Mr. Angel Gúrria
The Hague, 4th March 2015
(As prepared for delivery)
Ministers, State Secretaries, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first thank the Dutch government again for kindly hosting this Policy Forum on this very important issue that may not yet be on the radar screen of many governments and policy makers.
Today’s discussions have been intense and very stimulating. We have learned a great deal from the various experts and from each other. We came together today to make progress on how we can do better in supporting those with poor mental health and allow them to stay at work or re-gain employment. Our discussions have gone to the heart of the major challenges in this field. We also heard a lot about promising solutions.
Putting mental health in the context of inclusive growth
One of the most important projects I have initiated at the OECD is to look at how to achieve more inclusive growth in the future. We should make sure that growth does not just benefit the rich, the well-educated and the fully healthy. Growth which is not inclusive is not just unfair, it is inefficient: we need everyone to contribute, to the best of their abilities, to our shared social and economic goals.
We have heard clearly today, how people with poor mental health have often been pushed out of work, not because they cannot work, but because people have misplaced perceptions about what mental health means. They lose their jobs because employers do not know where to access the services they need. They get trapped in unemployment because benefit and employment agencies do not fully recognise their problems or have the tools to provide adequate support. This bears a high cost not only on those concerned, but also on the economy and the social fabric.
It is in everyone’s interest that we end this poor state of affairs! Good policies will raise employment rates and reduce the costs of mental ill-health on people, on employers and on society as a whole.
We have learned that all countries face similar problems and how challenging it is for policy makers to move towards earlier intervention on the one hand and towards better integrated policy and service delivery on the other. We also heard about promising avenues in a number of countries to tackle some of the problems successfully. Let me just mention the interesting programme in Australia reaching out to disconnected young adults with mental health problems. Or the various initiatives in the UK to develop a new service culture with mental health care embedded in employment services and employment advice embedded in mental health services.
I would like to emphasise that this Forum does not mark the end of a process. It was a key step aimed at sharing the main conclusions of our work on mental health and work and to discuss where we stand; with the goal of connecting health policy makers and employment policy makers in order to discuss an issue that they can only solve together.
The way forward
By comparing practices across countries, and holding each other to account for our successes and failures, we can make sure that this is a topic that remains on the international agenda for some years to come. We at the OECD are prepared to continue our efforts to review progress and identify promising practices to share; we will continue to sound the alarm when we think that countries’ efforts are coming up short. But more than that, we will help you learn from the experiences in other countries, as I hope you have today.
Building on its considerable experience and credible reputation in this field, the OECD will continue its work on mental health and work. Our commitment is to help countries work outtheimplications of our policy conclusions for their specific situation; to implement policy change;and more generally to push this important economic and social agenda forward.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it was a great pleasure for me to take part in this Forum today. In closing, I would like to thank the two teams, one from the Dutch ministries and the other from the OECD, for organising such an inspiring event, and for working together so closely and effectively.
Let me invite the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the Netherlands, Mr Lodewijk Asscher, one of our hosts today, to close the Forum.