- May 5 2015
In line with the OECD’s mission of promoting policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world, Kiviniemi focused on three areas that will be key to achieving progress in quality of life: jobs, the importance of education and skills, and the subject of health.
She said that reducing inequality is imperative to improving quality of life for everyone. In OECD countries, the average income of the richest 10 percent is now almost 10 times that of the poorest 10 percent. A quarter-century ago it was only seven times higher.
“Reducing inequality is a moral, social, and political imperative, but now we know that it is also economically intelligent," Kiviniemi said. "There is an international agenda on measuring well-being that simply did not exist 10 years ago.”
Kiviniemi addressed the issue of quality jobs, saying that employment is a major driver of material living standards but also a powerful determinant of quality of life.
When jobs are qualitative, they provide satisfaction, work-life balance, and health. Kiviniemi said that creating more and better jobs should be at the heart of government policies—not only for growth, but also to reduce poverty and increase social cohesion.
She discussed the importance of investing in education and an adequate supply of job skills, and maximizing how we use this training. Gone are the days when a college degree guaranteed a good job—which is why it's important for people to have access to education and training throughout life. She said an investment in skills is key to boosting employment and economic growth. It also promotes social inclusion by reintegrating individuals into the labor market.
Addressing the subject of health, Kiviniemi insisted that making health systems sustainable is a major task for all industrialized and aging countries. She underlined a gap in the healthcare system in treating mental illness. "This failure is costly," she said. "No disease takes a bigger toll on society than brain disease and mental illness." Citing research from the OECD's Fit Mind, Fit Job study, she said that getting mentally ill patients back to work could increase employment nearly 5 percent.
Kiviniemi also called for new policies to boost the participation of women, migrants, and people with disabilities in economic activity.
She concluded by pointing out that simply developing policies is not enough. For issues affecting well-being and prosperity—jobs, earnings, climate change, gender inequality, health, education, skills, work-life balance—we need to maintain close collaboration between public and private sectors. Kiviniemi insisted on the importance of thinking about growth and inclusiveness together.
“It’s evident we cannot continue business as usual, we cannot only use the same tools as earlier to get the job done,” she said.
Following Sodexo CEO Michel Landel’s opening remarks at the Quality of Life conference Tuesday, OECD Deputy Secretary-General Mari Kiviniemi took the stage.
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