Directorate for Public Governance

OECD Regions at a Glance


A Reader's GuideTable of ContentsHow to Order


  OECD Regions at a Glance presents a series of indicators for OECD countries that will enable policy makers and analysts to evaluate differences in economic performance among regions and to better design and assess regional policies. Organised around three major themes, the book first examines regions' contributions to national growth in population, employment, and the economy. The book then looks at regional disparities in terms of incomes, activity rates and unemployment and regional assets in terms of skills available, productivity, and industrial specialisation. Finally, it presents a series of regional indicators for variables likely to be key to a regions competitiveness including accessibility, education, health resources, safety, and environment.

A Reader’s Guide - Why OECD Regions at a Glance?

In recent years, regional development issues have returned to the policy agenda of many OECD countries. Higher integration driven by institutional processes (e.g. European Union, World Trade Organisation) and economic trends (i.e. globalisation) is eroding national borders and creating competition along regional lines in the world market. At the same time, the persistence of significant regional disparities challenges countries’ capacity to promote economic growth while ensuring social cohesion.

The renewed interest in regional issues has generated new demand for statistical indicators at the sub-national level. Policy makers need sound statistical information on the source of regional competitiveness but such information is not always available. Sub-national data are limited and regional indicators difficult to compare among countries. OECD Regions at a Glance aims to start to fill this gap by analysing and comparing major territorial patterns and regional trends across OECD countries.

Table of Contents

Part I - Regions as the Actors of National Growth

Population is unevenly distributed among regions within countries. On average, approximately one-third of the national population in OECD member countries is located in 10% of its regions. The concentration of population in a small number of territorial units is greatest in Australia, Iceland and Canada, where 10% of regions account for 64%, 62% and 61%, respectively, of the national population. The United States (50%) and Mexico (47%) follow, with around half of their population living in 10% of regions. In contrast, the territorial distribution is more balanced, according to this statistic, in the Czech Republic (12%), the Slovak Republic (15%), Belgium (16%) and Poland (18%).

The Index of Geographic Concentration offers a more accurate picture of the spatial distribution of the population, as it takes into account the area of each region (see “Sources and Methodology”). Figure 1.2 reveals that Canada (0.82), Australia (0.80) and Iceland (0.66) are the countries with the most uneven population distribution, followed by Mexico (0.54), Korea (0.52), the United States (0.51), Sweden (0.51), Portugal (0.51) and the United Kingdom (0.50). In contrast, there is less geographic concentration in the Slovak Republic (0.12), the Czech Republic (0.20), Hungary (0.21), Belgium (0.23), Germany (0.24), the Netherlands (0.25) and Poland (0.25).

Part II - Making the Best of Local Assets

GDP per capita varies significantly among OECD countries. In 2001, it was more than eight times higher in Luxembourg (USD 49 194)1 than in Turkey (USD 6 046). Although substantial, international disparities in GDP per capita are often smaller than differences among regions of the same country. In Turkey, for instance, GDP per capita in the region of Kocaeli is almost 13 times higher than in Hakkari. In the United Kingdom, GDP per capita in Inner London – West is more than nine times higher than in the Isle of Anglesey.

These are by no means isolated examples. Significant territorial disparities are also observed in Mexico, Poland, the United States, France, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Korea, Portugal and Belgium. In all these countries, in 2001 GDP per capita in the “richest” region was at least three times higher than in the “poorest”. In other countries the difference between the most and least prosperous region is smaller. However, with the exception of Australia, the range of variation does not fall below 50% of the national GDP per capita figure.

Part III - Competing on the Basis of Regional Well-being

The well-being of the inhabitants of a region crucially depends on the ability to access resources and services that are often available only in large economic centres. A region’s accessibility can thus be measured as the time necessary to travel to the closer centre.

Centres have been identified on the basis of a population threshold generally established at 300 000 inhabitants for a city and 500 000 for an urban agglomeration. The travelling time necessary to reach the closer centre varies widely among OECD countries. Sparsely populated countries, such as Australia, the United States and Canada, show the largest ranges.

Part IV - Sources and Methodology

In any analytical study conducted at sub-national levels, the choice of the territorial unit is of prime importance. The word “region” can mean very different things both within and between countries. For instance, the smallest OECD region (Concepcion de Buenos Aires, Mexico) has an area of less than 10 square kilometres whereas the largest region (Nunavut, Canada) has over 2 000 square kilometres. Similarly, population in OECD regions ranges from about 400 inhabitants in Balance ACT (Australia) to more than 47 million in Kanto (Japan).


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