Society at a Glance

1999-1290 (online)
1995-3984 (print)
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The OECD biennial report providing internationally comparable data on demography and family characteristics, employment and wealth, mobility and housing, health status, social expenditure, subjective well-being, social cohesion, and other social measures. Included are such interesting variables as suicides, child care costs, prisoners, gender wage gaps, poverty and mothers in employment.

Also available in French, German
Society at a Glance 2014

Society at a Glance 2014

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18 Mar 2014
9789264219977 (EPUB) ; 9789264206656 (PDF) ;9789264200722(print)

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The seventh edition of Society at a Glance, the biennial OECD overview of social indicators, this report addresses the growing demand for quantitative evidence on social well-being and its trends. It updates some indicators included in the previous editions published since 2001 and introduces several new ones; in total: 25 indicators. It includes data for the 34 OECD Member countries and where available data for key partners (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa) and for other G20 countries (Argentina and Saudi Arabia). This report features a special chapter on the social impact of the recent crisis (Chapter 1) and provides a guide to help readers understand the structure of OECD social indicators (Chapter 2). All indicators are available as a web book and e-book on OECD iLibrary, as is the related database.

Also available in French, Korean
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  • Foreword

    This is the seventh edition of Society at a Glance, the OECD’s biennial overview of social indicators. As with its predecessors, this report addresses the growing demand for quantitative evidence on social well-being and its trends across OECD countries. It updates some indicators included in the previous six editions and introduces several new ones. Data for the other economies that are members of the G20 are included separately where available.

  • Acronyms and conventional signs
  • Editorial

    The year 2014 is starting, with the perspective of a more widespread and sustainable recovery from the Great Recession. True, risks remain, and the pace of progress still varies widely: in the Eurozone, for instance, a number of economies remain in a fragile state. Nevertheless, the prospects for both the world economy and the OECD area look brighter than they have for some time.

  • Executive summary

    More than five years on from the financial crisis, high rates of joblessness and income losses are worsening social conditions in many OECD countries. The capacity of governments to meet these challenges is constrained by fiscal consolidation. However, cuts in social spending risk adding to the hardship of the most vulnerable groups and could create problems for the future. OECD countries can effectively meet these challenges only with policies that are well designed and backed by adequate resources. Having been spared the worst impacts of the crisis, major emerging economies face different challenges. However, the experience of OECD countries is relevant for emerging economies as they continue to build and crisis-proof their social protection systems.

  • The crisis and its aftermath: A stress test for societies and for social policies

    The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

  • Interpreting OECD social indicators

    The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts General context indicators

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    • Household income

      In 2010 half of the people in Mexico had incomes of less than USD 4 500. Half of the people in Luxembourg had incomes about eight times higher (, Panel A). Countries with low household income included countries in Southern Europe, Turkey and much of Eastern Europe, as well as two Latin American countries – Chile and Mexico. Those with higher household incomes included Norway and Switzerland.

    • Fertility

      The total fertility rate indicates the number of children an average woman would have if she were to experience the exact age-specific fertility throughout her life. Allowing for some mortality during infancy and childhood, the population is replaced at a total fertility rate of a little over two.

    • Migration

      The migrant population represents a growing share of the total population. The share of foreign-born within the population increased in all OECD countries between 2001-11, with the exception of Estonia, Israel and Poland (, Panel A).

    • Family

      The number of adults in a household illustrates additional information about household composition and how people live together, while indicators on marriage and divorce reflect on adult partnership status.

    • Old age support rate

      The old age support rate is the ratio of the population who are economically active to older people who are more likely to be economically inactive. It thus provides an indicator of the number of active people who, potentially, are economically supporting inactive people. It also gives a broad indication of the age structure of the population. Changes in the old age support rate depend on past and present mortality, fertility rates and, to a much lesser degree, on net migration.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Self-sufficiency indicators

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    • Employment

      Access to paid work is crucial for people’s ability to support themselves. On average, two out of three working age adults in the OECD area are employed (, Panel A). In Iceland and Switzerland about eight out of ten are employed, compared to about one out of two in Greece and Turkey. Gender differences in employment rates are small in the Nordic countries, but such differences tend to be largest in Chile, Korea, Mexico and Turkey.

    • Unemployment

      Record high unemployment rates in a number of countries have put stress on the benefit systems (see Recipients of out-of-work benefits indicator). Unemployment, and particularly long-term unemployment, may also harm career chances in the future, reduce life satisfaction and increase social costs. Establishment in the labour market for youth has become more difficult, while older unemployed often have problems re-entering the workforce.

    • Youth neither in employment, education nor training (NEETs)

      Participation in employment, education or training is important for youth to become established in the labour market and achieve self-sufficiency. Record high unemployment rates in a number of countries have hit youth especially hard. In addition, inactivity rates of youth are substantial in many countries, meaning that they are neither employed, nor registered as unemployed, in education or in training.

    • Expected years in retirement

      The duration of expected years in retirement illustrates the length of the expected remaining life expectancy from the time of average labour market exit. The indicator demonstrates how pension systems interact with labour market exit as well as the financial pressures on the pension system in the context of an ageing population. Men typically can expect to spend fewer years in retirement than women (). The most recent calculations of expected years in retirement exceeded 25 years for women in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg (, Panel A). The period exceeded 20 years for men in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain (, Panel B). The number of expected years in retirement was notably low for women – under 20 years – in Chile, Iceland, Korea, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey, and for men – less than 15 years – in Estonia, Korea, Mexico and Portugal.

