Canada OECD Info

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March 2015

Message from the Ambassador

I am pleased to be taking on my role as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the OECD at a time when the organization’s work is increasingly relevant to member and non-member countries, as well as partners and stakeholders around the world.  Over the course of my career in the government of Canada, I have always been a fan of the work of the OECD in all of its areas of expertise.

For example, in 1998 the OECD was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the principles, policies and practices that enabled the development and growth of what was then called ‘e-commerce’.  At the Ottawa Ministerial Conference on Electronic Commerce, which I was fortunate to help shape, OECD members, partners and non-members set the basic building blocks that still underpin to this day what we now take for granted as the digital economy.  While policies and practices have evolved since then, the core components set out by the OECD in 1998 remain relevant – they have stood the test of time.  This is due in large part to the excellent work of participating country officials and Secretariat staff, as well as the role the OECD played in convening, and indeed, leading the discussions.  At the time, the OECD took a ‘leap of faith’ which paid off for all economies.

More recently, I took part in April 2014 in an OECD Forum on the role and leadership of women in public life, where best practices in governments and the private sector, as well as evidence-based analysis, clearly demonstrated the economic benefits of having women in positions of leadership and decision-making.  I was proud to be able to set out some facts and figures on the significant number of women in the top-most leadership positions in the Government of Canada.  Here again, the OECD’s leadership is to be applauded.

In these, as in all areas of its activities, the work of the OECD and its members, often in partnership with other organizations, including in the context of the G20, is of extremely high quality.  There is one key element that drives this excellence:  the active engagement of members and the Secretariat in a true exchange and debate of ideas and expertise through the work of the committees, and an open sharing of data, analysis and best practices.  That is the strength of the OECD.  I firmly believe that Members benefit from the OECD the more they engage, participate and help shape its agenda.

As you will have understood, I take my functions of Permanent Representative of Canada to the OECD with tremendous expectations, and determined to ensure Canada is engaged and heard.

OECD High Level Policy Forum on Mental Health and Work

The need for early and integrated intervention by employment and health services was the focus of an OECD High Level Policy Forum on Mental Health and Work held on March 4 in The Hague. The event brought together Ministries of Employment and Health to discuss the economic case for mental health. The cost of mental illness has been estimated at around 3.5 percent of GDP, and people with mild to moderate disorders are twice as likely to become unemployed. Participants recognized that remaining at work - with appropriate support - can be part of the solution for those coping with mental illness. These themes are further examined in an OECD report released at the event entitled Fit Mind, Fit Job: From Evidence to Practice in Mental Health and Work. More details on the event and the OECD's research on this topic can be found at

DELTA project, “Accessible, open and free”: new data portal

Under the DELTA project, “Accessible, open and free,” initiated by the OECD Council in 2011, a data portal aimed at making the Organization’s data widely available has been put in place. This is because, with a few exceptions, 100% of its data must be made free by mid-2015. This portal offers a wide range of very impressive research starting from two main fields: the country or the topic (health, employment, environment, etc.).

For example, you can access tax information for OECD countries, such as social security contributions (see illustration). One very interesting aspect about this new tool is that it allows you to personalize the parameters, thereby allowing the user to select which countries to highlight or the type of indicator desired (in the previous case: % of GDP or % of tax revenues).

It is very practical, allowing users to easily compare data between several countries and all of its content can be shared on Facebook or Twitter, or by email, with a single click on a designated button. As of February, no less than 80% of the data had already been opened up.

Go and discover it for yourself and then share it with others!

OLIS renewal: development of a mobile application for delegates

As part of the OLIS renewal project led by the OECD Secretariat, a mobile application for delegates called Application ONE is currently being developed. It will help delegates to very easily access all of the useful information in OLIS: upcoming meetings at the OECD (they can consult all of the meetings, or just their personal meetings), documents related to past and future personal meetings (including those for the annual Ministerial Council Meeting), and contact information for delegations and their staff.

Delegates will be able to access this application simply by using their regular OLIS login information. It will be available for all devices (Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, PC) and delegates who are registered for meetings will be able to obtain an e-Badge, which will allow them to enter the OECD directly, without having to go through reception.

One of the next steps in its development will be to test it in a real situation with delegations. According to the OECD Secretariat’s Action Plan, the very promising Application ONE should be in place by June 2015.

