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Society at a Glance 2009

OECD Social Indicators

image of Society at a Glance 2009

Society at a Glance offers a concise quantitative overview of social trends and policies across the OECD. This 2009 edition includes a wide range of information on social issues – such as demography and family characteristics, employment and unemployment, poverty and inequality, social and health care expenditure, and work and life satisfaction –as well as a guide to help readers understand the structure of OECD social indicators. 

In addition to updating some of the indicators from previous editions, Society at a Glance 2009 adds several new and innovative social indicators, including adult height, perceived health status, risky youth behaviour and bullying. For the first time, the report also provides a condensed set of headline social indicators summarising social well-being in OECD countries. In addition, a special chapter examines leisure time across the OECD.

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Poverty

Avoiding material hardship is a primary objective of social policy, sometimes made explicit though a constitutional right to a decent standard of living. However, perceptions of “a decent standard of living” vary across countries and over time. Hence no commonly agreed measure of poverty across OECD countries exists. As with income inequality, the starting point for poverty measurement is equivalised household disposable income provided by national consultants (see “Definition and measurement” under EQ1. Income inequality). People are classified as poor when their equivalised household income is less than half of the median prevailing in each country. The use of a relative income-threshold means that richer countries have the higher poverty thresholds. Higher poverty thresholds in richer countries capture the notion that avoiding poverty means an ability to access to the goods and services that are regarded as “customary” in any given county.

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