Parliamentary ‘Wellbeing Economics’ group sets out challenge to GDP

This week saw the inaugural meeting of the first ever UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics. The group aims to challenge GDP as the government’s main indicator of national success and promote new measures of societal progress. The group will discuss issues such as the establishment of national well-being measures, the economic costs of stress and policies to promote well-being.

Initiated by Jo Swinson MP, the group includes MPs and peers from all of the main political parties and will set out to drive the issue of well-being up the government’s agenda. With a specific aim to examine the measurement of population well-being, the group is helping meet nef’s call for parliamentarians, among others, to engage in ‘dialogue about the what, why and how of National Accounts of Well-being’.

As part of a growing global movement of academics, policy-makers, commentators and politicians, the group will set out to:

  • Promote the enhancement of well-being as an important government goal
  • Encourage the adoption of well-being indicators as complimentary measures of progress to GDP
  • Promote policies designed to enhance well-being.

"In the last 50 years, people in the UK have got richer but no happier. To improve the lives of people in this country, we need to move beyond mere calculations of material wealth and start looking at wider issues affecting quality of life” said Jo Swinson MP, who was elected chair of the all-party group at its first meeting on Monday 23 March.

The group’s members include Labour peer and well-being economics expert, Lord Richard Layard. The centre for well-being at nef is acting as its secretariat.

With President Sarkozy’s international Commission on the limits of GDP due to report this April, and as a wide range of commentators are publicly questioning the efficacy of GDP as a measure of progress, the first ever parliamentary group on well-being economics is a welcome addition to efforts to drive alternative measures of progress further up the political agenda in the UK.

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