Social policies and data

Main OECD Social Policy Activities


Employment-oriented social policies

Family Policies

The OECD Family Database presents indicators concerning families and children in one central statistics portal. An initial wave of indicators went on-line at the end of 2006, mainly building upon work already developed in the Babies and Bosses reviews and other OECD existing databases. Expansion of the Family database is an on-going process. Following the July 2010 update, there are currently 58 indicators available on-line, categorised under 4 broad headings: the structure of families; the labour market position of families; public policies for families and children; and child outcomes. The Family database now also includes "snapshots" which facilitate an immediate comparison of each country’s position (on 20 indicators) with respect to the OECD average.

Our Gender Brief gives an overview of gender differences in OECD countries on main employment and social issues: women in OECD countries earn 18% less than men, only about one-third of managerial posts are held by a woman, many more women work in part-time jobs than men. Read more about the OECD Work on Gender.


Safety Nets and Making Work Pay

The economic crisis presents very significant challenges for social safety nets. Unemployment and related benefits help prevent those without work from falling into poverty, but overly passive support can exacerbate joblessness and poverty. This activity monitors unemployment benefits and other safety-net policies for working-age individuals and analyses the challenges faced by individual OECD countries. The main output of this activity is the publication of information on in-work and out-of-work net incomes of individuals of working age in the Benefits and Wages series. This includes a policy database, quantitative indicators of work incentives and benefit adequacy as well as an interactive tax-benefit calculator. These databases are used to inform:

• on-going assessments of policy responses to the economic crisis, including a forthcoming chapter on the jobs crisis in the Employment Outlook and a study entitled A Good Time for Making Work Pay? Taking stock of in-work benefits and related measures across the OECD

• on-going work on gender inequalities in the labour market, including an update and extension of an earlier study on support for working parents (Can Parents Afford To Work?)


Policies to Support and Integrate the Disabled of Working Age

Disability policy has become a key policy area in most OECD countries. Transforming Disability into Ability, published in 2003, concluded that a promising new disability policy approach should move closer to the philosophy of unemployment programmes. The new thematic review on “Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers” aims to reach a better understanding of the mechanisms and policies that lead a person with a health problem or a disability to withdraw from the labour market. The first volume of this review, published in 2006, covered Norway, Poland and Switzerland. The second volume covering Australia, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom, and the third volume covering Denmark, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands, were published in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Swedish disability policies have been reviewed in early 2009. A synthesis report and a conference will be carried out in 2009.

The High-Level Policy Forum on Sickness and Disability Policy Challenges in OECD Countries was jointly organised by the Swedish Government and the OECD in Stockholm on 14-15 May 2009.

Monitoring social policy

Child Well-being

The well-being of children is high on the policy agenda across the OECD. But what is the actual state of child well-being today? How much are governments spending on children and are they spending it at the right times? What social and family policies have the most impact during children’s earliest years? Is growing up in a single-parent household detrimental to children? Is inequality that persists across generations a threat to child well-being? The publication Doing Better for Children, released early September 2009, addresses these questions and more.

Child Well-being Expert Consultation, jointly organised by UNICEF IRC, the OECD and the European Commission, took place in Paris at the end of May 2009, with the purpose of developing a shared understanding of a set of data that countries should monitor in order to inform policies for children’s well-being. A list of institutional websites in the field of child well-being research has also been created and will continue to be updated at the request of stakeholders.

Pension System Monitoring

This project aims to monitor the functioning of pension systems, evaluate the impact of pension reforms, and compare policies across member countries. Pension and retirement policies have changed dramatically in recent years, as governments have tried to balance the goals of adequate retirement incomes and the long-term financial sustainability of pension systems in the face of population ageing. The first edition of Pensions at a Glance was published in 2005, and the The 2007 edition in 2007. The latest edition Pensions at a Glance 2009 updates information on key features of pension provision in OECD countries and provides projections of retirement income for today’s workers. It offers an expanded range of indicators, including measures of assets, investment performance, coverage of private pensions, public pension spending, and the demographic context and outlook.

Development of Social Indicators

Social indicators provide a concise overview of social trends and policies while paying due attention to the different national conditions in which such policies are being pursued. The social indicators in Society at a Glance may be represented along a two-dimensional classification. The first dimension corresponds to three main goals of social policy, i.e. self-sufficiency, equity and social cohesion. The second dimension corresponds to the nature of the indicators, i.e. social context, social status and societal responses.

The 2009 edition includes a wide range of information on social issues – such as demography and family characteristics, employment and unemployment, poverty and inequality, social and health care expenditure, and work and life satisfaction – as well as a guide to help readers understand the structure of OECD social indicators. In addition to updating some of the indicators from previous editions, Society at a Glance 2009 - OECD Social Indicators adds several new and innovative social indicators, including adult height, perceived health status, risky youth behaviour and bullying. For the first time, the report also provides a condensed set of headline social indicators summarising social well-being in OECD countries. In addition, a special chapter examines leisure time across the OECD.

See also Society at a Glance – Asia/Pacific Edition 2009, a joint OECD/Korea Policy Centre publication offering a concise quantitative overview of social trends and policies across Asia-Pacific economies, published in August 2009.


Social Expenditure Database

The OECD Social Expenditure Database (SOCX) has been developed in order to serve a growing need for indicators of social policy. It includes reliable and internationally comparable statistics on public and (mandatory and voluntary) private social expenditure at programme level. This version also includes for the first time estimates of net total social spending for 2005 for 26 OECD countries.

SOCX provides a unique tool for monitoring trends in aggregate social expenditure and analysing changes in its composition. It covers 30 OECD countries for the period 1980-2005. The main social policy areas are as follows: Old age, survivors, incapacity-related benefits, health, family, active labour market programmes, unemployment, housing, and other social policy areas. SOCX will include 1980-2007 spending data in Autumn 2010.


Resource Distribution

OECD work on this theme has included a first assessment of the comparative evidence on non-monetary measures of poverty, as well as research on the redistributive effects of in-kind government services and on intergenerational mobility in income and other social characteristics. On the policy side, work has focused on assessing what works best in reducing child poverty and on the role of educational experiences for social disadvantage. An update of data on income distribution and poverty, covering all 30 OECD countries around 2005 and historical data for the majority of OECD countries was made available during 2008.

The OECD report Growing Unequal?: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, analysing long-term trends in income distribution and poverty in OECD countries, was published in October 2008.


Asian Policy Centre - Health and Social Policy

The Joint OECD/Korea Policy Centre opened its doors in July 2008. It resulted from the integration of 4 pre-existing OECD/Korea Centres, among which the former Regional Centre on Health and Social Policy (RCHSP). The Centre aims to develop data capacity in co-operation with individual country experts and international partners as the Asian Development Bank, The Asia Pacific National Health Accounts Network (APNHAN), the International Labour Organisation, the WorldBank, and the World Health Organisation. The Centre organises seminars, conferences and workshops to foster the exchange of technical information and policy experiences in the area of pension reforms, social expenditure and health accounting.

During the 2007/2008 biennium, in the area of social policy, the Centre organised an OECD-Korea Centre/ADB conference on Social Protection Index for Committed Poverty Reduction (December 2007) and a follow-up ADB/ILO/OECD Korea Policy Centre meeting on Social Policy Indicators’ Experts in Asia (November 2008). The publication Society at a Glance – Asia/Pacific Edition was released in August 2009. On pensions, the Centre organised a joint  OECD/Korea Centre and World Bank international conference on Pension Reform in Asia and the Pacific (25-26 June 2008). The publication Pensions at a Glance - Asia/Pacific was launched at the conference and released in January 2009.


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