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 2016

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16 June 2016
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OECD Regions at a Glance shows how regions and cities contribute to national economic growth and well-being. This edition updates more than 40 region-by-region indicators to assess disparities within countries and their evolution over the past 15 years. The report covers all the OECD member countries and, where data are available, Brazil, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, India, Latvia, Lithuania, Peru, the Russian Federation and South Africa.
New to this edition:
- A comprehensive picture of well-being in the 391 OECD regions based on 11 aspects that shape people's lives: income, jobs, housing, education, health, environment, safety, civic engagement and governance, access to services, social connections, and life satisfaction.  
- Recent trends in subnational government finances and indicators on how competencies are allocated and co-ordinated across levels of governments.

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  • Foreword

    OECD Regions at a Glance shows how regions and cities contribute to national economic growth and well-being. This edition updates more than 40 region-by-region indicators to assess disparities within countries and their evolution over the past 15 years. The report covers all OECD member countries and, where data are available, Brazil, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, India, Latvia, Lithuania, Peru, the Russian Federation and South Africa.

  • Editorial: Regions and Cities – Key actors for delivery on SDGs

    The ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN General Assembly in September 2015, composed of 17 goals and 169 targets, set a global agenda for achieving environmental sustainability, social inclusion and economic development by 2030. They provide a set of ambitions to whose realization all countries must contribute. One of the challenges is adjusting our focus, looking beyond national approaches to the powerful role that regions and cities play. The global agenda will require local data, the engagement of many stakeholders and all levels of government, and improved government capacity to steer and manage the delivery of public policies for inclusive growth.

  • Executive summary

    For policy makers and citizens alike, thinking globally increasingly requires looking hard at the many different local realities within and across countries. A thorough assessment of whether life is getting better requires a wide range of measures that are able to show not only what conditions people experience, but where they experience them. OECD data show remarkably high disparities in people’s living conditions across regions and cities: for example, there is a 20 percentage point difference among unemployment rates between regions within Italy, Spain and Turkey, comparable to the difference between the national unemployment rate of Greece and that of Norway. And life expectancy varies by 8 years among all OECD countries, but by 11 years across Canada’s provinces and by 6 years among states in Australia and in the United States.

  • Reader's guide

    Regions at a Glance 2016 addresses two questions:

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Well-being in regions

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    • The geography of well-being

      Understanding how and to what extent economic growth translates into better lives for people is important to both citizens and policy makers. A crucial step in answering these questions is having the right tools to assess people’s living conditions. While gross domestic product (GDP) has for a long time been the most used proxy for measuring well-being, it fails to account for the actual quality of life experienced by people. The growth of GDP per capita does not always translate into better life for people. Household income and GDP per capita in OECD regions, for example, are on average positively correlated, but the same trend is not followed everywhere.

    • Household income

      The disposable income measures the capacity of households (or individuals) to provide themselves with consumable goods or services. 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.

    • Housing conditions

      Quantity of housing and its affordability are essential for households to meet the basic need for shelter, personal space, and financial security. The number of rooms per person is a standard measure of whether people are living in crowded conditions; across OECD regions this number varies widely, from half a room in Eastern Anatolia (Turkey) to three in Vermont (United States), a difference almost twice as large as that observed across OECD countries. In 2013, regional differences in the number of rooms per person were the widest in Canada, the United States, Spain and Turkey (). The indicator on the number of rooms per person has, however, some limitations, which may hamper regional and international comparisons. First, it does not take into account the possible trade-off between the number of rooms in the dwelling and its location: some households may choose to live in smaller dwellings located in better serviced areas than in larger homes in less desirable locations. Second, it does not take into account the overall size of accommodation, which is generally smaller in urban areas than in rural areas.

    • Jobs

      Unemployment has soared in OECD countries in the years after the economic crisis and, although it partially recovered, the unemployment rate in 2014 was 7.3 in the OECD area, still 1.7 points higher than in 2007. In 2014, the difference in unemployment rates among all OECD regions was above 30 percentage points, almost 10 percentage points higher than the difference in unemployment among OECD countries. The largest regional disparities in unemployment rates were found in Turkey, Spain, Italy and Belgium ().

