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OECD Societies in Transition: The future of work and leisure

Author: Barrie Stevens, Wolfgang Michalski
Organisation: OECD Secretariat, Advisory Unit to the Secretary-General
Publish Date: 2003
Country: Africa
Theme: Employment
Type: Other publication
Language: English
Tags: Futures, Work, Leisure, Employment

Social cohesion in OECD countries is under increasing pressure, not least from the current high levels of unemployment. Without counting the many workers who are underemployed, in early retirement, or not captured by the statistics, in 1994 an average of some 35 million people will be without jobs in the OECD area. Indeed, since the early 1970s, there has been an upward drift in unemployment in most Member countries. The largest trend increase in joblessness, and also the most acute problems of long-term unemployment, have been seen in the European Community, Australia and New Zealand; the average unemployment rate has also been relatively high in North America, although the trend increase over the period has been modest; in the EFTA countries, unemployment has picked up sharply since 1990. Only in Japan has it remained generally low, but even there it now seems to be on the rise.

Looking further ahead, the international and domestic economic forces that have been putting so much pressure on OECD labour markets -- and indeed on societies more generally -- seem very likely to continue. Not surprisingly, therefore, long-term projections by a variety of research institutions and international organisations suggest that high unemployment could be here for the foreseeable future. Then again, long-term projections are inherently uncertain. Their main purpose is to highlight the risks and opportunities facing the economy and society over the coming years, as well as the need to examine different policy options. Projected trends are not to be regarded as an inevitability. After all, the future is there to be shaped.
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