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.

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Society at a Glance 2016

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Society at a Glance 2016

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05 Oct 2016
9789264261532 (EPUB) ; 9789264261488 (PDF) ;9789264261464(print)

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This is the eighth 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, with 25 indicators in total. It includes data for the 35 OECD member countries and where available data for key partners (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa); other G20 countries (Argentina and Saudi Arabia) are also included. The report features a special chapter on the NEET challenge and what can be done for jobless and disengaged youth. It also provides a guide to help readers in understanding the structure of OECD social indicators. All indicators are available as a web book and an e-book on OECD iLibrary.

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  • Foreword

    This is the eighth 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 seven editions and introduces several new ones. Data on Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are included separately where available.

  • Acronyms and conventional signs
  • Executive summary

    Fifteen percent of the OECD youth population were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in 2015 – about 40 million young people. More than two-thirds of them were not actively looking for work. The total gross income that could have been generated by NEETs in 2014 is estimated to have been between USD 360-605 billion, or 0.9-1.5% of OECD-wide GDP. Job and income uncertainty can keep young people from reaching other traditional markers of adulthood, leaving them disenchanted and discouraged. It can also have serious long-term effects on health, fertility and crime, and eventually endanger social cohesion. Helping young people transition into further education or employment is therefore at the top of the policy agenda in the OECD as evidenced by the G20 target of reducing the number of youth who are low-skilled, NEET or working in the informal sector by 15% until 2025.

  • The NEET challenge: What can be done for jobless and disengaged youth?

    Young people today struggle in the labour market in spite of being the most highly educated generation in history. Unemployment is generally higher among young people than prime age adults, and those who do work tend to have poorer-quality jobs and are much more likely to be on temporary contracts or to earn low wages than older workers.

  • Interpreting OECD social indicators

    Society at a Glance 2016 aims to address the growing demand for quantitative evidence on the social situation, its trends, and its possible drivers across OECD countries. One objective is to assess and compare social outcomes that are currently the focus of policy debates. Another is to provide an overview of societal responses, and how effective policy actions have been in furthering social development. This edition of Society at a Glance discusses policy actions in response to the situation of youth Neither in Employment, Education, nor Training (NEET). Indicators on youth are therefore a particular focus.

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

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    • Household income

      Disposable household income provides an indication of the goods and services families can purchase on the market. It is thus an objective indication of material quality of life, and it is used to measure poverty and inequality.

    • 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

      Europe recorded in 2015 an unprecedented number of asylum seekers and refugees with up to 1.2 million asylum applications () ; an estimated 250 000 to 350 000 people could be granted refugee or similar status, more than in any previous European refugee crisis since World War II. As during previous refugee crises in the 1990s the impact is concentrated in a few countries. In the OECD, Turkey is the most affected, currently hosting as many as 1.9 million Syrians as well as a large number of people from Iraq. Within the European Union, Italy, Greece and Hungary are on the front line but the main destination countries are Germany, in absolute terms, and Sweden and Austria, relative to their population.

    • Family

      The living arrangements of youth are important for a variety of reasons. Moving out of the parental home is an important step on the way to adulthood as is cohabitation, marriage or having children. The living arrangements of youth can also influence their welfare and poverty rates – those living with their parents may have a lower risk of poverty as they can depend more on their parents financially and may face little or no costs for housing, food or other daily expenses.

    • Demographic trends

      Age-dependency ratios are a measure of the age structure of the population. They provide information about the demographic shifts that have characterised OECD countries in the past and that are expected in the future.

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

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    • Employment

      Employment is a key factor in self-sufficiency. On average, two out of three working-age adults in the OECD area are employed (.A). In Iceland and Switzerland, more than eight out of ten are employed, compared to about one out of two in Greece and Turkey.

    • Unemployment

      In addition to putting a strain on household and public finances, unemployment can have a demoralising effect on individuals and diminish their career prospects. This is especially true for young people at the beginning of their working lives.

    • Skills

      Skills play a central role in ensuring people find and keep employment. They are particularly important for young people as general education levels have increased in most OECD countries over the last few decades. Young people who lack basic literacy and numeracy skills will find it particularly difficult to make the transition from school to the workplace and may be left behind as countries skills demands continue to increase. displayed the large gaps in NEET rates between those with low and high literacy and numeracy skills. In today’s digital economy technological skills have also become much more important for a range of employment opportunities than was the case in the past. Skill levels are related more broadly to educational attainment. Those who leave school before completing upper secondary are twice as likely to have a low level of numeracy skills (OECD, 2015). Skill levels are not fully determined by educational attainment however, the quality of education systems is of importance in ensuring that students reach a minimum proficiency level. Skill levels can vary considerably among individuals with similar educational qualifications (OECD, 2013).

