By Wire News Sources on November 26, 2010
How to measure happiness is the question being asked by David Cameron with the launch of a £2m consultation on how to best assess our well-being.
The prime minister will argue that economic growth is an “incomplete” way of calculating progress, and that it should also include quality of life.
The Office for National Statistics will lead the debate on what matters most to us, before launching a survey in April.
Mr Cameron believes the new measure will help focus policy.
Launching the consultation on Thursday, the prime minister will say: “From April next year we will start 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.
“We’ll continue to measure GDP as we’ve always done, but it is high time we admitted that, taken on its own, GDP is an incomplete way of measuring a country’s progress.”
“Finding out what will really improve lives and acting on it is the serious business of government”
Possible indicators to be included in next year’s survey include health, levels of education, inequalities in income and the environment.
BBC home editor Mark Easton said Mr Cameron was determined to put his personal stamp on Britain’s search for a new way of measuring social progress despite doing so in the midst of painful government cuts.
A new measure of well-being will, in time, “lead to government policy that is more focussed not just on the bottom line, but on all those things that make life worthwhile”, he will say.
He will quote former US senator Robert Kennedy, who said GDP measured everything “except that which makes life worthwhile”.
The information gathered would help Britain re-evaluate its priorities in life, he will add.
Mr Cameron will deny the changes will sideline economic growth just as the country tries to recover from the recession.
“To those who say that all this sounds like a distraction from the serious business of government, I say finding out what will really improve lives and acting on it is the serious business of government.”
The UK government is not the first to seek better measures of progress than GDP – the World Bank, European Commission, United Nations, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have all made the same commitment.
ONS head Jil Matheson said: “There is no shortage of numbers that could be used to construct measures of well-being, but they will only be successful if they are widely accepted and understood.
“We want to develop measures based on what people tell us matters most.”
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