A couple of weeks ago, just after International Women’s Day, we had a coffee hour in the World Bank’s Ankara office to watch short videos of five women that have recently started up their own business and transformed their lives and that of their families (stay tuned for the release of these films, currently being edited). Their stories were uplifting, but the discussion quickly turned to the dismal field of statistics. Commentators stressed that female labor force participation in Turkey remains at only half of the OECD level, that Turkey loses around 25 percent of its potential GDP because of this, and lamented that social norms and mixed political messages on the role of women in society were preventing greater progress towards gender equality.
Taxing Labor versus Taxing Consumption?
Europe’s welfare systems face substantial demographic headwinds. Increasing life expectancy and the approaching retirement of “Baby Boomers” will increase public expenditures for years to come. Rightfully, much attention is focused on containing additional spending needs for pensions, health and long term care. But how is all this being paid for?
Currently, the majority of social spending, including most importantly pension benefits, in most countries in Europe and Central Asia is financed through social security contributions, which are essentially taxes on labor. This has two important implications. First, in terms of fiscal sustainability, the growth in spending is only a concern if expenditures grow faster than the corresponding revenues. Since labor taxes are the predominant source of financing for most welfare systems in both EU and transition countries, aging will not only increase spending, but simultaneously exert pressure on revenues. With the exception of countries in Central Asia and Turkey, the labor force, and hence the number of taxpayers that pay labor taxes will decline by about 20 percent on average across the region. Second, already today, labor taxes, including both personal income taxes and social security contributions account on average for about 40 percent of total gross labor costs in Europe and Central Asia (including EU member states), compared to an average of 34 percent in the OECD. This means that for every US$ 1 received in net earnings, employers on average incur a labor cost of US$ 1.67. And out of the 67 cents that are paid in labor taxes, 43 cents (or 65 percent) are directly used to finance social security benefits. By increasing the cost of labor, the high tax burden potentially harms competitiveness, job creation, and growth in countries in the region.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
How Information Flows During Emergencies
MIT Technology Review
Mobile phones have changed the way scientists study humanity. The electronic records of these calls provide an unprecedented insight into the nature of human behaviour revealing patterns of travel, human reproductive strategies and even the distribution of wealth in sub-Saharan Africa. All of this involves humans acting in ordinary situations that they have experienced many times before. But what of the way humans behave in extraordinary conditions, such as during earthquakes, armed conflicts or terrorist incidents? READ MORE.
‘Fragile Five’ Is the Latest Club of Emerging Nations in Turmoil
The New York Times
The long-running boom in emerging markets came to be identified, if not propped up, by wide acceptance of the term BRICs, shorthand for the fast-growing countries Brazil, Russia, India and China. Recent turmoil in these and similar markets has produced a rival expression: the Fragile Five. The new name, as coined by a little-known research analyst at Morgan Stanley last summer, identifies Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa and Indonesia as economies that have become too dependent on skittish foreign investment to finance their growth ambitions. The term has caught on in large degree because it highlights the strains that occur when countries place too much emphasis on stoking fast rates of economic growth. READ MORE.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
How women will dominate the workplace BRIC by BRIC
Despite recent wobbles in the BRICS economies, most economists agree that the majority of world economic growth in the coming years will come from emerging markets. The story of their rise to date has been one in which women have played a large and often unreported role. I believe that as the story unfolds, women's influence will rise further and emerging markets' path to gender equality may follow a very different route to that of most developed countries. READ MORE
James Harding: Journalism Today
BBC Media Center
To so many journalists, Stead has been the inspiration, the pioneer of the modern Press. His zeal and idealism, his restless fury at inequality and injustice; his belief that dogged, daring investigations could capture the public’s imagination and prompt society to change for the better; his muscular opinions, his accessible design and his campaigning newspapers – and, no doubt too, a dab of ego, showmanship, and human folly – has made him the journalist’s editor. I remember standing in the newsroom of The Times in late 2010 when the then Home Editor told me of a story that Andrew Norfolk, our correspondent based in Leeds, was working on. It was about child sex grooming: the cultivation of young, teenage girls by gangs of men who plied them with drink and drugs and passed them around middle-aged men to be used for sex. And I remember thinking: ‘This can’t be true, this feels Dickensian, like a story from another age.’ READ MORE
When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched the results from the most recent assessment of mathematics, reading, and science competencies of 15 year-olds (the Program for international Student Assessment, PISA) last December, it held encouraging news for the European Union’s newest members. Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic scored above the OECD average and ahead of many richer European Union neighbors. Compared to previous assessments, the 2012 scores of most countries in Central Europe and the Baltics were up (as they were in Turkey, as Wiseman et al highlighted in this blog recently). Improvements were particularly marked in Bulgaria and Romania, traditionally the weakest PISA achievers in the EU, as well as well-performing Poland and Estonia. Only Slovakia and Hungary saw declines (see chart with PISA mathematics scores).