    • Education

      Educational outcomes are some of the most influential determinants of current and future well-being. Evidence shows that highly educated individuals are more likely to have better health and higher earnings than the less well educated. From an aggregate perspective, a well-educated workforce is also crucial for raising productivity, ensuring resiliency and adaptability to the changing needs of the labour market but also for making use of innovation. Both the capacity to generate and absorb innovation are affected by the quality of the human capital, which in turn is often enhanced by the education levels of the workforce.

    • Access to services

      Access to services affects how people obtain what is necessary to satisfy their needs and wants. The first indicator used to measure access to services is the share of households with a broadband connection, which is available for all OECD regions. A broadband connection is an important requirement for having access to information and to other services that shape people’s quality of life and affect their opportunities to prosper.

    • Health status

      Being in good health is an important determinant of quality of life and also contributes to other well-being dimensions, such as being able to pursue education, have a job, and participate in the activities that people value. In 55% of OECD regions life expectancy at birth, a common measure of health outcomes, now exceeds 80 years. The lowest levels of life expectancy, below 75 years, are found in 30 regions. The difference in life expectancy among OECD countries is 8 years (between Japan and Mexico). Within countries, it is 11 years between British Columbia and Nunavut in Canada, and 6 years between the Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in Australia, or Hawaii and Mississipi in the United States ().

    • Safety

      Personal safety is a critical dimension of regional well-being. Crime in fact has not only a direct impact on the victims and their families, but also on those who are not victims but live in the same community, as shown by the increasing feelings of insecurity and low trust in the capacity of national and local institutions to handle the safety issue (OECD, 2015). Safety is often connected with other well-being outcomes such as education, health and jobs. Consequently, policies pursuing better safety often build on the complementarities with the other dimensions (OECD, 2014).

    • Environment

      Air pollution at the national and local level is an important determinant of the individual well-being in regions and cities in particular due to its negative impact on health and the economy.

    • Civic engagement and governance

      Well-functioning democracies require people to engage and participate in the different aspects and activities of public life. Through engagement and participation individuals influence and determine the political choices that impact everyone’s lives and well-being. Civic engagement and participation are necessary conditions for effective governance, while, at the same time, good quality of governance, through different institutional settings, can enhance citizens’ participation.

    • Subjective well-being in regions

      Subjective well-being reflects the notion of measuring how people experience and evaluate their lives. It includes evaluation of life as a whole (generally referred as life satisfaction), evaluations of particular domains of life (for example, satisfaction with time available for leisure), feelings and emotions, as well as measures of meaningfulness or purpose in life. People’s evaluations of different domains and their expectations are useful information to guide policy making.

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

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    • Population and population changes in regions

      Climatic and environmental conditions together with economic opportunities and availability of services explain the geographic distribution of population within countries. In 2014, almost half of the population of the OECD (46%) lived in predominantly urban regions, which accounted for 6% of the total area. More than 70% of the population lived in predominantly urban regions in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Australia ().

    • How metropolitan areas contribute to population change

      Today, half of the OECD population live in metropolitan areas – cities with more than 500 000 people.

    • Regional contributions to GDP growth

      Some regions generate larger gross domestic product (GDP) than others. In 2013, the OECD regions with largest GDP, representing 20% of total population, generated 26% of OECD GDP. In Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and the United Kingdom, regions with the highest economic output and totalling 20% of the population, contributed to at least one-third of the national GDP.

    • Regional economic disparities

      Regional differences in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita within non-OECD countries are often substantial and larger than among OECD countries. According to the Gini index, the emerging economies – Indonesia, Colombia and the Russian Federation – displayed the greatest disparity in GDP per capita in 2013, with Chile, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Ireland showing greatest disparity among the OECD countries ().

    • Contribution of metropolitan areas to national economies

      In 2013, 281 metropolitan areas, where 49% of the OECD population lived, generated 57% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 51% of employment in the OECD area ().

    • Regional contributions to change in employment

      Between 2000 and 2014, differences in annual growth of employment rates across OECD countries were as large as 2.3 percentage points, ranging from -0.6% in Portugal and Greece to 1.7% in Israel ().

    • Productivity 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.

    • Where productivity gains are happening

      Regions with the highest productivity in the country (known as ‘frontier regions’) play a central role in productivity growth and in the process of diffusing productivity gains within the country. A better understanding of the profiles of lagging regions and of how they can catch up is key to achieving inclusive growth. Between 1995 and 2013, the labour productivity in frontier regions increased by a yearly average of 1.6% compared to 1.3% for the lagging regions, widening the regional productivity gap by around 50%, from USD 21 000 to USD 31 000. This suggests that lagging regions benefit only partially from the growth of frontier regions. After the economic crisis of 2008, the gap stabilised, mainly due to the slowdown of productivity growth in the frontier regions ().

