Measuring progress, true wealth, and well-being
The parliamentary report on the Broad Definition of Welfare sets out what welfare means in the context of the Netherlands. The report was prepared by the Dutch House of Representatives in April 2016 and it has received two reactions from the Dutch Cabinet in the autumn of 2016. In its first reaction on October 10, the government states that it agrees in general with the analysis and recommendations of the report. The Cabinet appreciates the work of the committee and praises the report for giving a clear and broad definition of welfare, indicating how GDP relates to this and discussing the international state-of-the-art on the measurement of broad welfare, i.e. the measurement of welfare beyond GDP. In a second reaction on December 23, the Cabinet shared its views on the recommendations of the report. The Cabinet agrees that the link should be made with existing initiatives and international harmonized standards should be taken as reference point.
The National Institute for Statistics of Italy (ISTAT) has conducted a preliminary survey of national indicators to support the monitoring of progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 95 indicators were selected out of which 46 mirror those proposed at the international level, 39 are similar and 10 are complementary, providing supportive information for the monitoring of specific targets. At this stage, priority was given to existing indicators, with the objective to identify where data gaps exist in the national statistical reporting. On overview (including time series) of the identified indicators is available on ISTAT website, at national and regional level (depending on data availability for each indicator).
The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) released the fourth edition of the Benessere Equo e Sostenibile - BES (fair and sustainable wellbeing) report. The report provides an overview of the main economic, social and environmental factors which characterise the wellbeing of Italy, using a set of 130 indicators grouped into 12 domains. Following the reform of the budget law in 2016 (article 14), a high-level experts group will identify some indicators from the BES report: these will be formally included in the programming and evaluation tools of Italy’s national economic policy. From 2013, the 2016 BES report shows improvements in the domains related to health, environment, education, employment and life satisfaction.
The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development has released the 2016 Life in Transition Survey (LiTS) III, comparing its main results with those from the previous editions in 2006 and 2010. The LiTS is a household and attitudinal survey that analyses the factors influencing life satisfaction in the transition region. Information is collected on economic, political and social topics across 9 modules (10 in Greece where a module on the impact of the crisis was added). The latest edition covers 34 countries, including 32 where the EBRD invests in addition to two western European comparators, Italy and Germany. The LiTS represents the largest coverage achieved so far presenting a total of 1,500 interviews per country, compared to 1,000 in the previous edition and 25 additional localities covered. The survey shows that people’s life satisfaction has increased across post-communist countries and concludes that the gap between the transition region and western European comparator countries has finally closed.
The report “Quality of life in the cities 2016”, published by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) and the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), describes the quality of life in eight Swiss cities (Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lucerne, St. Gallen, and Lugano). The report is based on data from the Swiss Urban Audit, which applies an expanded version of the OECD “How’s Life” methodology. In total, the approach covers 12 dimensions of quality of life, adding dimensions for Infrastructure & Services, Culture & Leisure, and Mobility. In the dimension Environmental Quality, Lugano performs best for air quality and for its amount of green areas.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network Spain (REDS) launched the Spanish edition of the SDG Index and Dashboard. This analysis focuses on the SDG index for Spain, and has been carried work jointly by SDSN and the Bertelsmann Foundation. The Bertelsmann Foundation, which provided a global report and country ranking as an unofficial SDG monitoring tool in July 2016, ranked Spain 30th out of the 149 countries included in the index. The experts panel for the launch of the Spanish edition discussed the challenges faced by the country in achieving the SDGs, including SDGs 13 (climate action), 14 (terrestrial ecosystems), and 15 (marine ecosystems). Moreover, the panel explored areas of improvements for the country, focusing on SDG 4 (quality education) and 8 (decent work and growth for all). The launching event also encouraged the improvement of the indicators currently in use for the 2017 edition of the SDG index.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition jointly launched the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) . The index ranks 25 countries on the sustainability of their food systems, utilising both qualitative and quantitative bench marking. It is based on 58 indicators which cover three pillars: “food loss and waste”, “sustainable agriculture” and “nutritional challenges”, assessing performance in environmental, social and economic terms. The analysis covers the G20 countries plus Nigeria, Ethiopia, Colombia, the UAE and Israel. France leads the ranking overall, as well as in the pillars on nutrition and food waste, while Germany is the leading country for the pillar sustainable agriculture. The FSI is supported by a dedicated website which includes country rankings, country profile, and a number of case studies and infographics.
The Sustainable Society Index (SSI) integrates economic, environmental and human well-being as a way to assess countries’ sustainability. The sixth edition of the SSI report covers 154 countries, comprising 99% of the world’s population. The three well-being dimensions are represented by 21 indicators, grouped in 7 categories: basic needs, personal development and health, well-balanced society, natural resources, climate and energy, transition, and economy. The 2016 results show that human well-being is the best performing dimension. High income countries perform best in human well-being and worst in environmental well-being, while the opposite is true for low-income countries. According to the ISS report, over the past 10 years, the world has become more sustainable. However, there is still no balance across the three dimensions and the world has better achieved sustainable Human well-being than sustainable economic and environmental well-being.
