OECD – lacking skills (or vision)?

SHOCK REPORT: OECD shuts stable door as Trump, Brexit and Le Pen bolt globalisation’s horses

All you need is skills

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reflects the view of its cosy, well-off members. These countries have, at least until now, shared the liberal values now being ravaged in lurch towards Trumpism, Brexitism and Le Penism.

In a reaction to, rather than an anticipation of the problems that have lent these "isms" their populist appeal, the OECD has produced a report that declares: "In an increasingly competitive international environment, providing workers with the right mix of skills can help ensure that globalisation translates into new jobs and productivity gains rather than negative economic and social outcomes."

"Left behinders"

It is not a term of opprobrium to label many of the supporters of these "isms" the "left behinders". Put simply, globalisation and digitalisation that probably raised the living standards of most people in the world, have not just passed the "left behinders" by: in many cases, regionally in the US rust belt and the north of England, and sectorally in heavy industry, coal mining, steel making etc. they have been out priced by cheaper foreign workforces or overtaken by automation.

The governments with liberal economic policies – the "liberal elite" if you will - accurately predicted and actively pursued the benefits of globalisation; aided by the breakneck speed of automation, computerisation and now, robotisation. Bankers, investors, multinationals who were in the front line of enjoying those benefits, enthusiastically supported pro-globalisation governments.

Blinded by rose-tinted specs

Yet the perspicacity of the leaders of developed nations and their banking and business partners did not extend to predicting the negative outcomes of this rush to globalise.

Their clear-sightedness in anticipating the gains and the profits from manufacturing and trading on a truly global scale did not extend to foreseeing either the rush to the bottom when it came to wages and working conditions in the economies where investment would be based or the deleterious impact on workers in the countries that would lose industries to cheaper competitors.

Or was it more about turning a blind eye or brushing under the carpet the possibility that globalisation was not all a rosy scenario?

Now available 20/20 vision for 2020

The OECD’s "Johnny come lately" report tells us that it is adult skills that will ease the pain of globalisation. The question is why the OECD was not researching and analysing the potential impact of the liberalisation of capital flows on skills and workforces when they were unleashed in the late 1980s and 1990s?

Why has it taken the governments represented by the OECD until now to find solutions in skill building for problems that were an inevitable consequence of the desired outcome of more competitive international markets, freer trade and cheaper goods?

The current shifting of the political tectonic plates away from a "liberal consensus" to an exclusivist, nationalist agenda could not necessarily have been predicted. However, factors creating these seismic forces should and could have been foreseen or dealt with as they began manifesting themselves.

The OECD report is better late than never, but do governments have the will to commit resources to improving skills?

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