COPE International Diversity Forum


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Paris, France, 22 January 2018

(As prepared for delivery)




Dear Minister Hussen, dear Mr Ouaissi, dear friends,


Welcome to the COPE International Diversity Forum, and welcome to the OECD. It is a great pleasure to have so many key actors with us today – and notably our keynote speaker Minister Hussen. Minister, your presence here is testimony of your country’s leadership on this issue.


It is also a pleasure to hold this event as part of the activities of the OECD Centre for Opportunity and Equality, a pillar of our OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative, with our partners, the Club du XXIème siècle, who do so much amazing work in promoting diversity here in France. Since its creation, the Club has been a driving force for promoting diversity in France. Among its members there are also many excellent examples of success from diverse backgrounds, and I am pleased to open this event jointly with Haïba Ouaissi, the president of the Club.


Diversity is a critical issue for economies and societies

Diversity is a critical issue for the OECD. Promoting diversity means making sure that all groups in society have the same opportunities and no one faces discrimination. This is a matter of justice, but it is also a matter of promoting stronger and more inclusive growth.


As we will discuss today, evidence shows that diversity is not about promoting the interests of some groups in society over those of others; it is about acknowledging that the inclusion of disfavoured groups can be a source of strength and higher productivity. For instance teams with greater cognitive diversity – that is differences in perspective or information processing style – can solve problems faster than teams where everyone have the same thinking style.


We have therefore dedicated special funding to a new OECD project “Diversity at work” to identify how societies can get the most out of diversity. This conference feeds into this process and I am looking forward to its outcomes.


OECD countries are becoming more diverse

In some ways OECD countries have become more diverse in recent years. 

  • In recent years, OECD countries have become more diverse. One in ten persons living today in the OECD is foreign-born; among youth, more than one in five has immigrated or is native-born with immigrant parents. These shares have been rising virtually everywhere. 

  • More and more people are also open about their sexual orientation and gender identity. According to Gallup, the proportion of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) is quickly increasing in the U.S. from 3.5% in 2012 to 4.1% in 2016.

  • In addition, some population groups that have traditionally been left behind in terms of social and economic integration have been experiencing better outcomes. For example, the gap in women’s labour force participation rate has shrunk to 11%, on average, in OECD countries in 2016. Meanwhile, the employment rate of individuals aged 55-64 has grown by more than 10 percentage points since 2000, And employment rates for disabled people have increased as well.


Important challenges persist

Yet we must acknowledge that much more needs to be done to promote diversity in our economies and societies.


We need to do more to foster gender equality. Our recent report ‘The Pursuit of Gender Equality found that full-time female workers earned almost 15% less than their male counterparts at the median in OECD countries, a gap that has barely changed in the past decade.


We need to do more to open all opportunities to the LGBT Community. Homosexual applicants in OECD countries are only half as likely to be invited to a job interview as their heterosexual counterparts, and they are offered wages that are up to 10% lower.


We need to do more to fully integrate people with disabilities who still find it hard to participate in the labour market. In a study that we conducted for 16 OECD countries, their employment rate is 27% lower than that of non-disabled people.


And we certainly need to do more to better integrate migrants. Our flagship report “Settling In - Indicators of Immigrant integration” shows that the economic and social outcomes of immigrants often lag behind those of their native-born peers, and even their native-born offspring struggle to be integrated into the labour force on an equal footing. Indeed, in Europe, these children lag behind almost a year of schooling in their educational outcomes at age 15 and after leaving school, their unemployment rate is 50% higher than that of their peers with native-born parents.


Tackling these challenges

We need to work together to address these challenges. There are plenty of opportunities and best practices to share.


Digitalisation is creating opportunities for diversity policies. Certain technologies may allow more flexible ways of working and can help employability of disabled individuals. HR analytics – the use of big data for human resources – may also be the next frontier for tackling unconscious bias in recruitment.


At the corporate level, diversity needs to be well integrated into an organisation and it needs to be championed by the top management to be successful. If done poorly, increased diversity can lead to more conflict and costs.


At the public level, the promotion of diversity must be based on a whole-of-government approach, ensuring that disadvantaged groups have full access to social benefits and public services. There is a broad range of public policy tools that can be used to promote diversity, ranging from awareness campaigns, to anti-discrimination legislation, to quotas and active labour market policies. At the OECD, we are currently assessing which policies work best for which groups and why.


We are looking forward to discussing with you what policies countries should be implementing. Diversity is a core element of my institutional vision for the OECD. It is highlighted in my ‘21 for 21’ plan A Proposal for Consolidation and Further Transformation of the OECD’ as part of Developing a Strong Social Dimension at the OECD; and it is also a strong part of the OECD’s Inclusive Growth initiative.


Ladies and Gentlemen:

The American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”


We all suffer when some people cannot contribute fully to their economies and to their societies simply because they are ‘different’. Our differences must be transformed into a source of strength and not division.   Thank you.




See also

OECD work with Inclusive Growth


Related Documents


Annual report
Discover the
Read our
annual report