Quality of Life over GDP

Britons want quality of life indicators to take priority over economy. Polls finds majority would like ministers to prioritise health and wellbeing over GDP during coronavirus crisis, and six in 10 would still want the government to pursue health and wellbeing ahead of growth after the pandemic.

The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has long (and famously) espoused Gross Domestic Happiness as the country's primary measure of success, the city of Amsterdam has just become the first municipality in Europe to change their economic strategy from growth to thriving, and connecting bodily health to planetary health - now it looks like the UK wants to head down a similar path.

Measures of the UK’s quality of life should replace the publication of purely economic indicators, campaigners and politicians have urged, as polling has found a substantial majority of the public want ministers to focus on improving health and wellbeing over economic growth.

A YouGov poll has found eight out of 10 people would prefer the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth during the coronavirus crisis, and six in 10 would still want the government to pursue health and wellbeing ahead of growth after the pandemic has subsided, though nearly a third would prioritise the economy instead at that point.

Positive Money, the campaigning group that commissioned the research, said the poll showed that the government should publish statistics on social indicators, health, the environment and quality of life to give a truer picture of the UK’s status and help policymakers better target what the public wants.

“It’s clear the vast majority of the public think we should worry more about people’s health and wellbeing than economic growth,” said Fran Boait, the executive director of Positive Money. “The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment.”

The focus on GDP means economic growth can take place at the expense of the environment, and people’s quality of life, without any of the resulting damages ever being taken into account, the report argues. That in turn encourages ministers and officials to seek ways of raising the GDP figures, even if rising nominal growth is accompanied by environmental degradation, worsening health, poor educational attainment and increasing poverty.

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