What’s Going On Here?
A new UK poll has revealed that the public would prefer ministers to prioritise factors such as health and well-being over economic growth when measuring quality of life.
What Does This Mean?
As the latest GDP figures set to be published this week are likely to reflect the largest financial downturn in decades. The new poll carried out by YouGov suggests that people are eager for the government to move away from material measures and towards more intrinsic ones. A move away from GDP is not a novel idea. But, the UK has been reticent compared to other countries in making a shift.
In 1998, the Prime Minister of Bhutan introduced Gross National Happiness as an alternative indicator of development and began testing it as a measure in 2008. Since then it has been praised as offering a comprehensive and influential tool for policy-makers. Similarly in 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country would move away from GDP figures and adopt the Happiness Index metric, outlining a new budget that focused on improving the prosperity of local communities.
Finland, who became the world’s happiest country for the third consecutive year in 2020, has implemented a growth model that is both sustainable and equitable, with community and healthy social networks at its core.
Why Should We Care?
The problem with limiting the statistics to GDP is that it masks what’s really going on. The economy does not reflect the reality for most people, nor does it allow for goods and services with innate value, such as volunteering, care work and household tasks.
Furthermore, focusing on GDP only as a sign of prosperity means that economic growth can take place at the expense of ecological and social factors without any of the attributed costs being taken into account. These days, quality of life is widely considered a more nuanced product of social cohesion, public health and the natural environment.
As the UK public adopt a different way of life ensuing from the coronavirus pandemic, community and well-being have taken precedent. And whilst the economy slumps, there is a desire to edge away from the desperate need to account for economic growth and to create a more accurate representation of prosperity that includes a broader range of measures.
???? Check out which countries rank highest on the World Happiness Report 2020.
???? Watch ‘The Economics of Happiness’ film to see how a radical shift in how we view the economy and well-being is possible.
???? Take a look at the Happy Planet Index: An index of well-being and environmental impact by the New Economics Forum.