nef’s call for governments to measure National Accounts of Well-being is just the latest development in a burgeoning international movement questioning the utility of economic indicators and exploring what it might mean to capture true measures of well-being, not simply material wealth. Leading well-being experts on both sides of the Atlantic have called for well-being indicators to be given much more prominence in policy-making. International survey data show that citizens overwhelmingly support the idea that health, social and environmental statistics should be used to measure national progress, and in the UK 81 per cent of people were found to support the idea that the government’s prime objective should be the ‘greatest happiness’ rather than the ‘greatest wealth’.
Well-being measures have also started to play an ever-more prominent role in the initiatives of government and policy-makers. In the UK, a number of government departments have begun to describe the goal of promoting well-being among their key aims and to include well-being indicators within the data they collect and report on. Both the Conservative Party and the Office for National Statistics have published papers around the idea that well-being indicators could be used as national progress measures. Internationally, the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is spearheading a global agenda on Measuring the Progress of Societies in ways which go ‘beyond GDP’, and in 2008 the French President Nicolas Sarkozy recruited Nobel prize-winning economists to form a commission looking at new ways to measure both economic performance and social progress.
Click the image above to view a timeline showing the growing importance of well-being in UK and international policy over the last decade.