Introductory remarks by Angel Gurría
27 November 2019 - OECD, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Marie-Gabrielle, Distinguished guests from the civil society, Dear Ambassadors and GSG delegates, Dear colleagues,
I am delighted to welcome you today to our second annual session with civil society in the context of the OECD Global Strategy Group Meeting (GSG). I would like to thank Ms. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, our Chair of the GSG, for her continued support to our engagement with civil society representatives. I would also like to thank all of the civil society representatives for participating in this roundtable.
This year’s GSG meeting is a great opportunity to discuss the broad challenges of demographic ageing and the tools that policymakers can use to tackle them. This morning roundtable will focus on social issues. We count on your insights to enrich this discussion and make sure that the voice of civil society is taken into account.
Dear friends, our countries are aging. On average in OECD countries, the expected longevity for people aged 65 has increased by 5 years since 1970, and it is projected to increase by an additional 4 years by 2060. People are living longer and healthier lives and this is good news.
This aging process, in turn, brings a number of challenges and uncertainties in several policy areas. Let me briefly highlight some of them which we will have the opportunity to discuss further during this roundtable:
First, the labour market. Unless work and retirement patterns adapt, the number of inactive older persons per 100 workers could rise from 42 in 2018 to more than 58 in 2050 in OECD countries . We need to encourage longer working lives by reforming pension systems, making it easier for people to work longer, and by encouraging employers to hire and retain older workers.
Second, the healthcare system. Longevity gains will also result in increased health expenditures as the proportion of people requiring more long-term care escalates. Countries need to promote healthy ageing by creating an environment that helps prevent poor health among older persons, encourages active engagement in communities, and supports older people when they need care.
Third, inequalities. Old-age poverty remains a major concern: the poverty risk is higher for people over 75 years old than for any other age group across the OECD, and particularly acute for women. We need policies that integrate a life course perspective to tackle inequalities in employment, health, education and skills before they turn into exacerbated inequalities at old age. If no action is taken to tackle these gaps among today’s youth, inequality and poverty risk in old age are likely to increase in the future.
Civil society organisations have a key role to play in tackling these challenges. They have the power to amplify voices of both the young and elderly, promote intergenerational dialogue and support them in claiming their rights. And most importantly, they have the “feeling”; they have the experience on the ground; they have a knowledge and perspective that is indispensable for policy-making.
Civil society plays a key role in helping governments deliver services for the elderly and in holding governments accountable to their commitments. The inclusion of civil society actors in the definition and implementation of public policies is enshrined in the 2017 OECD Recommendation on Open Government, which all OECD members have adopted.
The OECD is motivated and committed to be further strengthening our engagement with civil society organisations. In fact, the OECD Council Resolution on relations with civil society dates from 1962, one year after our establishment. Formally, BIAC and TUAC are our two main entities with which we interact regularly, but we have seen over time a growing engagement of our committees with Civil Society Organisations. Many of our Directorates organize regular consultations with civil society regarding the development or review of OECD work.
Earlier this month, we launched our Observatory of Civic Space, to monitor countries’ efforts to promote and protect a policy, legal and institutional environment in which civil society actors are free to speak, meet, organise and participate in public life. In 2018, we also developed a structure for greater dialogue between the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and civil society organisations.
Last but not least, our annual OECD Forum is also an important multi-stakeholder gathering with actors of civil society joining government ministers and leaders of international organisations to discuss key issues on the global agenda.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A few weeks ago, the OECD Secretariat had the opportunity to hold a preliminary consultation with the civil society representatives at this table. We heard you clearly: ageing societies are not about the young versus the old; they are about the quality of a person’s lifespan. Population ageing is drastically transforming our day-to-day lives and societies. We must listen to the voices of the people who will be at the centre of this transformation.
I would like to thank our Public Affairs and Communications Directorate for their help in organising this important event. Once again, thank you all for taking part in this important exercise, I look forward to hearing each of your thoughts on how best we can address the challenges of our ageing societies.