    • Education spending

      On average, OECD countries spent USD 10 000 per child per year from primary through tertiary education in 2012 (). Spending was highest in Luxembourg with just over USD 22 000 per child, followed by Switzerland, Norway and the United States. On the opposite end, spending was at around USD 3 500 in Mexico and Turkey. Spending was also relatively low (between USD 4 000 and 8 000) in several Eastern European countries.

    • Labour market entry

      Finding a stable job after leaving school or university can be a lengthy process involving bumps and false starts. Labour market entrants face a much greater risk of unemployment than young people who have been out of education for a while (). Their unemployment rate is more than twice as high as that of all youth out of education (33 vs. 16% across OECD countries). Young people who recently left education have particular difficulties finding work in countries where youth unemployment remains high in the aftermath of the crisis – in Italy and Greece, over 60% of labour market entrants are looking for work.

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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 social cohesion. Beyond its impact on social cohesion, growing inequality can also be harmful for long-term growth and harms opportunities. Often the policy concern is focussed more on the direction of change of inequality, rather than its level.

    • Poverty

      Income 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 often receive more attention than income inequality measures, with greater concerns for certain groups like older people and children, who 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 use a low-income criterion as the central entitlement condition. These guaranteed minimum-income benefits (GMI) provide financial support for low-income families 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 2016, public social spending average an estimated 21% of GDP across the 35 OECD countries (). Public social spending-to-GDP ratios are highest in France, at 32% of GDP, followed by Finland, at over 30% of GDP. Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, and Greece devote more than a quarter of their GDP to public social spending. At the other end of the spectrum are non-European countries such as Latvia, Turkey, Korea, Chile and Mexico which spend less than 15% of GDP on social support. Social spending in the emerging economies in the early 2010s was lower than the OECD average, ranging from around 2% of GDP in India to about 17% in Brazil.

    • 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

      Life expectancy at birth continues to increase steadily in OECD countries, going up on average by three to four months every year. These gains in longevity can be attributed to a number of factors, including improved lifestyle, better working conditions and education, as well as progress in health care.

    • Perceived health status

      In almost all OECD countries, a majority of the adult population reports their health as good or better than good (). Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are the four leading countries, with almost 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: they offer one more option on the positive side of the scale (excellent) and one less option on the negative side (very poor). This introduces an upward bias in the results. On the other hand, less than half of the adults in Japan, Korea and Portugal rate their health as good or very good. The proportion is also relatively low in Chile, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Poland, where less than 60% of adults consider themselves to be in good health. Such differences in self-assessed health status could in part stem from cultural biases.

    • Suicide

      Suicide is a significant cause of death in many OECD countries, and accounted for over 150 000 deaths in 2014, or 12 suicides per 100 000 people. 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 spending

      How much 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.

    • Tobacco and alcohol consumption

      Tobacco and alcohol are major risk factors for at least two of the leading causes of premature mortality – cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

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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 Switzerland and Denmark are most satisfied with their lives (). The measured level in these countries was 2.5 steps higher than in Greece or Portugal, the countries at the bottom of the 11-step ladder in 2014/15. Indeed life satisfaction deteriorated during the crisis, particularly in European Mediterranean countries. Countries which experienced the greatest deterioration in incomes and labour-market prospects are more likely to have low levels of subjective well-being.

    • Trust

      A cohesive society is one where citizens have confidence in others and public institutions. Trust may affect economic performance and policies can affect trust and well-being (Algan and Cahuc, 2013)

    • Voting

      Voter turnout rates vary substantially across the OECD. A high voter turnout is a sign that a country’s political system enjoys a strong degree of participation or that voting is mandatory. Voting-age turnout rates in parliamentary elections are above 80% in Australia, Belgium, Denmark and Turkey where voting is mandatory, as well as in Iceland, Korea and Sweden. They are below 50% in Switzerland (). Low turnout not only reflects limited participation by registered voters, but possibly also that many potential voters do not register. Among non-OECD countries, voter turnout is highest in Indonesia (83%) and lowest in Colombia (52%).

    • Crime and prisoners

      On average in 2013, 2 100 persons per 100 000 were brought into formal contact with the police and/or criminal justice system. Crime rates among total population declined slightly on average (by almost 3%) from 2008 to 2013 (). The declines were highest in Japan, Netherlands and the United States by more than 20%, while the increase was strongest in Luxembourg and Turkey. During the same period, crimes among juveniles declined even further, by almost 20% on average. The declines were highest in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands by more than 50%, while the increase was strongest in Turkey by almost 50%, and in Australia as well among youth.

    • Social networks

      Social networks consist of a group of individuals interacting with each other, be it in person or virtually. Social networks and connectedness have been shown to be important for a variety of outcomes. Loneliness has been shown to be more prevalent amongst those on the edge of social networks and has been shown to be detrimental to health and increase mortality rates, particularly for older people (Cacioppo et al., 2011).

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