The Central Statistical Office of Poland (GUS) released the third edition of the publication Quality of life in Poland, presenting the updated set of core indicators that support the assessment of progress on the most important areas of quality of life. The core indicators are grouped into 8 domains referring to living conditions, including material living conditions, health, education, as well as the quality of the environment at the place of residence. The index also includes one domain regarding subjective wellbeing, which covers such concepts as satisfaction with life, emotional wellbeing, and sense of purpose in life.
Starting from December 2014, the Swiss federal statistical office reports on forty indicators as part of a new system to measure well-being (Système d'indicateurs "Mesure du bien-être"). This system covers seven thematic areas: enabling conditions, resources, activities, effects on resources, goods and services, use of goods and services, and well-being. Both material and immaterial conditions contributing to the quality of life in Switzerland are considered, including aspects related to social, human, natural and economic capital and to Beyond GDP. Reporting is based on a mix of objective indicators, such as disposable income or biodiversity, as well as subjective indicators, such as reported life satisfaction and perception of the quality of the environment. Results are publicly available online.
Launched in 2011, the Canadian Index of Well-being highlights the components of well-being which Canadians value beyond economic productivity. This second edition of the index, published by the Faculty of Applied Health Science at the University of Waterloo, builds on 64 indicators covering 8 dimensions of well-being: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use. Indicators are mainly taken from data sources provided by Statistics Canada. Some indicators are taken from selected national and international sources. All the indicators are equally weighted. The 2016 Report analyses Canadians well-being evolution looking at trends from 1994 to 2014. Data show that after 2008 the economy recovered, but Canadians' well-being took a significant step back and only recently started to recovery. Over the considered period, some areas, such as leisure and culture and environment, suffered more. The education domain has instead largely kept pace with GDP.
Sustainable Commune Monitor is a programme developed by the "Bertelsmann Stiftung" and the German Institute for Urban Studies (DIFU). The objective of the project is to measure the state of sustainable development at the local level across Germany’s municipalities. As well as a survey on local policies and initiatives to support sustainable development, the monitor draws on a set of 125 indicators, including 37 core-indicators, covering four dimensions: economy, environment, society and governance. In total 519 municipalities participated; of those with a population of over 5,000 inhabitants, data on sustainable development is published on a web-portal. A two- parts report provides detailed summaries of the most up to date results.
PwC and Demos published the Good Growth for Cities Index 2016 that measures urban economic wellbeing in the United Kingdom as seen through the eyes of the public. The 10 city-characteristics, which were chosen by the public and are included in the report, reflect economic, social, and environmental aspects, such as the adequacy of income, entrepreneurship, health, work-life balance, environmental protection etc. The index for 2016 has shown an improvement in all cities’ scores relative to the previous year, with Oxford and Reading remaining at the top of the list. On the other end there are less affluent cities like Middlesbrough and Sunderland which are found at the lowest ranking mainly as a result of their weaker performance in highly weighted areas of the index like jobs and incomes. The report, in its fifth edition, suggests that cities, especially due to foreseeable changes linked to Brexit, should develop action plans prioritising investments in social and physical infrastructure.
Statistics Austria have published the report “How’s Austria 2016”, which has the overarching aim to complement GDP and provide a wider picture of the country’s socio-economic development. This fourth edition of the report provides an update on 30 key indicators and associated sub-indicators. The indicators cover three dimensions, material wellbeing, life quality, and the environment. In the environmental field, whilst progress has been made on emissions of greenhouse gases and particulate matter, Austria performs less well on issues such as material consumption (at 22 tons per capita), land use and energy use. The report compiles data gathered at the EU level, such as the Europe 2020 indicators, and national level data, such as the Household, Finance and Consumption Survey conducted by the National Bank of Austria. In 2017, the methodology for How’s Austria will be revised to take into account the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators.
'Global Perspectives' published the Indigo Score, which measures a country’s future potential by looking at its state of socio-economic infrastructure shaping economic performance. The Score is based on five domains: Stability and Legal Framework, Creativity and Innovation, Economic Diversity, Digital Economy, and Freedom. More than 30 indicators cover aspects such as: political stability and corruption, educational level and expenditures on R&D, property rights, and patent and trademark applications, ICT exports and internet users, and press freedom and democracy rankings. Scores on each of the five domains are aggregated to estimate an overall Indigo score for each country. Nordic countries are among the first five, scoring higher in Creativity and Innovation and in Freedom, both of which seem to be key drivers of the overall scores. The countries with lowest chance of prosperity, such as Syria and Iraq, are affected by mainly war and political turmoil.
SolAbility, a Swiss-Korean consultancy, released the 2016 report on the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index, which provides a measure of current and future capability of countries to generate financial as well as non-financial income and wealth. By gathering data on 109 indicators, the 2016 Index ranks countries across 5 pillars: governance, intellectual capital, social capital, resource management, and natural capital. Scandinavian countries result to be the top scoring economies of the index for the 5th consecutive year. Northern-European countries top the social cohesion dimension while the world’s largest economy, the US, ranks 32 showing particularly low scores on social cohesion and resource intensity.
