest forcing them to choose between or combine these activites, leading many women to end up both time-poor and money-poor. A solution may be to bring the market economy closer to women at the community level and in the informal sphere, with an emphasis on ‘social businesses’. The ILO has implemented a number of projects that support and economically empower women, allowing them to combine employment and business opportunities with their reproductive and care-giving roles which build on principles of solidarity and community development.


Mwila Chigaga is the Regional Senior Gender Specialist (English-speaking countries) for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Regional Office for Africa. Ms Chigaga holds a Masters degree in International Development Policy from Duke University, where she was a Rotary International World Peace Fellow from 2004-2006. Previously, she pursued a legal career working for the Zambian government as Principal State Advocate and Advisor to the Attorney General on matters of international law. Ms Chigaga has also represented Zambia abroad serving in London as a Deputy High Commissioner, and in New York as Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Zambia, where she was responsible for human rights, economic, social, cultural and humanitarian issues. In Zambia, she founded an organization called Widows With Strength, which empowers widows to be self-sufficient.


Labour markets and labour disputes: New challenges in China

Professor Cai Fang, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Date: 29 November 2010, 10am-12.30pm

Venue: OECD, CC 4


Labour markets and labour disputes: New challenges in China

We start with a brief review of the Chinese demographic transition and the resulting changes in Chinese growth pattern and labour markets – namely, the diminishing demographic dividend for economic growth and the widespread shortage of unskilled labour. We then discuss wage increases, particularly for migrant workers and hired workers in agriculture, and wage convergence between unskilled and skilled workers. These facts indicate that the Chinese economy has reached its Lewis turning point – the point at which there is a shortage of unskilled workers and their wages increase. The intense labour disputes in recent years, particularly since 2008 when the Employment Contract Law was issued, are the result of reaching this Lewis turning point, rather than deteriorating labour relations. Finally we discuss the progress of institution-building in labour markets and strengthening social protection implemented by the government – both central and local - as they face these challenges in labour relations.

PPT Presentation


Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South

Professor David Hulme & Professor Armando Barrientos, University of Manchester

Date: 21 October 2010


Amid all the complicated economic theories about the causes and solutions to poverty, one idea is so basic it seems radical: just give money to the poor. Despite its skeptics, researchers have found again and again that cash transfers given to significant portions of the population transform the lives of recipients. Countries from Mexico to South Africa to Indonesia are giving money directly to the poor and discovering that they use it wisely – to send their children to school, to start a business and to feed their families. Stressing that cash transfers are not charity or a safety net, the authors draw an outline of effective practices that work precisely because they are regular, guaranteed and fair.

PPT Presentation


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Although it is a recognised human right, 80% of the world population lack social protection. Could innovative instruments in social protection be the solution to addressing the coverage gap, or are they just a fad?


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