    • Regional specialisation and productivity growth

      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.

    • Impact of the crisis on regional economic disparities

      The evolution of the economic disparity within a country is here measured by the growth of the difference in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita between the richest 20% of regions and the poorest 20% of regions. This gap has grown in the OECD area at an average rate of 0.3% yearly in the period 2000-13 ().

    • Employment and unemployment in metropolitan areas

      Metropolitan areas have contributed to 60% of employment creation across OECD countries in the past 15 years. However, the contribution to job creation varies substantially within and across countries. Metropolitan areas in Italy and Korea accounted for more than 80% of job creation between 2000 and 2014, compared to less than 30% in Switzerland and the Slovak Republic.

    • Regional concentration of innovation related resources

      In a knowledge-based economy, many drivers of productivity are linked to innovation-related investments, such as skilled human capital or research and development (R&D). While it is expected that R&D investments or patenting activity concentrate in the most productive regions so as to maximize the return, such a concentration of innovation-related resources in just a few regions may limit the prospects for other regions to catch up if innovation does not travel across regions. Given this, a common goal for regional development policy is to reduce inter-regional disparities in these innovation factors by boosting performance in the lagging regions.

    • Regions and venture capital

      Entrepreneurship is an important driver of job creation, competitiveness and economic growth. Countries are therefore increasingly implementing policies to attract venture capital (VC) and business angels at the regional level (OECD, 2011). To attract VC into regions with few VC firms and low levels of investment by non-local VC firms, public policies generally attempt to create a favourable environment for entrepreneurship. This focus can help to remove obstacles for a nascent start-up market, including outside established industry clusters, and facilitate the attraction of VC investments.

    • Regional differences in highly-skilled workers

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

    • 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 between the two regions.

    • Patent activity in metropolitan areas

      Metropolitan areas are the places where most inventions take place. In 2011-13, 70% of all patent applications were granted in metropolitan areas for the 19 OECD countries where such data are available. The concentration of patent applications in metropolitan areas is above 70% both in countries with a high level of patenting activity, such as Japan and United States, and in countries with low level of patenting activity, Australia, Chile and Mexico. In Norway and Italy, on the other hand, metropolitan areas account for less than 40% of the country’s total patents ().

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

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    • Subnational government spending

      Subnational government (SNG) expenditure stood at USD 6 450  per capita on average in the OECD area, accounting for 17% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 40% of total public expenditure in the OECD in 2014 ().

    • Subnational government spending by type

      The importance of subnational governments (SNGs) in the economy is particularly evident when considering their role as employers. Staff spending is the largest expense in SNG budgets, representing on average 36% of expenditure in the OECD area, and ranging from less than 20% in New Zealand to more than 50% in Norway (). High budget shares for staff spending may reflect the fact that SNGs in several countries have the responsibility, delegated from the central government, for the payment of public workers’ salaries, such as teachers, medical staff or social workers. On average in the OECD area, SNGs undertook 63% of public staff expenditure in 2014. This average masks different situations between federal countries (76%) and unitary countries (45%), from less than 10% in Greece and New Zealand to more than 84% in Switzerland and Canada ().

    • Subnational government spending by economic function

      The breakdown of subnational expenditure by economic function provides a measure of subnational governments (SNGs) role in economic functions. Education represents the largest sector in the SNG expenditure, on average 25% of SNG expenditure in the 28 OECD countries where data were available in 2013. In the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Israel, Iceland and the Czech Republic, spending on education exceeded 30% of local budgets, and in the Slovak Republic was 44% ().

    • Spending responsibilities across levels of government

      The subnational spending by sector provides a standard measure of the distribution of spending responsibilities among the different levels of government in a country. However, spending indicators should be interpreted with caution, as they tend to overestimate the level of decentralisation. Subnational governments (SNGs), for example, may be responsible for a certain economic function but not have full autonomy in exercising them (see for details).

    • Subnational government investment

      In most OECD countries, subnational governments (SNGs) have a key role in public investment. In 2014, they carried out around 59% of public investment in the OECD area. This ratio tends to be higher in most federal countries where it combines investments by the states and by local governments. In 2014, more than 70% of public investment was made by SNGs in Germany, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Belgium, up to 95% in Canada ().

