Governments need to do more to tackle misinformation - OECD report

Risk that groups may be ‘dissociating’ from traditional democratic processes

‘Tackling misinformation is key,’ according to the OECD’s Government at a Glance 2021 report.

‘Tackling misinformation is key,’ according to the OECD’s Government at a Glance 2021 report.

 

More than a third of people in Ireland lack confidence in Government institutions according to a new international report that appeals for countries to step up the fight against misinformation.

The seventh edition of the OECD’s two-yearly overview of public governance, compares OECD and partner countries in areas such as public finance, employment, budgeting, digitalisation and public service delivery.

The Government at a Glance 2021 research, measuring conditions across 34 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members between 2018 and 2020, found just 42 per cent of people in Ireland believe they have a say in what their Government does.

Last year, just short of six in ten (59 per cent) expressed trust in democratic institutions.

“Tackling misinformation is key. Even with a boost in trust in government sparked by the pandemic in 2020, on average only 51 per cent of people in OECD countries for which data is available trusted their government,” the report notes.

“There is a risk that some people and groups may be dissociating themselves from traditional democratic processes.”

In relation to how countries responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ireland was judged to have consulted with stakeholders on recovery issues, along with 18 other OECD countries, and compared to eight that did not. It did so too on pandemic management strategies, an area in which 20 were judged to have done so and six did not.

Flexibility and determination

According to the authors, while the pandemic showed an ability on the part of governments to respond with flexibility and determination, emerging evidence suggests “much more could have been done in advance to bolster resilience and many actions may have undermined trust and transparency between governments and their citizens”.

A central lesson of the pandemic, it said, is that governments need to respond to future crises at speed but simultaneously safeguard trust and transparency.

Thousands of often fast-tracked emergency regulations were introduced across member states, but the report stressed that this must be done while avoiding damage to citizen perceptions of transparency and fairness of government.

OECD countries provided large amounts of support to citizens and businesses during the crisis. Measures ongoing or announced as of March, 2021 represented approximately 16.4 per cent of GDP in additional spending or foregone revenues.

Elsewhere, the organisation cited Ireland as having the most progressive system of taxes and transfers of any OECD member - and ranking 32nd for income inequality before taxes and transfers.

“Taxation and transfers does more to reduce income inequality than in any other member,” the report said.

Centralised civil service

Ireland has the second most centralised civil service in the OECD, with 91 per cent of government staff employed in central government, and only 9 per cent in “sub-national government”. The report noted that in at least 17 countries, the majority of staff are found in the latter.

The proportion of women in central government management compares poorly to men and to other countries. In senior roles they make up 36 per cent compared to 37 per cent across the OECD, but are at 43 per cent in middle management (compared to 48 per cent).

There are high levels of public satisfaction with policing (77 per cent, compared to 78 per cent across the OECD) and education (76 per cent compared to 68 per cent). However, levels fall to 66 per cent for healthcare (compared to 71 per cent generally), and the judiciary (67 per cent, compared to 57 per cent).

The report is complimentary of Irish education but cautions a need to “examine issues underlying satisfaction with healthcare”.

It also recommends that countries “level the playing field” in lobbying, an area in which less than half have transparency requirements.