How relevant is GDP as a measure of people’s well-being?
It's an ancient debate and Robert F. Kennedy helped define the problem by saying Gross National Product “measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
While GDP growth may well be a critical facet of achieving certain important objectives from eradicating extreme poverty to adequate financing of social programs and public investments, it is also simply a means to an end rather than a goal in itself.
Discovering “happiness” means considering GDP is largely inadequate to capture many of the key dimensions of human lives. And so, researchers have sought to take the discussion “beyond GDP” and move it toward understanding measures that capture people’s living conditions and the quality of their lives.
Well-being has many definitions, and it’s meaning is not set in stone. Instead, well-being encompasses people’s overall sense of happiness and satisfaction in their daily lives. Well-being is based largely on people’s health, relationships, self-care, mental health, and other factors that make up an over-arching sense of happiness and contentment with their lives.
Martine Durand, Director of Statistics and Chief Statistician of the OECD Statistics Directorate, says that many countries have now developed frameworks they use to measure aspects of well-being at a more granular level which takes into account the individual, household, and community elements of living.
But measuring well-being alone is not enough. If those metrics are to contribute to better lives for people, the need to be understood and then utilized in decision-making processes by policymakers and by the general public.
As more and more countries take on the challenge of creating “well-being frameworks,” reports and websites must be incorporated to be used in policy settings.
Countries’ Experiences with Well-being and Happiness Metrics is aimed at describing the progress that has been made in measuring well-being - and then using these metrics in national policy settings.
The work begins with a look into the national measurement initiatives associated with the Beyond GDP movement.
Durand and her co-authors make a case for using well-being metrics in a policy setting, and they discuss how well-being frameworks can be used in policy throughout the policy cycle to improve policymaking.
Through common themes and challenges observed in seven case studies of countries, Countries’ Experiences with Well-being and Happiness Metrics examines policy through various mechanisms in the experience of countries such as Ecuador, France, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
As many of the national experiences on which the report is based are fairly new, the authors say there is currently no blueprint for successful implementation. Further research in the realm of happiness and well-being is surely underway around the world and is an interesting field of study to watch unfold as new information is made available.
This last section of the Global Happiness Report serves to set the stage for work on the next edition of the series. You can read both the entire work and Countries’ Experiences with Well-being and Happiness Metrics here...