A number of places around the world have made very large, (hopefully) strategic investments in technology use across their formal education systems featuring so-called "1-to-1 computing", where every student has her own laptop or tablet learning device.
(I provided an annotated list of such places in an earlier EduTech blog post on Big educational laptop and tablet projects -- Ten countries to learn from).
One of the largest national initiatives of this sort is largely unknown outside that country's borders. To the extent that Turkey's ambitious FATIH project is known around the world, it is probably as a result of headlines related to plans to buy massive numbers of tablets (news reports currently place the figures at about 11 million) and interactive whiteboards (over 450,000 will be placed in classrooms, labs, teacher rooms and kindergartens). The first big phase of the project began in 2011 with 52 schools receiving tablets and interactive whiteboards as a sort of pilot project to test implementation models, with results (here's one early evaluation report) meant to inform later, larger stages of (massive) roll-outs.
The project's acronymic title, FATIH (which stands for Fırsatları Artırma ve Teknolojiyi İyileştirme Hareketi, or 'Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology'), deliberately recalls the conqueror of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Speaking at the project's inauguration, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noted that, “As Fatih Sultan Mehmet ended the Middle Ages and started a new era with the conquering of İstanbul in 1453, today we ended a dark age in education and started a new era, an era of information technology in Turkish education, with the FATİH project.”
What do we know about FATIH,
how might it develop,
and how might lessons from this development
be of interest and relevance to other countries
considering ambitious plans of their own to roll out educational technologies?
Over the last decade, Turkey has achieved relatively high economic growth at just over 5% per year. As was discussed in a recent blog post, this translated into broadly inclusive growth- not only did income grow for all segments of the population, but there were also improvements in a number of non-income indicators of well-being, including in health and education. Last week the OECD launched the latest results from its Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial international assessment that evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. This new data allows us to revisit the question of how Turkey has fared in terms of the performance of its education system in general and with regards to inclusiveness in particular. So what does the data tell us?
Because the penetration of high speed internet is strongly correlated with economic growth, governments around the world are eager to promote the diffusion of broadband technologies. The Turkish Government recently set out ambitious roll-out and take up targets for broadband: 60 million subscriptions in 2023 (up from 33.7 in September 2013), at least 100 Mbps connection for every household, with fiber-optic cables deployed to most homes or buildings (in short: FTTH (Fiber to the Home) or FTTB (Fiber to the Building), diffusion of next generation mobile broadband technologies (such as 4G/LTE), and a vision of the country being a regional hub for telecommunications infrastructure.
The issue of social inclusion in Turkey is a controversial one. In this blog, I want to present some data that suggest Turkey experienced inclusive growth over the past decade or so. My colleagues and I have shared this basic story with a number of audiences in Turkey and often the reaction is disbelief. So what does the data say?
The bottom 40 percent can look up
I use three pieces of evidence to make my case. The first is based on recent work by Joao Pedro Azevedo and Aziz Atamanov of the World Bank on shared prosperity. Joao Pedro and Aziz’s work is ongoing and much richer than what I want to present here. So let me just focus on the following chart, which shows the growth of consumption of the bottom 40 percent in Turkey between 2006-2011 and in a number of other countries during roughly the same period. Turkey looks reasonably good albeit not exceptional. The rate of consumption growth of the bottom 40 percent was just over 5 percent, around 0.2 points below the rate of growth for the average. What this means is that during this period of significant global economic turbulence the average welfare of the bottom 40 percent improved by more than one quarter. This was better than India, Indonesia, or Mexico, albeit worse than Brazil, China and Russia.