The Living Standard Framework (LSF), developed by the New Zealand Treasury was presented in a background paper for the “2016 Statement on the Long-Term Fiscal Position: Living standards, well-being and public policy”. The paper, which further develops the first LSF of 2011, aims at providing answers to the remaining questions that revolve around the use of the LSF, drawing on the developments in the academic and policy literature on wellbeing in the last five years. The LSF encourages the use of a range of factors for policy-making which promote well-being for present and future generations. Such factors range across five policy-dimensions: economic growth, sustainability for the future, increasing equity, social cohesion, and managing risks. The resources that lift living standards are represented by the four capitals (natural, financial and physical, social, and human), underlying the wide conceptualization of the term “living standards” by which it is meant much more than just income.
The Happy City Index provides a measure for the progress of cities, in order to reach “sustainable well-being”. Developed by Happy City, a Bristol based NGO, the index is based on data collected for the 9 largest cities in England, which were ranked in 3 dimensions: equality, sustainability and city conditions. Equality is assessed through indicators of income inequality, health and well-being, while Sustainability is assessed through indicators on emissions, recycling patterns and energy consumption. The city conditions dimension is composed by 5 well-being domains: work, health, education, place and community. Each of these domains is further divided into sub-domains concerning key policy areas within each domain. The insights are presented through city maps, providing a picture of how the 9 cities are doing. The city conditions scores are then used to provide an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each city. Bristol, London and Nottingham are the best performing cities.
In October 2016, the German government published its first analytical report on the wellbeing of its citizens, which will constitute a benchmark for effective policymaking in the future. To identify what matters to German citizens and what wellbeing means to them, a six-month-long national consultation process was initiated during which more than 200 dialog events took place. The 12 dimensions of the 46 indicators that were eventually selected describe country’s performance, the life of its people, and their surroundings. Four dimensions describe the 'country': strong economy, clean environment, freedom and equality, peace and Germany's global responsibilities. Three dimensions describe the 'surroundings': Safety, mobility, accommodation and social cohesion. Five dimensions describe the 'life': health, education, family time, and work and income. These indicators will be observed over time to reveal economic, social, and environmental changes, providing early warnings, signalling areas for action, and measuring the effectiveness of policy decisions.
According to the Eva Sas law adopted on the 13th April 2015, the French government is committed to present to the Parliament an annual report on ‘new wealth indicators’. These aim to complement the presentation of GDP figures with measures of on the economic, social and environmental sustainability. The 2016 report covers ten indicators which address the state of the economy, environment, health and education. For each indicator the report defines the methodology, describes its evolution over time, compares performance with the other EU member states, and defines relevant government actions. The report shows that France performs much better than the EU average in six of the ten indicators, such as life expectancy and well-being, research effort, income inequality, carbon footprint, poor life conditions and premature exit from school system. For other indicators, such as debt and employment, it performs less well.
Deutsche Post AG published the Happiness Atlas 2016 for Germany. This Atlas presents data on life satisfaction in 19 German regions, pulling together information from existing surveys and additional data collected ad hoc. The overall life satisfaction results from self-assessments on different dimensions such as work, health or living and leisure. Over the recent years, Germans have reported a largely increasing life satisfaction. The happiest Germans live in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, while the largest increase in happiness with respect to the previous edition is observed in the southern parts of the country. The 2016 edition of the Atlas contains a special analysis of how cultural diversity impacts on life satisfaction. 75% of the analysed sample regards Germany as an open and tolerant country and 65% considers immigration an enriching experience. At the same time, only 44% thinks that the coexistence of people with different backgrounds works out well.
Research by Gallup and Healthways examines the impacts that "active living environments", i.e. investments in bike paths, parks, walkability and public transit, have on urban wellbeing. The study considers the populations of 48 medium to large size metropolitan communities in the USA and analyses their wellbeing in four key dimensions: walkability, bike-ability, parks and public transit. For instance, the bike ability captures how good a location is for biking based on the number of bike lanes, hills, destination and road connectivity as well as cycling as a modal share of commuting. Scores between 0 – 100 are assigned to each of these dimensions (Walk Score, Park Score, Transit Score and Bike Score) and then aggregated into a composite indicator (Active Living score), measuring each community's wellbeing. Results show that the best performing living in environment is the Boston area. The analysis also provides a number of policy recommendations to adopt strategies to improve active living in US cities.
The Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic produces and disseminates quality of life indicators for their country. The approach is based on European Statistical System recommendations for quality of life indicators and relies on several statistical sources, including the Labour Force Survey, EU SILC, European Health Interview Survey, and Household Budget Surveys. Quality of life is assessed applying 39 indicators across nine dimensions, including material living condition, health, education and natural and living environment. Data on quality of life is published on the Statistical Office’s website STATdat. On average Slovakians scored their “Overall life Satisfaction” as 7.0, where 0 represented “Not at all” and 10 “Completely Satisfied”.
