Measuring progress, true wealth, and the well-being of nations
On April 28
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”.
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 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.
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 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.