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OECD Economic Surveys: Colombia 2017

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Growth in Colombia has been among the strongest in the region, reflecting the flexible exchange rate and inflation targeting monetary policy, and fiscal rules. The strong growth and welfare programmes to the most vulnerable groups have substantially reduced poverty. Lower taxes and fees on wages have brought more people to better quality formal jobs, thereby raising both productivity and inclusiveness. Productivity and job opportunities have also been enhanced by recent reforms facilitating the opening of business, obtaining construction permits, registering property and paying taxes. However, productivity growth is still low and the gap between rich and poor among the highest in Latin America. Informality and gender gaps remain high, and social mobility low. Years of armed conflict, stringent local regulations and distortions in the tax system have created disparities in productivity and access to basic services across regions. Further simplifying procedures for company registration and the affiliation of workers to social security, improving labour market programmes, expanding early childhood education, and raising education quality would boost inclusion, social mobility and living standards. Greater and more affordable child, elderly and disability care would open the job market to more women. Raising productivity will be fundamental to continued increases in living standards for all Colombians.

SPECIAL FEATURES: PRODUCTIVITY; INCLUSIVE GROWTH

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Towards more inclusive growth

Growth has become more inclusive in recent years. Strong growth and targeted social policies have reduced absolute poverty. Conditional cash transfers and education policies expanding coverage have increased attendance in schools. Universal health care is improving wellbeing of many Colombians. Reductions in non-wage labour costs have increased formal employment and access to social benefits. However, income inequality remains high with large disparities across regions. The causes are many. High informality keeps many workers in low quality jobs without social benefits or access to finance. Inequality is a gender issue as labour force participation rates and wages are lower for women than for men. Inequalities also reflect low social mobility as opportunities for education and jobs are influenced by socio-economic backgrounds. More targeted programmes are necessary to increase education enrolment rates of disadvantaged children in less developed regions. Further reductions in non-wage labour costs can raise formal employment. Better access to labour market programmes, early childhood education and elderly and disability care can boost female labour market participation. More resources are needed for targeted social programmes to achieve stronger outcomes. A comprehensive pension system reform is needed to extend coverage and alleviate old-age poverty.

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