Government must measure quality of life not just wealth

Government measurements of well-being should take into account people’s happiness, not just their wealth, according to Jo Swinson.


Jo has tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to improve economic calculations beyond the straightforward measurement of GDP. The motion also praises a major new study being undertaken in France to address this question, which is headed by Nobel-prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Jo said:

“In the last 50 years, people in the UK have got richer but no happier. To improve the lives of people in this country, we need to move beyond mere calculations of material wealth and start looking at wider issues affecting quality of life.

“Quality of life involves much more than just economics – it is about the amount of time we spend with our families, the stress levels we encounter at work and the environment we live in. Without taking these into account, measurements of well-being are missing the big picture.

“The study being undertaken in France, involving some big names in the economics world, could mark a major step forward in how we think about society’s well-being. Joseph Stiglitz, who is heading up the project, has suggested that other countries should contribute, and I have written to the Chancellor Alistair Darling urging him to involve the UK.”

Early Day Motion 731


That this House notes the undertaking of a study by the French government to establish how quality of life indicators can contribute to new methods of economic calculation; further notes the participation in the study of eminent scholars Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen; commends the French government for seeking a more sophisticated method of measuring well-being than straightforward GDP; notes with concern the Answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 29th November 2007, Official Report, column 428, on well-being, which failed to acknowledge the need for improved measurements of quality of life, despite the stated aim of the Treasury being to `raise the rate of sustainable growth and to achieve rising prosperity and a better quality of life’; further notes that for the last 50 years material wealth in the UK has increased dramatically but surveys show that expressed levels of well-being, or happiness, have remained static; and urges the Government to both endorse and participate in the French study, with the aim of improving the well-being, not simply the wealth, of all people in the UK.

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