The Office for National Statistics released the latest edition of the UK Measuring National Well-being programme. This report provides an assessment of the progress of the UK across a set of national well-being indicators, including health, natural environment, personal finances and crime. 43 national well-being indicators are considered in total, covering both objective and subjective data in order to provide a more comprehensive measure rather than GDP alone. The report utilises new data, and trends compared to the previous edition show an improvement for 10 indicators, a deterioration for 4 indicators and no important change for 22 indicators. For instance, real median household income and national disposable income have risen, as well as employment. GHG emissions have declined and renewable energy consumption increased. On the other hand, satisfaction with health has deteriorated, as well as trust in national government despite the increase in voter turnout.
Statistics Denmark carried out a national survey of quality of life between 2015 and 2016. The assessment is based on survey data from 42,500 responses as well as a range of indicators drawn from regular statistical sources at the national and subnational level. The results are presented in detail for 38 out of Denmark’s 98 municipalities, as well as providing a national average. The OECD guidelines for Quality of Life were used as a basis for the methodology. The results are presented in an online tool according to nine domains (current life satisfaction, health, safety, education, work, financial situation, social relations, housing and community participation).
Balancing the needs of today without compromising those of tomorrow is necessary to make cities sustainable. The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index measures three dimensions of urban sustainability: social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit). The 2016 edition of the index is based on an expanded data set covering 100 cities (compared to 50 in the previous edition) at different stages of evolution. The overall score of each city is given by the average of the scores separately obtained on each of the three sub-indexes. The findings indicate that no city effectively balances all three dimensions of sustainability. Overall, European cities perform better than emerging cities Zurich is the best performing city and also reaches the highest score in the Planet sub-index.
Dual Citizen LLC, a US based consultancy firm, launched in 2010 the Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) drawing on the OECD Handbook on Constructing Composite Indicators. The 2016 edition of the GGEI performance index is based on 32 quantitative and qualitative indicators measuring the performance of 80 countries and 50 cities on four key green economy dimensions: leadership & climate change, efficiency sectors, markets & investment, and environment & natural capital. Sweden is the top performing country, followed by Norway, Finland and Switzerland. Copenhagen was the top performing ‘green city’ in the perception survey, followed by Stockholm, Vancouver, Oslo and Singapore. This index is complemented with a GGEI “Perception Survey” collecting assessments from expert practitioners on the same four dimensions. According to respondents, the best perceived performer is Germany, followed by United States, Denmark and Sweden.
The Positive Peace Index is multidimensional measure of attitudes, structures and institutions which are at the core of a peaceful society. It is applied to 162 countries covering over 99% of the world's population and based on eight pillars: well-functioning government, sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbours, free flow of information, high levels of human capital and low levels of corruption. Each pillar is covered by 3 indicators. Findings for the 2016 edition of the index show that from 2005 to 2015 73% of the considered countries have improved their ranking. Best performers are Northern European countries: Denmark and Finland with the same score, followed by Sweden and Norway.
Developed by the Boston Consulting Group and available since 2012, the Sustainable Economic Development Assessment (SEDA) measures wellbeing through 44 indicators covering three elements and ten dimensions: economics (income, economic stability and employment), investments (health, education and infrastructure) and sustainability (income equality, civil society, governance and environment). Each countries' scores reflects current levels of and improvements in well-being, which are calculated overall and for each of the ten dimensions. Such scores capture how effectively countries convert income into wellbeing and economic growth into wellbeing improvements. The 2016 SEDA was applied to 162 countries and Hong Kong. While western European countries reach the top wellbeing levels, Asian and African countries exhibit the most considerable recent progress. The scores of 15 sub-Saharan countries are in the top quintile for recent progress.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI) 2016 results have been published. Since the last HPI issue published in 2012, the indicator has integrated a measure of inequality of outcomes. It is now calculated as a combination of experienced wellbeing (i.e. overall life satisfaction), life expectancy and ecological footprint per capita (i.e. the average impact each resident has on the environment). It is then adjusted by the inequality of outcomes (i.e. inequality within a country with respect to experienced wellbeing and life expectancy). Thus it gives an estimation of how efficiently residents of different countries are using environmental resources to lead long, happy lives. Most countries topping the index are from Latin America and the Asian Pacific region, as the developed western countries' high ecological footprint significantly reduces their scores. Costa Rica reaches the first position once again, while Chad is ranked last. More surprisingly, Luxembourg is second last due to its high ecological footprint per capita.
The Nordic Council of Ministers has published the report on the Nordic Welfare Indicator System (NOVI), which aims at developing relevant monitoring, planning and decision-making indicators, by addressing specific Nordic features: the term “welfare” refers to an overall condition, including the notion of well-being. The NOVI system builds on the idea of linking individual welfare and the command over resources, specifically the notion of freedom of action. Nine dimensions constitute the structure of the system: health, educational skills, employment, work-life balance, income and earnings, housing, social network and participation, personal security and subjective well-being.
