OECD Regions at a Glance

1999-0057 (online)
1999-0049 (print)
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National growth tends to be driven by the dynamism of a small number of regions. OECD Regions at a Glance analyses and compares major territorial patterns and regional trends across OECD countries. It assesses the impact of regions on national growth. It identifies unused resources that can be mobilised to improve regional competitiveness. And it tackles more intangible factors that can make the difference: it shows how regions compete in terms of well-being (access to higher education, health services, safety etc.). Regions at a Glance presents over 30 indicators covering such variables as growth, employment, unemployment and crime in a reader-friendly format. Each indicator is illustrated by graphs and maps. A dynamic link (StatLink) is provided for each graph and map, which directs the user to a web page where the corresponding data are available in Excel®.

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OECD Regions at a Glance 2009

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23 Mar 2009
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Well over one-third of the total economic output of OECD countries was generated by just 10% of OECD regions in 2005. This means the performance of regional economies and the effectiveness of regional policy matter more than ever. OECD Regions at a Glance is the one-stop guide for understanding regional competitiveness and performance, providing comparative statistical information at the sub-national level, graphs and maps. It identifies new ways that regions can increase their capacity to exploit local factors, mobilise resources and link with other regions. Measuring such factors as education levels, employment opportunities and intensity of knowledge-based activities, this publication offers a statistical snapshot of how life is lived – and can be improved – from region to region in the OECD area.

This third edition provides the latest comparable data and trends across regions in OECD countries, including a special focus on the spatial dimension for innovation. It relies on the OECD Regional database, the most comprehensive set of statistics at the sub-national level on demography, economic and labour market performance, education, healthcare, environmental outputs and knowledge-based activities comparable among the OECD countries. This publication provides a dynamic link (StatLink) for each graph and map, which directs the user to a web page where the corresponding data are available in Excel®.

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  • Foreword
    With the right development policies, regional economies can boost national growth. Comparing and improving a region’s competitiveness in the global arena requires sound statistics and data, but such information is often limited and difficult to compare across countries. Regions at a Glance aims to respond to this need. It is a unique source of information for policy makers, researchers and citizens illustrating, with the use of graphs and maps drawn from the OECD Regional Database, trends and differences among OECD regions on demography, economics, employment, education, health care, environmental outputs and knowledge based activities.
  • Symbols and Abbreviations
  • Executive Summary
    International comparisons of economies and societies tend to be undertaken at the country level; statistics refer to gross national product, for example, while health and education levels tend similarly to be measured and debated in national terms. However, economic performance and social indicators can vary within countries every bit as much as they do between countries – think of the contrast between the north and the south of Italy, the dynamism of Silicon Valley and the stagnation of the "Rust Belt" in the United States, or highly urbanised London and the rural Shetland Islands. Understanding the differences and similarities in regional economic structures is essential for designing effective strategies which improve regional competitiveness and in turn increase national growth. 
  • Defining and Describing Regions
    In any analytical study conducted at sub-national levels, defining the territorial unit is of prime importance as the word region can mean very different things both within and among countries. 
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Focus on regional innovation

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    • Research and Development Expenditures
      Expenditures in research and development (R&D) are a common proxy for interpreting a region’s attitude toward innovation activities. They are defined as the R&D-related expenditures performed by actors within a region. According to the Frascati Manual, 2002, R&D is defined as a "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications". In 2005, R&D intensity (R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP) was on average, about 2.3% in OECD countries. The intensity of expenditures in R&D varies significantly among OECD countries. Sweden is the country spending the most followed by Finland, Japan and Korea. Mexico, the Slovak Republic, Poland, and Turkey had the lowest R&D intensity. Finland and Iceland are the countries that between 1995 and 2005 increased the most their R&D intensity (over 60%)
    • Personnel Employed in Research and Development Activities
      Research and development (R&D) personnel include all persons employed directly in R&D activities, such as technicians and support staff in addition to researchers. The number of R&D personnel in OECD regions is directly linked to their R&D expenditure effort. The percentage of R&D personnel as a percentage of total employment varies significantly among OECD countries (Figure 2.1). In 2005 Finland and Sweden were the countries with the highest number of people employed in R&D occupations, respectively 32 and 28 people per thousand employed. On the other hand Mexico had only 2 people employed in R&D per thousand employed while Turkey, had 4. Portugal and Poland also showed levels below 10.
    • Regional Concentration of Patents
      Patent applications give an indication on the output and process of inventive activities. The analysis of regional patenting helps assess the concentration of innovative activities within countries and can indicate innovative regions that act as important sources of knowledge. The data refer to Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) applications, regionalised according to the inventor’s residence.
    • Regional patent co-operation
      The percentage of PCT patent applications with co-inventors living in another region, whether or not they are from the same country, is an indicator of co-operation activity and knowledge sharing among regions.
    • Student Enrolment in Tertiary Education
      The number of students enrolled in tertiary education is an indicator of a region’s future potential for its skilled labour force. A highly educated labour force is a major factor in determining regional competitiveness in the knowledge based economy. Universities in a region are also important assets in developing an integrated regional innovation system. 
    • Advanced Educational Qualifications
      The ability to generate and make use of innovation depends, among other factors, on the skill level of the labour force working in the region. The proportion of the labour force with advanced educational qualifications is a common proxy for a region’s capacity to absorb and produce innovation. Advanced educational qualifications include university level education, from courses of short and medium duration, to advanced research qualifications. 
    • Employment in Knowledge-Oriented Sectors
      Knowledge-oriented sectors receive a great deal of attention due to the association with innovative products, new production processes and their impact on productivity, international competitiveness, creation of well-paying jobs and overall economic growth. Individuals employed in knowledge-oriented sectors are often in R&D, increasing scientific knowledge and using it to develop products and production processes; others apply technology in other activities, including the design of equipment, processes, and structures; computer applications; sales, purchasing, and marketing; quality management; and the management of these activities. All these activities are classified into two groups: high-tech manufacturing (HTM) and knowledge-intensive services (KIS).
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Regions as actors of national growth

