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 2013

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05 Dec 2013
9789264121720 (PDF) ;9789264204317(print)

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This fifth edition of OECD Regions at a Glance shows how regions and cities contribute to national growth and the well-being of societies.It updates its regular set of region-by-region indicators, examining a wide range of policies and trends and identifying those regions that are outperforming or lagging behind in their country. The report covers all 34 OECD member countries, and, where data are available, Brazil, China,Colombia, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa.

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  • Foreword

    This publication provides evidence on how regions and cities contribute to the national growth and well-being of societies. It does so by providing region-by-region indicators on a wide range of policy fields to examine trends, highlighting the persistence of regional disparities, identifying areas that either are outperforming or lagging behind in their country, and offering indications as to how a region’s contribution to aggregate development could be increased.

  • Editorial: Local lessons from a global crisis

    The economic crisis has been both deep and wide. More than five years since the implosion of the global financial system, the economic recovery remains fragile and the effects of the crisis continue to be felt across virtually all OECD countries, especially when it comes to employment, and in particular, the increasingly high levels of youth unemployment.

  • Executive summary

    Regions are at the forefront of governments’ efforts to boost growth, improve well-being and tackle inequalities, but the economic crisis has increased the gap in GDP per capita between leading and lagging regions in half of the OECD countries. The largest increase in the gap between the best 10% performing regions and the bottom 10% of regions, more than 8 percentage points, occurred in Denmark, Ireland and Slovak Republic. Where regional disparities were reduced, this was due to the decline of the richest regions rather than a catching up of the poorest regions, except for China and India. In three-quarters of the countries studied, the GDP per capita in the best 10% performing regions decreased between 2008 and 2010, with the highest decrease (12%) observed in Canada and Estonia.

  • Reader's guide

    Regions at a Glance 2013 addresses two questions:

  • Measuring regional economies in OECD countries

    Traditionally, regional policy analysis has used data collected for administrative regions, that is, the regional boundaries as organised by governments. Such data can provide sound evidence on the contribution of regions to national performance as well as on the persistence of disparities within a country. They show, for example, that during the past 15 years, more than 30% of growth in GDP, employment and population within the OECD is attributable to a small number of regions.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Special focus on metropolitan areas

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    • Urban population in OECD countries

      The world is urbanising with 70% of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas by 2050 (UN, 2009). Today, two-thirds of the OECD population live in urban areas, according to the OECD-EC definition.

    • Urbanisation and urban forms

      The 275 metropolitan areas in OECD countries accounted for 48% of OECD population, 56% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) and 49% of employment in 2010. The concentration of population and GDP ranges from 70% in Japan to less than 30% in the Slovak Republic ().

    • Economic competitiveness of metropolitan areas

      The 275 OECD metropolitan areas (with populations of at least 500 000) contributed on average to over half of the total OECD growth over the period 2000-10.

    • Labour productivity and employment in metropolitan areas

      Metropolitan areas drive national employment creation in many countries. On average, half of overall employment creation in 22 OECD countries between 2000 and 2012 was accounted for by 232 metropolitan areas. The metropolitan contribution to national employment growth was parti-cularly high in Korea and Canada (more than 70%), while metropolitan areas in the Slovak Republic and Italy contributed to less than 35% of national employment growth ().

    • Impact of the crisis on unemployment in metropolitan areas

      In many countries, the difficult labour market conditions resulting from the economic crisis have been persistent also in metropolitan areas. The unemployment rate in metropolitan areas rose more in the period 2008-2012 than it did in the previous 8 years in 26 of the 28 OECD countries (). In Athens and Thessaloniki (the two metropolitan areas of Greece), the unemployment rate increased on average 5 percentage points annually between 2008 and 2012, reaching 25% of unemployed in 2012 ().

    • Patent activity in metropolitan areas

      Innovation is highly concentrated in a few countries, and metropolitan areas are usually the places where most innovation activities take place. Agglomeration forces determine an environment with a large proportion of specialised workers, firms and capital, where ideas are easily exchanged and can lead to the creation of new goods and production processes. In 2008, 65% of all patent applications of the 16 OECD countries where data are available were granted in metropolitan areas (). The concentration of patents in metropolitan areas is high in top patenting countries such as Japan and the United States but also in France, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark. On the other side, Finland, Norway and Italy displayed a lower share of patents granted by metropolitan areas, signalling innovation activities outside the capital areas of Helsinki (e.g. in Pirkanmaa and Pohjois-Pohjanmaa) and Oslo (e.g. in Rogaland, Hodaland and Sor-Trondelag) as well in medium-sized cities in northeast Italy.

