OECD finds ‘deep’ divisions in society across a range of indices

More than one in three people are within just three months’ wages of poverty, says a new report that urges governments to find new ways to engage with citizens and address their needs in order to restore trust in society and politics.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) surveyed its member countries, 35 of the wealthier countries in the world (to see the full list, click here).

It found that in these supposedly advanced and relatively affluent societies, deep fault lines exist that mean many are leading less fulfilled lives and feel alienated by the political processes that are supposed to be serving them.

The “fault lines” exposed by the report, called How’s Life?, operate along the areas of age, wealth, gender and education.

The report says that, while some aspects of well-being have improved since 2005, too many people are unable to share the benefits of the “modest recovery” that is underway in many OECD countries. 

Average annual earnings have risen by a cumulative 7% across OECD countries since 2005, the report’s authors concede, but they point out that this is only about half the growth rate seen in the previous decade.

Other apparently positive findings include the fact that average life expectancy has gone up by nearly two years in the past decade.

The report also states that across the 35 OECD countries, more people now have jobs than in 2005.

However, despite these posities, the report notes that “other indicators are flashing warning lights”.

 These include:

• Job insecurity – this has risen by a third since it was first measured in 2007.

• Long-term unemployment – higher than last recorded.

• Average life satisfaction – lower.

• Voter turnout is down.

• The number of people who feel supported by friends and family has fallen by 3%.

• Trust in public institutions has fallen, with only 38% of people saying they have confidence in their government, down 4% since 2006.

 • Only one in three people feel they have an influence over what their government does.

• Politicians often come from a different background to the people they represent – one survey of 11 countries showed that, while manual, agricultural and service workers make up 44% of the population, only 13% of the relevant legislatures (parliaments) come from this background.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eugene Costello
Eugene Costello has been a journalist for some 20 years, and has written for a wide variety of UK and international newspapers and magazines.

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