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    • Distribution of Population and Regional Typology
      Population is unevenly distributed among regions within and across countries. Regional population density in OECD countries varies from close to zero in some regions in Canada and Iceland to over 20 000 persons per km2 in Paris (France).
    • Geographic Concentration of Population

      In 2005, 10% of regions accounted for approximately 40% of the total population in OECD countries (Figure 9.1).

      The geographic distribution of population is explained by differences in climatic and environmental conditions which discourages human settlement in some areas and favours population concentration around a few urban centres. This pattern is reinforced by the increased availability of economic opportunities and wider availability of services stemming from urbanization itself.

    • Regional Contribution to Growth in National GDP
      Economic performance varies significantly among OECD regions. In fact, the difference in gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates within countries over the period 1995-2005 is almost three times larger (17 percentage points) than the difference across OECD countries (6 percentage points).
    • Regional contributions to change in employment
      Differences in employment growth within countries are larger than across countries. During the period 1999-2006, international differences in annual employment growth rates across countries were as large as 4.4 percentage points, ranging from –0.2% in Poland to 4.2% in Spain (Figure 11.1).
    • Geographic concentration of the elderly population
      The elderly population (those aged 65 years and over) in OECD countries increased almost three times faster than total population between 1995 and 2005. In 2005, the elderly population was equal to 14% of the total population. 
    • Geographic concentration of GDP
      Economic activity is unevenly distributed among regions within OECD countries. In 2005, 10% of OECD regions generated 38% of the total gross domestic product (GDP). In Turkey, Greece and Portugal the 10% of regions with the highest output contributed half or more of the national GDP. On the other hand, GDP in Belgium, the Slovak Republic, Denmark and the Netherlands was more evenly distributed among regions, with the regions with the highest output (regions in the top 10%) accounted for no more than a quarter of total GDP (Figure 13.1). 
    • Geographic concentration of industries
      Industries are unevenly distributed across OECD countries and among regions in the same country. Comparable regional data on industry size, i.e. on the total employment of a certain industry, for the total economy are available only for six broad sectors (see definition in the box). Therefore only a general picture of the regional employment by industry can be drawn from this information.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Making the most of regional assets

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    • Regional disparities in GDP per capita
      GDP per capita varies greatly among OECD countries. In 2005 the GDP per capita in Luxemburg was more than six times higher than the one in Mexico (Figure 15.1).
    • Regional disparities in labour productivity
      In 2005 labour productivity, measured by GDP per person employed, was USD 59 000 on average in OECD countries, ranging from less than USD 21 000 in Turkey and Mexico to four times higher in the United States (Figure 16.1). Productivity growth in the years 1995-2005 was the highest in Poland, the Slovak Republic, Ireland, Hungary and Korea, at more than two times the OECD average. At the other extreme, GDP per worker was negative in Mexico, Italy and Spain (Figure 16.1).
    • Regional disparities in specialisation
      Regional specialisation varies considerably among OECD countries. Specialisation is measured as the ratio between an industry’s weight in a region and its weight in the country overall. A region is specialised in an industry when the index is above 1 and it is not specialised when the index is below 1. Comparable regional data on employment by industry for 25 OECD countries on a detailed sector classification are available only for the real economy and market services (i.e. the financial sector and industries dominated by non market production such as public administration, education, health and defence are excluded).
    • Regional disparities in unemployment rates
      Unemployment rates vary significantly within countries. In 2006, regional differences in unemployment rates within OECD countries were almost two times higher (19 percentage points) than differences among countries (11 percentage points). 
    • Regional disparities in participation rates
      In 2006 the labour force participation rate, that is to say the ratio between labour force and the working age population, was equal to 70.6% in OECD countries. Turkey and Iceland recorded, respectively, the lowest and highest values 51% and 88%. Spain and Ireland were the countries where the labour force participation rate grew the most between 1999 and 2006, thanks to a marked increase in the employment and, in Spain, also to a strong reduction in unemployment (Figure 19.1).
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Key drivers of regional growth