    • Environmental sustainability in metropolitan areas

      Green areas such as parks and natural vegetation contribute to reducing pollution, improving the health and quality of life of residents, and making metropolitan areas more attractive to residents and tourists.

    • Administrative organisation of metropolitan areas

      Metropolitan areas are continuously changing their spatial organisation, reflecting the evolution of economy and society. These changes affect the quality of life, the demand for transport infrastructure, and the global environmental footprint of urbanisation, among other factors. Regional, metropolitan and local governments’ decisions depend critically on the physical structure of the city. On average, 80% of the OECD urban population lives in the cores of metropolitan areas and only 20% in the hinterlands, but in a few European countries the share of population in urban cores is below 50% (). While most of the metropolitan areas have grown with contiguous urban cores, 30 metropolitan areas show a polycentric structure with more than one urban core.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Regions as drivers of national competitiveness

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    • Distribution of population and regional typology

      The geographic distribution of population is explained by differences in climatic and environmental conditions that discourage human settlement in some areas and favour 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 urbanisation itself.

    • Regional contribution to population change

      During the past 20 years, the population in OECD countries grew on average 0.6% per year, reaching 1.2 billion in 2012. According to the OECD classification of small regions (TL3), regional population ranges from about 450 inhabitants in Balance ACT (Australia) to more than 23 million in the region of New York-Newark-Bridgeport (United States).

    • Regional contribution to national GDP growth

      Local factors matter in achieving sustained national growth. In fact, 10% of OECD regions were responsible for 38% of OECD gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010. In Greece, the 10% of regions with the highest output contributed half or more of the national GDP. On the other hand, GDP in Denmark, Belgium, the Slovak Republic and the Netherlands was more evenly distributed among regions, with the 10% of regions with the highest output accounting for no more than 25% of total GDP. Similarly, in Colombia, the Russian Federation and Brazil, the contribution to national GDP was regionally very concentrated ().

    • Regional contribution to change in employment

      During 1999-2012, differences in annual employment growth rates across OECD countries were as large as 3.5 percentage points, ranging from -0.5% in Greece to 3% in Chile ().

    • Impact of the crisis on regional economic performance

      The economic crisis has increased the gap in GDP per capita between leading and lagging regions in half of the OECD countries (). The highest increase in the gap between the best 10% performing regions and the bottom 10% regions, more than 8 percentage points, occurred in Ireland, Slovak Republic and Denmark. However, two patterns are observed. In Ireland, the increase of regional inequalities was due to a faster worsening of the poorest regions compared to richest ones. In the Slovak Republic and Denmark, both the poorest regions got worse off and the richest regions got better ().

    • Labour productivity and GDP per capita growth in regions

      Labour productivity growth is considered a key indicator to assess regional competitiveness and an essential driver of change in living standards. Regional living conditions are raised by continued gains in labour productivity, along with an increase in labour utilisation. In fact, only economies that manage to simultaneously sustain employment and productivity growth will increase their gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and maintain it in the long run.

    • Regional specialisation and productivity growth across sectors

      While deeply rooted in local history, geography, institutions and social capital, the production structure of regions keeps evolving over time as a result of both macroeconomic changes and economic policies at the national or subnational level.

    • Regional economic disparities

      Regional differences in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita within countries are often larger than among OECD countries. According to the Gini index, the emerging economies – Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Colombia and Brazil – displayed the greatest disparity in GDP per capita in 2010, with Chile, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Turkey among the OECD countries ().

    • Regional disparities in tertiary education

      The quality of human capital is central to increasing productivity, as the ability to generate and make use of innovation depends, among other factors, on the skill level of the labour force. The proportion of the labour force with tertiary education is a common proxy for a region’s capa-city to produce and absorb innovation.

    • Research and development expenditures in regions

      Expenditures and personnel employed in research and development (R&D) are common proxies to measure a region’s investment in innovation.

    • Patents in regions and by sectors

      Patent application is an indicator of inventive activity and the analysis of regional patenting helps assess the spatial distribution of innovation. Patents are one of the mechanisms used to appropriate the results of investments in intangibles. They are a good proxy of innovation efforts; however, patenting activity is strongly associated with sectoral patterns, since some economic sectors (i.e. pharmaceuticals and electronics) tend to show higher patenting trends due to the type of innovative activity than other sectors (i.e. textiles or other low-tech sectors).

    • Regional patterns of co-patenting

      The percentage of regional patent applications with co‑inventors from another region, whether or not they belong to the same country, is an indicator of co-operation activity in innovation between the two regions.

