TUAC/BIAC MCM Consultations


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría,

OECD Secretary-General

Copenhagen, Denmark, 27 April 2017

Dear Ministers, Secretary-General Welschke, General Secretary Evans, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be in Copenhagen to discuss our OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM), focusing on “Making Globalisation Work: Better Lives For All”.

I would like to thank Minister Ulla Tornes and Permanent Secretary Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen for hosting us; and I would also like to highlight the leadership of Klavs Holm the Danish Ambassador to the OECD in setting up such an ambitious agenda. Last but not least, let me welcome representatives of the MCM co-Chairs, Australia and the United Kingdom and, of course, BIAC and TUAC. Your substantive statements will enrich our discussions today and our MCM. It is so important that business associations and trade unions are on board together. If we are going to fix globalisation, we need to do it together.

Globalisation has brought a lot of benefits

This year's Ministerial meeting takes place amid growing discontent in many parts of the world about globalisation. And yet we know that globalisation has brought many benefits: lifting billions out of poverty, in particular in emerging and developing countries, and improving living conditions overall.

Globalisation has helped advance and disseminate technology and facilitated an unprecedented exchange of people, ideas and experiences across the globe. It has coincided with a spread of liberal democracy and of international collaboration to confront global challenges, from the Paris Agreement to the Sustainable Development Goals.

But these benefits have not reached everyone

But many people around the world have been left behind. Inequality has risen across the OECD: the richest 10% of the population now earn almost 10 times more than the poorest 10%; up from 7 times in the 1980s, 8 times in the 1990, and 9 times in 2000s. And wealth is even more concentrated than income: while the top 10% own about 50% of total household wealth, the poorest 60% own only 13%.

The costs of gloablisation are expressed through inequalities of income and wealth but also in reduced social mobility, reduced opportunities and lost jobs. The share of youths not in employment, education or training in the OECD stands at 17%. This runs the risk of a lost generation. Digitalisation brings many opportunities, but it is also making it harder for those without the right skills to enter and stay in the job market.

Routine manufacturing but also services jobs have been hit by market opening, and even more so by technological change. Increased automation is not only costing jobs – and the OECD estimates that 9% of jobs are at high risk of being automated – but it is also affecting job quality, through an increase in non-regular jobs.

People increasingly feel that the system is stacked in the favour of a happy few, while their own wages stagnate, and their own opportunities and those of their children are reduced.

Addressing the challenges of globalisation

So, what needs to be done to ensure that globalisation works for all?

Firstly, as the TUAC statement points out, we must move beyond the idea of "compensating losers" to empowering each person from the start, in line with the productivity-inclusiveness nexus developed at the 2016 MCM. A more progressive, more inclusive, more coherent, and more integrated package of trade, investment, domestic and international policies must ensure open markets work not only better, but more broadly. This means putting people at the centre of all of our policy measurements and tools, it means mainstreaming the insights of the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative (NAEC) so we learn the lessons of the crisis and coordinate all our efforts into promoting more inclusive growth.

Secondly, people should have more than a safety net: they deserve strong foundations to cope with change and thrive in a globalised, digital world. This means access to good quality health and education, cultures of lifelong learning, improved gender equality, better integration of migrants, restoring progressivity to national tax systems and strong social safety nets. We need nothing less than a new social contract for the age of globalisation!

Thirdly: international cooperation is now more crucial than ever. We have to do better because implementation of international standards has not kept up with the pace of globalisation, and this has created market distortions and an uneven playing field in many sectors. As the BIAC statement mentions: “businesses’ ability to innovate and create jobs depends on the efficient and proportional regulation, in both product and labour markets, to foster competition and competiveness”. From competition policy and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), to fighting corruption and tax evasion and strengthening responsible business conduct, we must seek better outcomes and rebuild trust in the multilateral system by ensuring a global level playing field, including through international standards.

Last but not least, fourthly, we have to listen to people! We have to hear their concerns and engage them with policymaking, particularly in key areas like trade and investment. This is why the OECD is deepening its work on open government and looking at establishing a permanent platform to engage with civil society on these issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have to rescue globalisation from itself. We have to make it understood that populism brings no answers, only worsening outcomes. When people vote for isolationism it harms us all, when people vote for protectionism, it harms the people it is meant to protect.

Inclusive and sustainable growth in a globalised economy relies on international co-operation; it relies on multilateral agreements; it relies on collective action. It means working together, getting around the table, from business associations to trade unions.

We want your insights, your experiences and your ideas. We are listening!

Thank you.


See also 

Previous OECD Ministerial Council Meetings



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