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    • Overall regional performance
      Regional performance is a result of both national and common factors (e.g. national policies and the business cycle) and regional factors (e.g. demographic trends and regional policies). If all regions in a country grow faster than the regions in other OECD countries, this faster growth can be ascribed to that country’s good performances (national factors) or to factors influencing the performance of all regions within that country (a common factor such as the business cycle). On the other hand, if a region exhibits faster growth than all other OECD regions, including those in the same country, that growth can be ascribed to the region’s good performance (regional factors). In sum, overall movements in a region’s share of GDP are ascribed to regional and national factors. 
    • Regional factors and performance
      Although national (and common) factors can influence the performance of regions, the extent that a region exhibits faster growth than all other OECD regions, including those in the same country, can be ascribed to regional factors. 
    • Regional factors: Population and GDP per capita
      A region’s change in its OECD GDP share can be decomposed into national factors (i.e. changes in the national GDP share), population growth or changes in GDP per capita. Changes in population are due to natural demographic trends and migrants from other regions and countries. Growth in GDP per capita may be further decomposed into changes in GDP per worker (labour productivity), in employment rates (employment to labour force), participation rates (labour force to working age population) or in age activity rates (working age to total population) (see Annex C for formula).
    • Regional factors: Labour productivity
      At the regional level, labour productivity is measured by GDP per worker capturing the efficiency of the regional production system. Although many factors influence a region’s level of efficiency, labour productivity mainly depends on the balance between capital and labour (i.e. capital to labour ratios) and on the available technology (i.e. multifactor productivity) in a given region.
    • Regional factors: Employment, participation and ageing
      Employment rates, participation rates and age activity rates influence regional performance. High growth in employment rates may be due to higher skill levels or to greater efficiency of the local labour market. Both can be regarded as resulting from regional assets: skills can be upgraded through training and education, and changes in employment regulations and active labour market programs can increase the regional labour market efficiency. 
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Competing on the basis of regional well-being

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    • Health: Age-adjusted mortality rate
      The health status of populations is measured by mortality rates, which are age-adjusted to eliminate differences in mortality rates due to different population structures. A value of the age-adjusted mortality rate higher than the OECD average, therefore, indicates that after taking into account the differences in age, that country’s mortality rate is higher than the OECD average.
    • Health resources: Number of physicians
      The delivery of safe, high-quality medical services requires among other things an adequate number of physicians. OECD countries display very different levels in the number of physicians. In 2005, the density of physicians in Turkey (1.5 per 1 000 inhabitants) was half the OECD average, while Greece had 5 practising physicians per 1 000 inhabitants (Figure 26.1). 
    • Safety: Reported crimes against property
      Safety is an important component of a region’s attractiveness. Statistics on reported crime are usually affected by how crime is defined in the national legislation and by the statistical criteria used in recording offences. The lack of international standards for crime statistics makes international comparisons difficult. In addition, the public propensity to record offences varies greatly, not only among countries, but among regions in the same countries. 
    • Safety: Reported murders
      The number of murders per inhabitant is an indicator of a region’s safety level. Unlike other safety indicators, such as reported property crime, the number of reported murders is not affected by the public propensity to report an offence. It is therefore more suitable for international comparisons.
    • Environment: Municipal waste
      Waste management has potential impacts on human health and ecosystems. There are also concerns about the treatment and disposal capacity of existing facilities, and on the location and social acceptance of new facilities. The economic, environmental and social impact of waste is relevant in regions also because waste disposal is usually managed at the local level. Many OECD member countries have strengthened measures for waste minimisation, recycling, product life cycle management and extended producer responsibility. 
    • Environment: Private vehicle ownership
      Transport activity generates pressures on the environment through air pollution and consumption of natural resources such as land and energy. In urban areas, motor vehicles are the main contributors to groundlevel ozone, a major component of smog. The number of private vehicles per capita is the indicator most commonly used to set policy targets for integrating environmental objectives with transportation policies.
    • Voter turnout in national elections
      Voter turnout is an indication of the degree of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. 
    • Access to education
      In 2006, half of the labour force in OECD countries had an upper secondary education. In the knowledge based economy, the demand for skills is increasing and a high school diploma has become the minimum level to fully participate in the job market and a prerequisite for higher education. Nevertheless, almost one-fourth of the OECD labour force in 2006 had received only a basic education (lower than upper secondary school). This is a result of different patterns among countries. In 2006 Portugal was the country with the highest proportion of people with only basic education attainment (around 70%), while in the Czech Republic this proportion was below 10% (Figure 32.1).
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