    • Impact of scientific publications in regions

      Scientific publications and the analysis of citations across regions are commonly used as indicators of the progress of science in countries and possible collaborations among researchers in different regions. Worldwide scientific publications are concentrated in a few countries. The top five countries, United States, China, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, account for almost 60% of the publications in 2010. When considering the number of publications per capita, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries rank among the highest ones (). Scientific publications show high regional disparities, with in general, one or two regions leading the production as is the case for the regions of Inner London West (United Kingdom) and Basel-Stadt (Switzerland) ().

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Subnational finance and investment for regional development

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    • Subnational finance

      Subnational governments (SNG) represent a large share of public spending in most OECD countries. In 2012, SNG expenditure accounted for 17% of GDP and 40% of public spending in the OECD area.

    • Subnational public investment

      Subnational governments (SNG) have a key role in public investment: SNG direct public investment represented 2% of GDP in the OECD area in 2012 (the direct public investment by all levels of government was around 2.7% of OECD GDP). This share is above 3% in Canada and Korea and less than 1% of GDP in Greece, Austria, Portugal, Iceland and the Slovak Republic ().

    • Subnational public debt

      The financial and economic crisis led to a strong deterioration in both general government deficits and debt in most OECD countries. Falling revenues (due to the decline in economic activity and tax reductions designed to stimulate the economy) coincided with sharp increases in government spending (social transfers, stimulus measures or support for financial institutions).

    • Impact of the crisis on subnational investment and debt

      In a great number of countries, subnational government (SNG) direct investment was particularly robust in the early years of the global financial crisis due to the involvement of SNG in stimulus plans and strong support from national governments. However, the deepening of the social and economic crisis as well as the adoption from 2010 onwards of national and local budget consolidation measures in response to the public finance crisis put severe strain on subnational governments’ finance. It ultimately led to a strong decline in investments across OECD countries. Between 2007 and 2012, SNG direct investment per capita contracted sharply in the OECD area (-7% in real terms between 2007-2012 and -15% in the three most recent years), in particular in Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy and Portugal ().

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Inclusion and equal access to quality services in regions

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    • Regional disparities in household income

      The disposable income of households can be seen as the maximum amount that a household can afford to spend on consumption goods or services without having to reduce its financial or non-financial assets or by increasing its liabilities. As such, it is a better indicator of the material well-being of citizens than gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant. Regions where net commuter flows are high may display a very high GDP per capita which does not translate into a correspondingly high income for their inhabitants.

    • Concentration of the elderly and children in regions

      In most OECD countries, the population is ageing. Due to higher life expectancy and low fertility rates, the elderly population (those aged 65 years and over) accounted for 15% of the OECD population in 2012. The proportion of elderly population is remarkably lower in the emerging economies (Brazil, China, and South Africa), and in Mexico and Turkey ().

    • Population mobility among regions

      Inter-regional mobility within countries is an important component of the change in the demographic structure and in the labour force supply.

    • Regional disparities in unemployment and youth unemployment

      Unemployment has soared in OECD countries in recent years, from 5.6% in 2007 to 8% in 2013. In 2012, regional differences in unemployment rates within OECD countries were almost two times higher (32 percentage points) than differences among OECD countries (18 percentage points).

    • Impact of the crisis on regional unemployment

      The economic crisis has dramatically increased the level of unemployment in OECD countries, and youth unemployment has been particularly affected. In 2013, 8% of the OECD labour force was unemployed and the number of youths unemployed is nearly a third higher than in 2007.

    • Gender differences in employment opportunities

      Regional disparities in participation rates, measured here by the Gini index, have generally decreased from 1999 to 2011 due to an increase in labour force participation in less advantaged regions (). The Gini index showed the greatest decline in Ireland, thanks to an increase in labour force among the regions with relatively lower participation rates, but also due to a steep reduction of the labour force participation in Dublin. Countries like Canada, Greece and Turkey also show a significant decline in the Gini index between these two points in time. Regional inequalities in participation rates increased the most in Italy, Poland, and the Slovak Republic.

    • Part-time employment in regions

      Part-time employment has increased in many OECD countries during the past years (OECD, 2012). Depending on the institutional and economic context, part-time employment can have opposite effects on the well-being of the working population. On the one hand, part-time workers may suffer a penalty compared to their full-time counterparts in terms of job-security, training and promotion, and unemployment benefits. On the other hand, part-time employment can offer a better family-friendly working-time arrangement. In general, in the presence of the right incentives, part-time jobs seem to promote labour force participation and can be a relevant alternative to inactivity (OECD, 2010).

