President Michael D Higgins has said that the response to Covid-19 has highlighted the State's ability to deliver quality universal services to citizens fairly.

But he said it also highlighted the wage and employment insecurity of some, the vulnerability of tenants, and how many workers providing essential services are "shamefully undervalued and underpaid".

In a keynote address to a meeting of the OECD on the subject of Confronting Planetary Emergencies, President Higgins said the global economic system is inherently subject to crises and cascading failures.

And he said new systemic approaches and economic thinking are needed to address these problems.

The speech was part of an OECD conference which is reflecting on international approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael D Higgins also said the ecological crisis in which the world finds itself is currently colliding with economic, social, democratic and cultural crises.

He said a "tweaking of the edges of existing models" is not sufficient and that radical new alternatives are now required.

"Understandably, much current economic commentary focuses on the cost of the pandemic. But we must also reflect on the systemic weaknesses it has exposed in how we organise our society and economy," he said.

"Our challenge is therefore to draw on the lessons of solidarity and ingenuity, as Covid-19 confronts 21st century society and its world economy with a new kind of emergency hazard."

President Higgins said that the global economic system is inherently subject to "crises and cascading failures", and those failures can worsen the environmental crisis and deepen social and economic inequality, as well as increase geopolitical tensions.

Addressing these problems, he said, requires new systemic approaches, new economic thinking and "a greater focus on resilience, safeguards and a symmetry" between economic, social, and ecological measures.

President Higgins said countries must now look beyond growth as a core metric of economic success.

And he said the institutions of politics, economics, technology, religion, and higher education are currently failing and must be reimagined.

President Higgins said we now have a democratic crisis because of damaged social cohesion and an erosion of trust.

"It is clear that a direct consequence is the rise of populist parties of various kinds gaining ground across Europe and elsewhere, with some entering government and promoting fear, division and using a public rhetoric that facilitates hatred."

He described as depressing the fact that the world is "trapped in a political economy model of booms and busts" and an absence of critical public engagement.

He said this was due to a media structure whose ownership and control is hostile to this and is "obsessed with dredging in the sea of social media".

He said the pandemic provides us with an opportunity to do things better. 

"Successful crisis management is no guarantee of durable reform. We therefore need to embed the hard-earned wisdom from this crisis into strong scholarly work, policy and institutional framework.

"We may be some way from achieving this necessary paradigm shift which represents our best hope for a sustainable, inclusive future on the planet, but we must dare to pursue it, and have the courage of continuing to play our part as advocates for a paradigm shift," he said.