16. Social Capital

On average 1 in 6 people in OECD countries volunteer at least once a month through an established organisation, such as a charity, political party, trade union or other non-profit entity (Figure 16.2). This share is substantially higher in Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States, where more than a quarter of the population routinely engages in voluntary work, but much lower in Lithuania and Turkey, where only 1 in 16 people do.

Among OECD countries, average trust in other people is 6.1 on a scale of 0 (you do not trust anyone) to 10 (most people can be trusted) (Figure 16.3). The Nordic countries report mean scores above 7, compared to interpersonal trust levels below 5 in Turkey and France.

When it comes to trust in institutions, the average score for trust in the police among people in OECD countries is 6.3 (on a scale where 0 means no trust at all and 10 means complete trust) (Figure 16.4). As with interpersonal trust, trust in the police is highest in the Nordic countries, where the average score exceeds 7, as well as in Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. By contrast, people in the Czech Republic, Greece and the Slovak Republic report comparatively low trust in the police, with mean scores at or below 5.

Less than half of the population in the average OECD country (43%) trust their national government. But this represents a slight improvement from the level (40%) recorded in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2010-12 (Figure 16.5). Indeed, after a general deterioration post-2008, trust in government has now rebounded to just below 2006 pre-crisis values in a quarter of OECD countries. The largest increases compared to 2010-12, of more than 15 percentage points, occurred in the Czech Republic, Ireland and Japan. Meanwhile, falls of more than 10 percentage points were seen in Chile, and 20 percentage points in Colombia. Overall, trust in the national government is highest (at 65% or more) in Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, and lowest (at 25% or less) in Colombia, Italy, Greece and Slovenia.

Governments’ engagement with stakeholders is critical to improve the design, implementation and review of laws. The extent to which OECD countries have systematically adopted formal stakeholder engagement practices when developing laws, on a scale from 0 (no engagement) to 4 (maximum engagement) ranges from 1.3 in Hungary to 3.2 in Mexico. Generally, stakeholder engagement is higher in relation to primary laws (which provide a framework for the resolution of public policy problems) than for subordinate regulations (which focus on operationalisation) (OECD, 2018[1]).The overall average level of government stakeholder engagement has increased since 2014, from 2 to 2.2 (Figure 16.6). Improvements are particularly strong in Italy, Israel and the Slovak Republic (with increases of more than 1.3 points, driven mainly by better engagement on primary laws). This contrasts with the declines recorded in the Czech Republic (by 0.3 points), Turkey (0.5) and Spain (0.7) – all countries in the bottom third of the OECD ranking.

On average, women held 28% of parliamentary seats in the OECD in 2017, only slightly up from 26% in 2012. Even in Iceland, the country with the highest share of women in politics, complete gender parity has not yet been achieved. Women’s presence is parliament was lowest in Japan (at 9.3% of seats) and highest in Iceland (at 47.3%) (Figure 16.7). Between 2012 and 2017, the share of women in parliament increased in almost one-third of OECD countries. It rose by more than 7 percentage points in Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom. By contrast, it fell for the Latvian parliament, which now features 7 percentage points fewer female MPs.

According to the assessments of experts and business people in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index, the OECD average level of corruption in the public sector is 67, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (the total absence of corruption). By this measure, perceived public sector integrity is highest in Nordic countries, Switzerland and New Zealand (with scores between 84 and 88) and lowest in Colombia, Greece, Hungary, Mexico and Turkey (with scores below 50) (Figure 16.8). The OECD average has remained stable since 2012, but this masks clear progress in controlling corruption in some countries (with gains of 9 points or more in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy and Latvia) and significant declines in others (with falls of around 8 points in Australia, Turkey and Hungary).


[2] Arndt, C. et al. (2015), “2015 Indicators of Regulatory Policy and Governance: Design, Methodology and Key Results”, OECD Regulatory Policy Working Papers, No. 1, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jrnwqm3zp43-en.

[1] OECD (2018), OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264303072-en.

[5] OECD (2017), How’s Life? 2017: Measuring Well-being, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/how_life-2017-en.

[3] OECD (2017), OECD Guidelines on Measuring Trust, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264278219-en.

[4] The Comparative Candidates Survey (2019), The Comparative Candidates Survey (CCS), http://comparativecandidates.org/node/1 (accessed on 23 September 2019).

[6] United Nations Praia City Group (forthcoming), Praia City Group Handbook on Governance Statistics.

[7] UNODC (2018), Manual on Corruption Surveys, http://unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Crime-statistics/CorruptionManual_2018_web.pdf (accessed on 23 September 2019).

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