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Success is not just measured by GDP

Posted by Bethany Farr Team Coordinator at Oxfam

11th Nov 2015

Measurement of national success according to NEF

Good jobs, wellbeing, health, the environment and fairness could be the best indicators of national success, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF). Bethany Farr, Team Coordinator for our UK Policy, Programmes and Campaigns Team, reflects on these findings as the report is officially launched today.

It sounds really simple. But then, the best ideas often are. In their new report, NEF suggest that there should be an alternative to how we currently measure national success. Instead of looking just at economic growth, we should be looking at wellbeing and issues that really matter in peoples' lives. 

Although there is a correlation between growth and the national wellbeing it is not necessarily an accurate indicator of how we are all performing. In the UK, in our post financial crisis world, GDP is now slowly growing, but for many people it doesn't feel like it. The economy might now be stronger but other important areas such as job security and the environment have taken a significant hit. It is areas such as this which should be factored into assessments of our success as a nation. 

The report, Five headline indicators of national success, sets out the alternatives based on research into what the general public thinks should be the priorities for the economy. Oxfam highlighted similar issues in the Humankind Index, which examined what was valued by the people of Scotland, informing a new set of recommendations. This included social relations, their health and skills, physical environment and financial assets. Our report continues to gain significant traction from the Scottish government, and it's great that it has inspired further work. We hope NEF's report can replicate the success of the Humankind Index by influencing policy makers, but on a wider UK scale. 

NEF's five headline indicators of national success:
  1. Good jobs: everyone should be able to find secure, stable employment that pays at least enough to provide a decent standard of living.
  2. Wellbeing: improving people's lives should be the ultimate aim of public policy, measured at headline level as average reported life satisfaction.
  3. Environment: our prosperity and that of future generations depends on a healthy environment. UK carbon emissions must not exceed the set limit if we want to avoid climate change reaching ever more dangerous levels.
  4. Fairness: high levels of inequality, evidenced by a growing gap between the incomes of the top and bottom 10% of households, have been proven to have corrosive effects on both society and economy.
  5. Health: good quality healthcare and public health provision, measured by a reduced percentage of deaths considered avoidable, is a pre-requisite for all other social and economic goals.

We agree with NEF that that their new set of indicators provide a clear picture of what a successful economy should be able to deliver. We hope this is another step towards greater alignment between what matters in economic terms and what really matters to people across the UK. A simple idea, but one we hope has a great future.

Read More

Read more about the Humankind Index

Read more about our work on UK Poverty

Download the NEF Report

Blog post written by Bethany Farr

Team Coordinator at Oxfam

More by Bethany Farr