The Belgian Federal Planning Bureau published the 2016 assessment of sustainable development indicators. The assessment represents the first evaluation of Belgium’s progress towards the achievement of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Based on 31 indicators, the assessment shows that efforts are needed to reach the set objectives by 2030. Two indicators were selected for each goal and chosen according to their relevance to Belgium, with the exception of 6 objectives for which only one indicator was selected. The indicators are grouped into four categories: social and societal, consumption and production, environmental and governance. Those concerning production and consumption show the largest number of favourable developments while the changes observed in the social indicators remain the most unfavourable.
The Social Progress Index measures social and environmental progress independently of, but complimentarily to, GDP. The 2016 index introduces some methodological innovations with respect to the 2014 and 2015 editions. The index is based on 53 social and environmental indicators covering outcomes on 12 components. Data sources have been modified and some indicators have been replaced. As a result, the 2016 index covers 133 countries across all indicators of each component and other 27 countries with results for only 9 to 11 components. As a whole, 99% of the world’s population is covered. Countries are awarded an aggregate score between 0 and 100, a higher score representing a higher level of social progress. The best scoring countries for 2016 were Finland, Canada and Denmark. Findings reveal that countries achieve widely divergent levels of social progress at similar levels of GDP per capita. Hence, economic performance alone does not fully explain social progress. The index is also provided for regions, cities and communities. 2014 and 2015 scores have been recalculated according to the new adopted methodology for comparability reasons.
The Quality of Life Survey is part of the Quality of Life Project which is aimed at assessing the impact of urbanization on residents’ well-being in New Zealand. Promoted in 2003 and repeated in 2004, it has been undertaken every two years since. The 2016 edition of the survey analyses the perceptions of over 7000 residents in seven cities and two regions of the country across a range of factors affecting their quality of life, including safety, sense of community and the sense of pride they have in their local area. 81% of respondents positively rate their quality of life. Among them, 27% declare that it has increased compared to 12 months previous and 58% that it has remained constant. Results also identify ten main drivers of quality of life, the most relevant of which is emotional and physical health. These findings will be used to inform local government policies to monitor progress towards strategic social, cultural and economic goals.
Asian Urban-wellbeing Indicators have been published by Civic Exchange, a Hong Kong based think tank, since 2012. Data originally came from public opinion polls assessing public satisfaction across 10 policy domains relevant to urban life in Asian cities – including housing, medical care, education environmental protection and public safety. The new report illustrates the results of a survey conducted in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Approximately 1,500 people were surveyed in each city, with a focus on subjective attitudes as opposed to policy inputs and outputs. Respondents were asked about their satisfaction across each of the 10 domains and then how much they cared about the domain. A comparison between the two questions was used to identify a “caring-satisfaction gap”. A notable result was that environmental protection was seen to be significantly more important in Shanghai than the other two cities.
The German Federal Environmental Protection Agency (UBA) has updated the National Welfare Index (NWI). The NWI was launched in 2009 to provide complementary information with respect to GDP and firstly updated in 2013. Its current version (2.0) is built on 20 components measuring national welfare from 1991 to 2012. The NWI aggregates positive (e.g. consumption adjusted for income distribution, housework and voluntary work) and negative (e.g. traffic accidents and environmental damage costs - air and water pollution, soil degradation, etc.) contributions to welfare according to an accounting approach. GDP and NWI show a similar trend for Germany, throughout the 1990’s. Starting from around the year 2000, the NWI shows instead a decline, mostly due to increasing inequality and fluctuating private consumption.
In 2012 the Region of Wallonia adopted 5 indices complementary to GDP for measuring the progress towards a more sustainable society. The Institut Wallon de l'évaluation, de la prospective et de la statistique (IWEPS) has developed a system of indicators n including: 1) the Wallonia Social Situation Index, built on 2 sub-indexes (evolution of social and human resources and socio-economic imbalances); 2) the Index of well-being, covering 8 different domains (way of life, relations with public authorities, social balance, subjective well-being, living environment, personal relations, personal health, and values/engagements); the Ecological footprint and bio-capacity Index and the Wallonia Governance Index, covering the quality of politics and democracy dimensions. This last index is expected to include 2 further dimensions (impartiality and corruption) after the enquiry on “Social barometer in Wallonia” in 2018.
The Legatum Institute published the 2016 Africa Prosperity Report, aimed to assess how effectively national economic development in Sub-Saharan African countries has been transformed into prosperity and wellbeing. The methodology applied compares per capita GDP against the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index, which results from eight socio- economic sub-indexes. Results show that economic growth in those countries is not always converted into higher levels of prosperity. Countries are ranked according to the “Prosperity Gap”, i.e. whether they have over (prosperity surplus) or under-achieved (prosperity deficit) in creating more prosperous societies given their levels of wealth. For example, Rwanda has a third of Angola’s wealth but has been “more successful at creating a prosperous nation”. . The best performing countries are Rwanda, Senegal, Morocco and Burkina Faso, whilst the Central African Republic, Angola, Chad and Sudan are the worst performing.