Economic Policy Reforms: Going for Growth 2015

Economic Policy Reforms:  Going for Growth 2015 was launched on February 9, 2015. This annual publication identifies five areas of structural reform priorities to boost growth and real income for each OECD country; the European Union; Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa (the BRIICS); and Colombia and Latvia, which have started a process of accession to the OECD. The reform priorities cover product and labour market regulations, human capital, tax and benefits systems, and innovation policies.

The key message in the 2015 edition is that the pace of structural reforms has slowed in most advanced countries and accelerated in major emerging market countries, where the BRIICS have demonstrated greater responsiveness to Going for Growth recommendations compared to the OECD average.

While countries’ levels and rates of growth vary significantly, a few shared priority areas emerge. Among advanced economies labour productivity and income inequality, especially income losses among youth, remain a concern. For emerging economies key challenges include physical and legal infrastructure, product market regulation, and fighting corruption as a means to improving productivity.

The report outlines five areas of structural reform priorities for Canada to boost growth and real income:

  1. Reduce barriers to entry and enhance competition in network and service sectors;
  2. Reduce barriers to foreign direct investment;
  3. Reform the tax system;
  4. Enhance access and efficiency in tertiary education; and
  5. Improve R&D support policies.

Canadian policy recommendations are consistent with those from previous years and include easing entry regulations in professional services; lifting FDI restrictions in telecommunications, airlines and broadcasting; increasing environmental and value-added taxes; and improving access to tertiary education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. For more information, read the note on Canada.

Modernisation of Official Development Assistance

The post-2015 sustainable development agenda will require the mobilisation of a wide array of domestic and international resources from both public and private actors. While Official Development Assistance (ODA) will remain a crucial part of international development co-operation, particularly for countries most in need, a much stronger role for finance beyond ODA, including private capital, is also needed.

To this end, the December 2014 High Level Meeting of the OECD Development Assistance Committee reached an historic agreement to modernise the statistical system underpinning development co-operation, to update the reporting of concessional loans, and to target more development assistance to countries most in need.   Canada was represented at the High Level Meeting by its Deputy Minister of International Development, Malcolm Brown.  Despite their technical nature, the decisions taken in the High Level Meeting matter.  They matter because they will create incentives to mobilise more and better financing for development, because they reflect the broader range of funding options now available to developing countries, and because they will facilitate greater transparency and accountability.  Importantly for Canada, the decisions taken by the High Level Meeting will enable donors to mobilise more private finance for development by making use of the available instruments in the financing tool box, such as blended finance, guarantees and equity investments.  Taken together, the reform package is an important contribution in supporting the implementation of the forthcoming UN Post-2015 Development Agenda.

What lies behind gender inequality in education?

Over the past century, OECD countries have made significant progress in narrowing long-standing gender gaps in many areas of education and employment. However, new gender gaps are opening. The ABC of Gender Equality in Education, a new OECD publication based on data analysis of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, tries to determine why 15-year-old boys are now more likely than girls to be low achievers and why high-performing 15-year-old girls underachieve in mathematics, science and problem solving compared to high-achieving boys.

The report contains many interesting findings on 15 year-old students, including:

  • In Canada and within the OECD on average, 60% of the lowest achievers in mathematics, reading and science are boys.
  • Girls outperform boys in reading skills in all countries but the gap is narrower when digital reading skills are tested.
  • In 6 of 10 countries, including in Canada, boys outperform girls in mathematics.
  • 75 % of girls report reading for enjoyment vs. 50% of boys (72% of girls vs. 45% of boys in Canada).
  • Boys spend on average less time on homework than girls; it is almost a two-hour difference a week in Canada.
  • Boys are much more likely than girls to spend time on video games, computers and the Internet.
  • Girls, even high achievers, lack confidence in mathematics and are more likely to report anxiety about mathematics.
  • Boys are more likely to do internships as a way to prepare for the future while girls are more likely to search information on the internet or consult a career advisor.
  • Four times the number of boys as girls consider a career in engineering and computing (Six times in Canada)
  • Boys are more likely to have negative attitudes towards school. In Canada 15% of boys vs. 8 % of girls say that school has been a waste of time.

Based on the evidence of the report, gender gaps are not determined by innate differences in ability; they can be explained by differences in behaviour and attitudes. The OECD provides some recommendations on how parents, teachers and policy makers can help narrow these gaps such as by giving students a greater choice in what they read, allowing time for video games but giving the priority to homework, training teachers to become aware of their gender biases and helping girls build their self-confidence.

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