    • Subnational government revenue

      In 2014, subnational government (SNG) revenue represented around USD 6 240 per capita, i.e. 16.0% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 42.3% of public revenue on average in the OECD.

    • Subnational government debt

      The financial and economic crisis led to a strong deterioration in both subnational government (SNG) budget balance and debt in most OECD countries. At the end of 2014, SNG fiscal balance was about -0.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on average in the OECD. Outstanding gross debt accounted for 23.9% of GDP and 19.8% of total public debt ().

    • Challenges for infrastructure investment at subnational level

      The OECD and the EU Committee of the Regions conducted a survey in 2015 to assess the challenges linked to infrastructure investment at the local level across Europe. The results of the consultation show that governance challenges for infrastructure investment are prominent at the subnational level, essentially at the planning stage, and that all levels of government should do more to strengthen the capacities of subnational governments (SNGs) to conduct proper investment strategies. Some of the key findings are summarised below.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Inclusion and sustainability in regions

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    • Concentration of the elderly and children in regions

      In all OECD countries, with the exception of Luxembourg, the elderly population (those aged 65 years and over) has dramatically increased over the last decade, both in size and as a percentage of the total population.

    • Demographic challenges of metropolitan areas

      Metropolitan areas are generally the destination of young migrants. Despite this, population ageing has become also an urban phenomenon in many OECD countries. The elderly dependency rate, i.e. the ratio between the elderly population and the working age population, across the 281 OECD metropolitan areas was equal to 22% in 2014, very close to the 24% average in OECD countries. However, while in Japanese metropolitan areas the elderly dependency rate was on average 40% in 2014, in Mexico metropolitan areas this was below 10% ().

    • 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 youth unemployment

      The long-term development of societies, politically and economically, depends to a great extent on the knowledge, skills, values and competences acquired by people at an early age. Educational and working opportunities for the young people are also fundamental to enhance social cohesion, by discouraging people from engaging in illegal activities, reducing political and social conflict, and increasing trust in others and in institutions.

    • Part-time employment in regions

      Part-time employment has increased in many OECD countries during the past years, representing almost one-fifth of total employment in 2014. Depending on the institutional and economic context, part-time employment can have opposing 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, 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, 2015a).

    • Regional access to health

      Health services and doctors are distributed unequally across different regions in most OECD countries, and this causes concern about how to ensure access to health everywhere and foster better health outcomes.

    • Municipal waste

      Municipal waste management and treatment play an important role to abate and control pollution. Indeed, it helps prevent the formation of greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane and other toxic gases, which form through the degradation of organic waste in landfills, particularly in warmer climates. Additionally, efficient waste management reduces the risk of spreading diseases.

    • Household income in metropolitan areas

      People living in metropolitan areas have higher income than those living outside metropolitan areas. According to the estimation of household disposable income in 18 OECD countries, based in most cases on tax records, the average income in metropolitan areas is on average 17% higher than elsewhere (Boulant et al., 2016). The income premium in metropolitan areas with respect to the national average is always positive, with the exceptions of Belgium, but it can differ significantly across countries (). Mexico is the country where the difference between income of metropolitan and non-metropolitan residents is the highest (68%), followed by Hungary (37%), Estonia (34%) and Chile (23%). It should be acknowledged, however, that relatively higher incomes do not necessarily imply a higher purchasing power available to metropolitan residents. In fact, differences in living costs between locations can offset partially earning differences across urban and rural places.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Annexes

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    • Defining regions and functional urban areas
    • Sources and data description
    • Indexes and estimation techniques
    • Responsibilities across levels of government

      In federal countries, the sovereignty is shared between the federal government and federated states which have their own constitution, parliament and government, and large competences, while federal governments have in general exclusive and listed competences such as foreign policy, defence, money, criminal justice system, etc. In most federal countries, local governments are creations of the federated states. Falling directly under their jurisdiction, their responsibilities are defined by state constitutions and laws, and they often differ from one state to another. In quasi-federation (Spain) and hybrid countries, devolved nations (United Kingdom) or regions (Italy) can define, through primary and/or secondary legislative powers, the local government functioning. In unitary countries, the sovereignty is not shared. The assignment of responsibilities is generally defined by national laws.

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