The European Commission held a high-level expert conference on "Moving 'beyond GDP' in European economic governance" in Brussels on the 10th of October.
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The conference was organised in cooperation with the Italian Presidency of the Council.
It took stock of all the recent technical and policy developments in the context of the 'Beyond GDP' debate and discussed practical policy options for the future.
The opening session was chaired by Director General Michel Servoz. Commissioners Andor and Potočnik delivered the opening remarks.
After a keynote speech by Professor Enrico Giovannini, former Chief Statistician of the OECD and former Minister of Labour and Social Policies of Italy, the conference discussed:
- recent technical advances in measuring well-being (from the economic, social as well as environmental angles),
- their current policy applications, and
- how to better translate "beyond GDP" thinking into EU-level and national policy-making in the future.
The concluding address was given by Undersecretary of State of the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, Luigi Bobba.
For several years now, the Commission, other international organisations, national governments and academia have been engaged in a debate on measuring social progress and supplementing ‘standard’ economic indicators, such as GDP, with environmental and social indicators. The debate was triggered in particular by the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report and the Commission communication ‘GDP and beyond: Measuring progress in a changing world’, both of which were issued in 2009.
The Europe 2020 Strategy, which takes full account of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development, has helped to focus policy-makers’ attention on ways of combining economic development and people’s well-being with fair distribution and preservation of scarce resources.
The social consequences of the economic crisis and the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy have given fresh impetus to the debate. Recent highlights include the comprehensive ‘Better Life Initiative for measuring well-being and progress’ developed by the OECD. More recently, a new high-level expert group (‘Stiglitz II’) was set up to look at global inequalities, top incomes, well-being and sustainability. For its part, the Commission recently proposed a list of potential indicators supplementing GDP in the 2013 Employment and Social Developments in Europe review.
The need for additional indicators to supplement GDP also became clear in the discussion on strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union. The 2013 Commission communication ‘Strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union’ alerted policy-makers to the fact that a deterioration in the employment and social conditions in a particular Member State can hamper economic growth and well-being not only in the country concerned, but also throughout the euro area.
The Commission therefore proposed a scoreboard of key employment and social indicators that allows for better and earlier identification of major employment and social problems, especially those which are likely to generate effects extending beyond national borders. The scoreboard is now fully embedded in the EU economic governance framework and was used for the first time during the 2014 European Semester process.