The 2016 edition of the OECD’s Better Life Index (BLI) provides an overview of life satisfaction in 38 countries. With respect to previous editions, two additional countries, Latvia and South Africa, are included in the analysis. The index is built on 11 dimensions: jobs, housing, environment, income, health, access to services, civic engagement, education, safety, community and life satisfaction. According to the Index, Denmark and Norway and other Nordic nations, as well as in Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Australia show the highest life satisfaction. This is mainly due to high scores in employment levels, quality of jobs and population's health. Countries where life satisfaction is the lowest, employment levels and, frequently, life expectancy are below the OECD average. An online tool allows users to access the BLI data and input data according to their own preferences. So far over 110,000 people from 180 countries have used this tool.
Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, presented the draft of the country’s new strategy for sustainable development at the annual conference of the council of sustainable development. The new strategy is explicitly aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), taking its 17 goals as a framework, and details what the German government can contribute on a national, international, as well as local levels. The new strategy applies 61 indicators, compared to 38 in the previous strategy, in order to give an up to date impression on the status of sustainable development across its objectives. Data will be published online by Germany’s statistical authority. Germany has had a national sustainable development strategy since 2002. Comments on the new draft will be accepted until 31st July 2016.
Rio de Janeiro has become the second city in the world (after Bogota, Colombia) to create a Social Progress Index (SPI) to monitor sub-city level performance on social progress. SPI assesses social and environmental outcomes, arranged in 3 dimensions (basic needs, foundations of wellbeing, opportunities) composed of 12 components that are measured with 52 indicators. The results released on the 17th of May were presented in a social map of the 32 administrative regions of the city. They revealed major inequalities between the different regions: the overall scores of two regions were higher than 85 out of 100, whereas six other regions scored lower than 45. The main weaknesses identified for the whole city regard access to higher education and sustainability of ecosystems.
As recognised by one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 11 – Make cities, inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), city resilience is considered as a key driver of urban development. Today, threats such as climate change, infrastructure deficit and unplanned growth challenge the competitiveness of cities and the well-being of their citizens. Developed by Arup with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, the City Resilience Index is the first comprehensive measure of relative performance over time. It results from a three-year research on 27 cities across the world and provides a city-specific resilience profile based on 12 goals and 52 indicators, across 4 key dimensions: health and well-being, economy and society, infrastructure and environment, leadership and strategy. It proposes an international approach to understand the drivers of city resilience. The tool can support policy-makers in building sound strategies to tackle risks faced by cities.
The “Looking through the Wellbeing Kaleidoscope” report is the final output of the one-year project "Making Wellbeing Count for Policy" funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and led by City University. This report draws on European Social Survey data to investigate different approaches for understanding and measuring wellbeing beyond the use of the single individual measure of life satisfaction. It considers contributions from three UK based institutions: 1) a measure of comprehensive psychological wellbeing, i.e. the Comprehensive Psychological Wellbeing (CPWB) index, developed by the University of Cambridge and covering ten aspects of wellbeing; 2) inequalities in wellbeing and 3) participation in behaviours believed to improve wellbeing ("five ways to wellbeing") explored by the New Economics Foundation (NEF); 4) the determinants of perceived quality of society (PQOS), i.e. people’s satisfaction with key institutions in society, empirically analysed by City University London.
The Swiss Federal Statistical Office has adopted a revised framework for assessing national progress towards sustainable development. In order to reflect the new national Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) 2016-19 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Switzerland has revised its MONET sustainable development indicator system. The system is comprised of 73 indicators, of these 22 are new. 36 indicators are used to monitor progress towards the national SDS, whilst nearly all of them can be linked to one of the SDGs. The 73 indicators are classified into twelve categories such as “labour”, “natural resources”, “production and consumption”, or “social cohesion”. The two latter categories incorporate the most new indicators, with five additional indicators for both groups respectively.
Produced by the “Institut Think” for the think tank “Fabrique Spinoza”, the Indicateur Trimestriel du Bonheur des Français (ITBF) measures the happiness of French population. Intended to be released on a quarterly basis in order to follow the rhythm of national GDP publications, its first edition was released on April 29. It draws on an online survey, consisting of 47 questions, carried out on 1001 adults considered to be a representative sample of the French population. The survey addresses three dimensions of happiness: individual happiness, environment elements (including nature and environment) and individual happiness functioning . The happiness of French population is found to be modest with an average score of 5.9 out of 10. 18% of people were found to be very unhappy (scoring less than 3), whilst 28% were found to be very happy (scoring more than 8).
On April 28th, at the end of the international conference “Social Progress – What works?”, the City of Reykjavík and the Social Progress Imperative signed a memorandum of understanding to apply the Social Progress Index (SPI) to monitor the well-being of the capital’s residents. The SPI assesses social and environmental outcomes through 54 indicators complementing traditional economic measures such as GDP. The SPI has already been applied at national level in 161 countries, including Iceland, at regional (NUTS2) level for the European Union, and at subnational and local level in parts of Latin America. The Reykjavík initiative is the first one promoted at the urban level in Europe. Local authorities, businesses, civil society and academia will be involved in tailoring this new index.
