Remarks by Angel Gurría
Porto, Portugal - 29 June 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Portuguese Government for hosting this important summit and congratulate all of you for today’s very productive and stimulating discussions.
We have seen how skills can transform lives and drive economies – especially in a digital world. We have seen how good quality education and learning opportunities – which used to be the privilege of a small minority – need to be accessible for the many in order to boost prosperity and well-being.
And we know that policy can achieve a lot. Our host, Portugal, in four short decades has made substantive progress, raising its educational attainment and school performance. Today, Portuguese 15-year-olds exceed the OECD average in all three PISA domains (reading, math and science).
But such progress takes a concerted effort on the part of governments, stakeholders and societies at large. It also requires an approach that helps those who are well-placed to do even better while ensuring that those who stand to lose in a changing and digitalised world can obtain the necessary support.
As mentioned during our discussions today, designing a sound skills policy is becoming both more difficult and more necessary in the digital age.
The opportunities brought by digitalisation are many: people can connect more easily with each other, access information, products and services at lower prices, learn for free and in ways that suit their specific needs and style, become entrepreneurs and enjoy greater autonomy at work and higher rewards for their skills.
But there is also another picture: that of people who lose their jobs to automation or who fall behind at work because they cannot keep up with the latest technology. There are also insidious effects of technology when it is not used positively or wisely – which can result in a loss of privacy and vulnerability to fake news, and even compromise democratic processes.
The two-edged nature of digitalisation, at once both empowering and disempowering, calls for careful policy design.
In that context, let me highlight three insights I take from today’s rich discussions.
The difficult challenge of identifying the problems and addressing them through sound policy can be best met through international dialogue and evidence-based analysis, which the OECD is committed to pursue.
We promise to continuously update our evidence base on the policies that work to help people thrive in our rapidly changing world. This is what we are doing through our updated OECD Skills Strategy. This will be published in 2019, seven years after our original Skills Strategy, to take account of a world where globalisation and digitalisation are the main concerns, alongside environmental degradation and political instability.
Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me thank you again for your active participation, the frank exchanges and your ideas for collective action. As always, we stand ready to work with you to build better skills policies for better lives.