It is a pleasure to be here today to launch the 2017 OECD Scoreboard on Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs. It is an honour to welcome Minister Padoan, an old friend of the OECD, here at our Washington Centre. And it is a very timely moment to take a closer look at the issue of SME finance.
In Lyon and New York, we charted a comprehensive agenda for action for better investment in the health workforce. The release of "Working for Health and Growth: Investing in the Health Workforce" is a milestone in our common quest to create the right health jobs, with the right skills, in the right places.
Labour market conditions are improving in OECD countries. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the employment rate was 0.6 percentage points below its pre-crisis rate, representing a deficit of 5.6 million jobs. This deficit is projected to narrow further this year, and close completely in 2017. We’re on the right track! But ─ as always ─ we need to dig a bit deeper to see the full picture.
We gather here as labour market conditions are improving. Job creation is strengthening in many countries, in no small part thanks to policy efforts made by many of you during these difficult years. But there are still over 40 million people looking for work in OECD countries, 8 million more than in December 2007.
Globalisation, demographic trends and technological change are transforming jobs in our economy. The overall organisation of work and the skills needed in the workplace are undergoing profound and rapid changes. It is imperative for us to remain ahead of the curve and to be able to provide the necessary tools for workers, companies and labour markets to adapt to these changes efficiently.
I am particularly pleased to introduce this session of the Ministerial as boosting investment in human resources is a key pillar of a successful strategy to foster the G20 inclusive growth agenda. The G20 Skills Strategy, in this regard, is a very timely initiative.
The OECD very much welcomes the Turkish Presidency’s choice to focus on the three I’s of inclusiveness, implementation, and investment. Within these priorities, employment policies have an important role to play and the OECD is pleased to have contributed to the preparation of your meeting today, including the development of the key policy principles and frameworks.
Unemployment is finally coming down in most countries. But we need to step up our efforts to make sure that millions of workers hit hard by the crisis are not left behind by the recovery.
Skills drive economic growth and can boost social cohesion. With growth increasingly driven by productivity improvements, the future economic and social well-being of OECD countries will depend upon providing our young people with the right skills to succeed in the 21st century job market.
For years now we have been underlining the toll that inequality takes on people’s lives. And I am proud of the contribution that the OECD has made in recent decades, putting inequality at the heart of the political and economic debate. This report proposes concrete policy solutions to promote opportunities for more inclusive growth.