OECD Policy Forum and Ministerial Meeting on Social Policy – An overview

23 May 2018

By Kathleen Cunningham

On May 14 -15, 2018 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Policy Forum and Ministerial Meeting on Social Policy was held in Montreal, Quebec.  This was the first time that the forum was held outside of Paris. Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos co-hosted the event with OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria. BCLI Executive Director, Kathleen Cunningham was invited to attend and was pleased to participate in the open session on May 14, joining some 350 international delegates, academics, private sector representatives and external stakeholders from across Canada.

The theme of this year’s forum was Social Policy for Shared Prosperity: Embracing the Future. Ministers responsible for Social Policy in over 35 OECD and partner countries met in Montreal to exchange their views on their countries’ challenges, opportunities, and best practices in social protection. Over the day ministers and others discussed a range of issues facing all countries, including modernising social protection systems to better incorporate workers in non-standard jobs, promoting diversity and social inclusion for all people, coping with the challenges of population ageing, ensuring that children and youths have equal opportunities to succeed in life, mainstreaming gender equality and women’s issues in policy design and reform.

Two important reports were released on May 14 and were accompanied by engaging panel discussions:

  1. Risks that Matter: Early Results from the 2018 OECD Cross-National Survey on Social and Economic Risks
    The report provides a first set of results from the Survey, focusing mainly on respondents’ perceptions of social and economic risks. From March to April 2018, the OECD spoke to a sample of 20 000 adults from 19 countries. People were asked about their top social and economic concerns, how well they think the government responds to their needs and expectations, and what policies they would like to see put in place in future. The foreword identifies that “some of the findings are hardly surprising: people of all ages, around the world, are worried about their pensions and financial security in old age. People are also frequently worried about falling ill and making ends meet. In a few countries, concerns about personal safety and security are a top priority. Risks vary across groups. In many countries, women are significantly more concerned about making ends meet than men. Younger people are much more likely to have strong concerns about their future prospects and are more worried about finding affordable housing. And parents worry much more about their children’s future status and comfort than their own.” During the discussions panelists shared their strategies for reaching out to vulnerable populations in order to hear their stories and concerns.  Strategies mentioned some of the promising practices identified in the Canadian Centre for Elder Law’s recent publication “Engaging Older Women in your Community: A Promising Practices Guide for Women’s and Senior Serving Organizations”. Discussions around job security and vicarious employment reflected issues being addressed in the BC Law Institute’s project to reform BC’s Employment Standards Act.
  2. Is the Last Mile the Longest? Economic Gains from Gender Equality in Nordic Countries
    In this session, panelists spoke about the significant gains that have been made in the Nordic countries and the challenges that remain. Legislation alone cannot shift outcomes, and in spite of the economic evidence, stereotypes and attitudes are deeply embedded. Strategies discussed included engaging with the corporate sector.  

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