In October 2015, the Dutch House of Representatives established a temporary parliamentary committee to work on a “Broad Definition of Welfare”. The final report adopted by the committee in April 2016 stresses the negligible impact information on welfare has on public and political debate in comparison to GDP. This can be explained by the number and variety of existing initiatives and indicators, their lack of international harmonisation, the shortage of up-to-date information, and the way in which the information is presented. Instead of developing its own national indicators set, the committee suggests that the Netherlands should rather contribute to the harmonisation of the existing international initiatives. Moreover, to stimulate debate on welfare and political choices affecting it, Statistics Netherlands should annually publish a "Monitor on Welfare" to be debated once a year on a dedicated occasion.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth was formed in United Kingdom in February 2016 to provide a new platform for cross-party dialogue on economic prosperity in a time of environmental and social transition. Its aims include contributing to the international debate on redefining prosperity and measures of growth. As with all informal cross-party groups, the APPG is run by members of both chambers of the UK Parliament. This group is made up of 7 members of the Chamber of Commons and 6 from the House of Lords. It is chaired by Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and co-chaired by representatives from the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives. The group firstly met on 19th April 2016 and launched “Limits Revisited”.
Italy’s Chamber of Deputies introduced a reform of the Budget Law, approved in September 2016, to include in the Document of Economics and Finance the development in the past three years of a selected set of fair and sustainable well-being (BES/Benessere equo sostenibile) indicators. Such indicators, selected by a committee of experts on BES indicators, represent a significant step towards the inclusion of the social and environmental dimension into decisions on economic and financial issues. According the reform, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will present a report including the evolution and forecast of specific BES indicators to the Chambers by February 15th of every year; that will bethen transferred to the parliamentary commissions. This is expected to to facilitate the attainment of Italy’s economic policy objectives.
The Nordic Ministers for the Environment decided in 2013 to measure development by moving away from focusing on economic growth. An ad hoc working group on “Complementary Measures for Welfare” involving the Ministers of Environment, Finance and Industry as well as Statistical Offices from all Nordic countries was established to complement GDP measures with statistics on environmental dimensions which were already in place. This group has worked in line with new developments in the field of sustainability, most notably the work within the framework of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. In March 2016 the contributions resulting from the working group were published in the report “Making the environment count - Nordic accounts and indicators for analysing and integrating environment and economy”. 31 indicators covering 5 themes are proposed to examine the environmental and socioeconomic progress in the Nordic region and account for the links between the economy and the environment. According to the working group recommendations, future developments might include further evidence on social issues.
The Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland Roundtable was established on the 24th March 2014 by the Carnegie Trust, a charitable organisation promoting sustainable social development in the UK. The objective of the roundtable was to establish a shared understanding of international and national policy debates on wellbeing, measurements of economic performance and social progress, in order to highlight their relevance for Northern Ireland decision makers. The first roundtable meeting held at the Queen’s University Belfast convened executives from Northern Irish think tanks, universities, NGOs and regional authorities. The results of this meeting were collected in a technical background report providing analytical comments and in a summary report proposing 10 recommendations. Recommendations include promoting wellbeing and its monitoring in public services, regular reporting and communication to the public through adequate tools, developing a training and capacity building programme for bodies responsible for implementation.
The 2016 update of the World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries according to their happiness, was published on 20th March, the International Day of Happiness. Five European countries score the highest in the ranking: Denmark followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland. For the first time, the 2016 Update looks at happiness inequality both within and between societies, across regions and countries. The editors argue that well-being inequality reflects the overall inequality, since people living in societies where there is a less unequal happiness distribution are happier. However, in most countries and in 8 out of the 10 considered regions happiness inequality is increasing.
On 11th March 2016, the United Nations (UN) Statistical Commission agreed on a set of 230 global indicators to measure progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015. This set of indicators will have to be further discussed and adopted by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly. The UN Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, admitted that “refinements and improvements will be needed over the years” and that the SDG indicators “will require an unprecedented amount of data”. In July 2016, 21 countries will voluntarily participate to the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, aimed at monitoring the national and thematic reviews of the 2030 Agenda implementation.
The 2016 National Footprint Accounts show an 8% increase in the global ecological footprint with respect to the previous edition. This has mainly driven by a 16% increase in the global carbon footprint, which makes up to 60% of the world's ecological footprint. A country's annual demand for natural resources and ecological services provided by lands and seas (Ecological footprint) can be compared to the supply of these goods and services provided by this country's ecosystems (Bio-capacity). This new edition introduces several improvements in the accounting methodology. A new methodology for calculating the Average Forest Carbon Sequestration value shows that forests are providing less net-sequestration than previously calculated. Therefore, the world’s ecological footprint exceeds its bio-capacity. A country specific analysis is also provided, showing that some countries, e.g. Singapore, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Japan, present a bio-capacity deficit, while some others, e.g. Guyana, Congo, Bolivia and Brazil, present a bio-capacity reserve.
Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey measures the status of life quality in cities, and these indicators are generally used for calculating compensations of expatriate employees by multinational companies and other employers – it allows for city-to-city comparisons. The 18th edition of the survey is based on 39 factors gathered in 10 categories including political, social, economic and natural environment. According to the latest edition of the survey, which contains rankings for 230 cities, in many cases European cities offer potential for the highest quality of life in the world. The report conclusions suggest that safety is a key factor in determining expats quality of living, with Luxembourg presenting the highest score, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich. Overall quality of living reaches the highest score with Vienna, followed by Zurich, Auckland and Munich.
The Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission, the Social Progress Imperative and Orkestra – Basque Institute of Competitiveness, have developed a pilot regional version of the Social Progress Index for Europe. This is based on the same framework as the global Social Progress Index and provides spatially disaggregated information on the 272 EU “NUTS-2” regions. Using mainly Eurostat data, it scores each region on a scale of 0-100 across 50 indicators. The aim is to provide solid complementary metrics to GDP to support the European regions and Cohesion Policy development. A revised version of the regional Social Progress Index will be released in October 2016 based on stakeholders' feedback.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has developed a preliminary SDG Index and a SDG Dashboard to complement the official monitoring process led by the United Nations. Both are unofficial measures assessing progress towards SDGs achievement not replacing official statistics. Based on currently available data, they are aimed at helping countries to mobilize stakeholders and identify priorities for early action. Both the SDG Index and Dashboard use the same metrics, though the methods of data analysis and aggregation differ. The Index allows to rank countries across the SDGs to assess the current state of progress relative to peers (e.g. countries at a given income level or in a given geographic region). The dashboard visually presents SDG data for each country and goal. Empirical evidence shows that even countries with a high ranking face significant challenges with respect to specific goals. Advice on how to fill some of the major data gaps will be collected until March 31st 2016 by the SDSN through a public consultation. A revised SDG Index will be issued before the High-Level Political Forum meeting in July 2016, aimed at reviewing progress towards implementing the SDGs.
At the 116th Plenary Session of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), the own-initiative opinion, Indicators for territorial development – GDP and beyond, was adopted by the majority of CoR members. This was based on the draft opinion published last year and highlighted the urgent need for complementary indicators to GDP to be adopted for measuring progress and supporting regional and local policy development in Europe. In her address to the plenary, Catiuscia Marini, President of the Umbria Region (Italy), PES Group President and CoR rapporteur for the opinion, argued that, “going beyond GDP is above all a policy choice that permeates our vision for Europe's development and economic and social cohesion”. The proposals included discussing the use of Beyond GDP indicators for the allocation of Cohesion Funds in the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF); requesting the European Commission to set out a timeline to engage local authorities in target-setting and the delivery of the regional data needed to design, implement and monitor the renewed Europe 2020 strategy by setting territorially differentiated targets.
The Belgian Bureau fédéral du Plan (BFP /Federal Planning Bureau) has recently published a report presenting indicators complementary to GDP for measuring people's wellbeing and societal development at federal level, as requested by the Law approved on 14th March 2014. The indicators framework covers 12 themes, including ‘subjective well-being’ and ‘natural resources’, through 64 indicators in total. 26 of these indicators are also disaggregated by age, sex or other characteristics. The set of indicators will be annually updated.
The 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks U.S. states according to their well-being. Created in 2008, the Well-Being Index is a composite indicator on a scale from 0 to 100, based on interviews about five aspects of wellbeing: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. The 2015 index is based on 177,281 telephone interviews (in both English and Spanish) to adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the well-being level in the US remained almost constant from 2014 to 2015, at around 61.5. At 64.8, Hawaii had the highest level of well-being, followed by Alaska and Montana. West Virginia had the lowest mark at 58.5 and was the only state scoring below 60. The report underscores an ongoing consistency in this ranking, especially at the bottom of the spectrum. West Virginia and Kentucky have always taken up the end of the list since the index began. Overall, a number of wellbeing indicators have improved since measurement began in 2008, such as the share of people without health insurance. However, other metrics like obesity have been deteriorating over time.
The Federal Parliamentary Group of the German Green Party presented the first edition of a Green Wealth Report for Germany. This report is based on a dashboard of 8 indicators to depicting the country's economic (e.g. share of environmental protection goods of all exports), social (e.g. inequality of income), environmental (e.g. biodiversity) and societal situation (e.g. life satisfaction). The analysis is intended to complement the Annual Economic Report of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which focusses on GDP and economic growth, and the German Sustainable Development Strategy elaborated by the Federal Government.
The French General Commission on Sustainable Development - GCDD (Commissariat général au développement durable) explores how well being indicators can support citizen mobilisation to a more sustainable economy. The journal edition includes the proceedings from a 2015 symposium entitled “Territorial Well-being: from measure to action for a more sustainable society”, which focused on the important role regions play in promoting sustainable development. The workshop discussed the importance of well-being indicators in supporting decision making and mobilizing stakeholders, and identified lessons and experiences of researchers, institution, and regions. The edition includes eight articles, with authors from the GCDD, the OFCE and a number of stakeholders from French regions and territories.