    • Regional access to education

      The quality of human capital is a key factor in the social and economic well-being of a region. Education provides individuals with knowledge and competencies to participate effectively in society and to break the cycle of disadvantage. Still, in 2012 one-fourth of the OECD population had only a basic education, and in most of the regions in Turkey, Mexico and Portugal, and in some regions in Australia and Spain, this proportion was as high as 50%.

    • Regional access to health

      Ensuring adequate access to health services for all the population is an important policy objective in OECD countries. This requires among other things an adequate supply of doctors and hospital beds in regions.

    • Health status of population in regions

      Life expectancy at birth is the most frequently used measure of the health of the population. The difference in life expectancy among OECD regions is of almost 20 years, ranging from 68 years in Chihuahua (Mexico) to 84 years in Navarra (Spain). The regions enjoying the highest life expectancy at birth are concentrated in Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and Japan. The regions with the lowest life expectancy are found in Mexico, Hungary and Poland ().

    • Safety in regions

      Safety is a critical element of well-being. The list of criminal activities is long and highly contextual and the measurement of some of them is a daunting task. Despite the fact that criminal activities like murder and car theft do not account for the whole spectrum of crimes faced by society, they can provide some basis for international co-operation. Recent analysis shows that the underlying causes of crime differ not only across but within countries calling for policies that take into account the regional heterogeneity of causes (OECD, 2013).

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Environmental sustainability in regions

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    • Air quality in regions

      Air quality has a major impact on health, the environment, and the overall well-being of people. Two indicators are used to monitor air quality: Concentrations of fine particles in the air (particulate matter PM), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Both are considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as major air pollutants with significant negative effects on respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Recent PM10 data for Europe show that across Eastern European countries, as well as Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Italy, a large share of population is exposed to elevated values of parti-culate matter above an annual average concentration of 20 μg/3. According to the WHO guidelines, the risk of adverse effects on health is very high above this threshold of annual average exposure ().

    • Carbon emissions in regions and by sector

      Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. While CO2 occurs naturally in the atmosphere and is part of the earth’s carbon cycle – the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants, and animals – human activities alter the carbon cycle by adding additional CO2 into the atmosphere and at the same time influence the ability of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and oceans, to remove CO2 from it. Despite the fact that CO2 emissions come from a variety of natural sources, man-made emissions have accounted for the majority of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrialisation.

    • Natural vegetation and the carbon footprint of regions

      Reducing carbon emissions from anthropogenic sources such as industrial production and fossil-fueled transportation is paramount in the pursuit to reduce carbon footprints and tackle the challenge of global climate change. At the same time, natural vegetation and its ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) are central components in the mitigation of greenhouse gases. This natural process of CO2 sequestration is the result of photosynthesis; hence, a region’s potential to absorb carbon from the atmosphere is linked to its exposure to sunlight, precipitation and green leaf biomass.

    • Municipal waste

      Efficient waste management plays an important role for public and environmental health. It prevents the formation of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and other toxic gases that form through the degradation of organic waste in landfills, and particularly in warmer climates, effective waste management reduces the risk of spreading diseases. While inefficient waste management has negative impacts on landscapes and watercourses, other environmental concerns result from the fact that some disposal items are made from limited resources. Hence, re-using such items reduces the pressure on natural resources and increases resource efficiency. In addition, waste disposal has an important economic implication for local governments which are usually responsible for its management.

    • Green patents in regions

      Innovation in environmentally related technologies contributes to environmental sustainability and green growth. The patenting activity of regions in environmental technology provides a measure of the efforts and pace of innovation. Japan and the United States display the top performing regions in number of patents in new sectors such as environmental technologies, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. Patenting activity in environmental technologies is more recent than in biotechnologies and has developed at a faster pace in comparison to nanotechnologies, whose level of activity has not increased substantially in the past ten years. Among the top performing regions in environmental patenting are Japanese regions such as Aichi and Tokyo, which have emerged more recently ().

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  • Defining regions and functional urban areas

    In any analytical study conducted at subnational levels, the choice of the territorial unit is of prime importance. To address this issue, the OECD has classified two levels of geographic units within each member country (). The higher level (Territorial level 2 [TL2]) consists of 363 larger regions while the lower level (Territorial level 3 [TL3]) is composed of 1 802 smaller regions. All the territorial units are defined within national borders, and each TL3 region is contained in one TL2 region. In most cases TL3 regions correspond to administrative regions, with the exception of Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States.

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  • Indexes and estimation techniques
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