    • Education spending

      On average, OECD countries spent USD 9 300 per child per year from primary through tertiary education in 2010 (, Panel A). Spending was highest in the United States with just over USD 15 000 per child, followed closely by Switzerland. On the opposite end, spending was USD 5 000 or less in Chile and Mexico. Spending was also relatively low (around USD 6 000) in several Eastern European countries.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Equity indicators

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    • Income inequality

      Income inequality is an indicator of how material resources are distributed across society.Some people consider that high levels of income inequality are morally undesirable. Others regard income inequality as harmful for instrumental reasons – seeing it as causing conflict, limiting co-operation or creating psychological and physical health stresses (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009). Often the policy concern is focussed more on the direction of change of inequality, rather than its level.

    • Poverty

      Poverty rates measure the share of people at the bottom end of the income distribution.Often a society’s equity concerns are greater for the relatively disadvantaged. Thus poverty measures generally receive more attention than income inequality measures, with greater concerns for certain groups like older people and children, since they have no or limited options for working their way out of poverty.

    • Living on benefits

      Most OECD countries operate transfer programmes that aim at preventing extreme hardship and employ a low-income criterion as the central entitlement condition. These guaranteed minimum-income benefits (GMI) provide financial support for low-income families and aim to ensure an acceptable standard of living. As such, they play a crucial role as last-resort safety nets, especially during prolonged economic downturns when long-term unemployment rises and increasing numbers of people exhaust their entitlements for unemployment benefits.

    • Social spending

      In 2012-13, public social spending averaged an estimated 21.9% of GDP across the 34 OECD countries (, Panel A). In general, public spending is high in continental and northern European countries, while it is below the OECD average in most countries in Eastern Europe and outside Europe. Belgium, Denmark, Finland and France spent more than 30% of GDP on social expenditures. By contrast, Korea and Mexico spent less than 10% of GDP. Social spending in the emerging economies in the late 2000s was lower than the OECD average, ranging from around 2% in Indonesia to about 15-16% in Brazil and the Russian Federation (, Panel A).

    • Recipients of out-of-work benefits

      Cash transfers for working-age people provide a major income safety net in periods of high unemployment. In most countries two different layers of support can be distinguished: a primary out-of-work benefit (generally unemployment insurance benefits); and a secondary benefit (unemployment assistance or minimum-income benefits such as social assistance) for those who are not or no longer entitled to insurance benefits.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Health indicators

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    • Life expectancy

      For the first time in history, in 2011, life expectancy at birth on average across OECD countries exceeded 80 years, an increase of ten years since 1970 (). Italy, Japan and Switzerland lead a large group of over two-thirds of OECD countries in which life expectancy at birth now exceeds 80 years. A second group, including Chile, the United States, and a number of Central and Eastern European countries, have a life expectancy between 75 and 80 years. Among OECD countries, life expectancy was lowest in Mexico and Turkey. While life expectancy in Turkey has increased rapidly and steadily over the past four decades, the increase in Mexico has slowed down markedly since 2000.

    • Perceived health status

      In almost all OECD countries, a majority of the adult population reports their health as good or better (, Panel A). Canada, New Zealand and the United States are the three leading countries, with about nine out of ten people reporting to be in good health. However, the response categories offered to survey respondents in these three countries are different from those used in European countries and Asian OECD countries, which introduce an upward bias in the results.

    • Suicide

      Suicide is a significant cause of death in many OECD countries, and accounted for over 150 000 deaths in 2011. There are a complex set of reasons why some people choose to attempt or commit suicide, with multiple risk-factors that can predispose a person to attempt to take their own life.

    • Health expenditure

      How much OECD countries spend on health and the rate at which such expenditure grows from one year to the next reflects a wide array of market and social factors, as well as countries’ diverse financing and organisational structures of their health systems.

    • Coverage for health care

      Most OECD countries have achieved near-universal coverage of health care costs for a core set of services, which usually include consultations with doctors and specialists, tests and examinations, and surgical and therapeutic procedures (). Two OECD countries do not have universal health coverage. In Mexico, the Seguro Popular voluntary health insurance scheme was introduced in 2004 to provide coverage for the poor and uninsured, and grew so rapidly that by 2011, nearly 90% of the population was covered. In the United States, coverage is provided mainly through private health insurance, and 53% of the population had this for their basic coverage in 2011. Publicly financed coverage insured 32% of the population (the elderly, people with low income or with disabilities), leaving 15% of the population without health coverage.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Social cohesion indicators

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    • Life satisfaction

      Life satisfaction is determined not only by economic development, but also by people’s diverse experiences and living conditions. People in Norway and Switzerland are most satisfied with their lives (, Panel A). The measured level in these countries was 3 steps higher than in Hungary, the country at the bottom of the 11-step ladder in 2012.

    • Tolerance

      The degree of community acceptance of minority groups is a measurable dimension of social cohesion. Acceptance of three such groups is considered here: migrants, ethnic minorities and gay and lesbian people. The level of tolerance is based on people’s assessment of the city or area where they live as a good place to live for these minority groups.

    • Confidence in institutions

      A cohesive society is one where citizens have confidence in national-level institutions and believe that social and economic institutions are not prey to corruption. Confidence and corruption issues are dimensions which are strongly related to societal trust.

    • Safety and crime

      Safety and crime rates in the society reflect to what extent people feel that their freedom of movement and their property are protected. A high level of personal safety can promote openness, social contact and cohesion.

    • Helping others

      Donations to charities, voluntary work or help to strangers as ways of showing solidarity with other people are most common in Anglophone countries. In general, the six Anglophone OECD countries rank highest when it comes to donations of money to a charity (, Panel A). Only Iceland and the Netherlands are at the same level.

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