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Measuring Scotland's quality of life. The Humankind Index puts people at the heart of policymaking

Posted by Katherine Trebeck Senior Researcher

24th Apr 2012

Humankind Index logo
Katherine Trebeck on the launch of the Humankind Index in Scotland.

So as the usual economic statistics tell us that we're entering a stage of 'recovery', we need to think about what it is we want to recover. What is important to salvage from the car crash that was the financial crisis? The answer to that question might be in the Oxfam Humankind Index, the new measure of Scotland's prosperity, launched today by Oxfam Scotland.

This is not another top-down measure of the country's economic growth, like GDP.  Rather, it measures Scotland's overall prosperity based on the things that people told us really matter to them, and we hope to use it to help policymakers drive Scotland's recovery in the right direction.

The consultation process revealed that it's the quality of growth that is most important to people. For example, satisfaction derived from work is one of the top priorities, not work per se. Security and sufficiency of income are important to people, not having loads and loads of dosh. The quality of our environment, strength of friendships, and the safety of those we care about are also key factors. And above all are health and housing. You can find out more about the consultation process at:

Scotland's prosperity has gone up...

With the help of the New Economics Foundation and the Fraser of Allander Institute, we assessed how Scotland is performing  against those areas of life that are key to people's prosperity. What we saw was that since 2007-2008 our prosperity has increased 1.2% (to 2009-2010). Scotland appears to have become more, if only slightly more, prosperous. This is good news, but mainly due to non-economic factors such as health, community spirit and better local environments.   The areas connected to the economic aspects of life seem to be actually deteriorating. The lack of secure jobs, and the dire need for a stable and sufficient source of money are dragging Scotland's prosperity down.  But even though prosperity is rising, it doesn't fool anyone.  It's a sign of growing inequality.

...but it's not being equally shared

Crucially, our deprived communities are failing to get a share the improvements to the country's overall prosperity. They lag behind not just in terms of having enough money, but also in the fields of health, housing, the local environment, feeling safe, and community spirit. These gaps reflect the extent of inequality in Scotland - its impact stretches beyond money to all aspects of life. It will take action in areas beyond the economy to ensure Scotland's most deprived communities are no longer being deprived of the greater prosperity enjoyed in the rest of our country.

But closing this gap will not happen by simply pursuing economic growth without regard to its quality or distribution. What is concerning about current moves to return to business as usual is that the business itself wasn't that healthy, nor was 'usual' that useful to our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Instead, we need to pursue an economy that works for the people, not the other way around, and an economy that works for all of us, and not just the few of us. This is the shift we hope the Oxfam Humankind Index will help catalyse.

For Oxfam, the financial crisis provides an opportunity to re-prioritise our goals, focusing on what is really most important to people and what is most influential on our prosperity and sustainability. The Oxfam Humankind Index is helping us to reset our national compass to point us in a new direction - one that guides us towards greater real prosperity for all the people of Scotland.

Hear the people of Scotland say what's important to them


Blog post written by Katherine Trebeck

Senior Researcher

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Katherine Trebeck