Beyond GDP – Measuring well being

Measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving . . . not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life.” David Cameron.

In November, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that, to help guide national policy, the British government would begin to measure the subjective well-being of its citizens. The announcement was the latest evidence of a growing awareness among governments and economists that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other traditional metrics of economic progress fail to measure the kind of progress that makes life better. [excerpt from Yes Magazine – Read more here and ].

At last governments, economists and policy makers are waking up to the fact that the GDP does not count everything. It does not count the work of women and home makers and parents (unless they are paid to do so), it does not count the wonder of swimming in a blue sea or sun bathing on a beach or sitting under a shady tree reading a book unless, you have paid to go to a tourist destination to do so. GDP does not count the honour and gratification of spending time with a loved one, or of being able to eat the vegetables from your own garden. GDP only counts where money exchanges hand.

All of life and the quality and well being of being human cannot be measured only through the exchange of money. We pay attention to those things we measure. For example Bhutan has been for many years measuring their Gross National Happiness (GNH). It is heartening to know that at last some, like the British Government, are beginning to question the statues quo of how we measure our growth, success and how development is defined.

We have to be careful however of not becoming obsessed with trying to count the ‘uncountables’. In order to count these intangibles we must not try to reduce things like happiness in to some standard formula. There is no standard formula for happiness. Different things make different people happy. What we must do is to acknowledge this, and to build a holistic view of success, growth and development.

Wishing you a whole lot of well being!


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