How's Life?

Measuring Well-being

Frequency :
Semestriel
ISSN :
2308-9679 (en ligne)
ISSN :
2308-9660 (imprimé)
DOI :
10.1787/23089679
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Every person aspires to a good life. But what does "a good or a better life" mean? How’s Life?, published every two years,  provides an update on the most important aspects that shape people’s lives and well-being: income, jobs, housing, health, work-life balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective well-being. It paints a comprehensive picture of well-being in OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people’s material living conditions and quality of life across the population. Through a wide range of comparable well-being indicators, the report shows that countries perform differently in the various dimensions of well-being. For instance, low-income countries in the OECD area tend to do very well in subjective well-being and work-life balance, while their level of material well-being is much lower than that of other OECD countries. The report responds to the needs of citizens for better information on well-being and the needs of policy makers to give a more accurate picture of societal progress.

How’s Life? is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, launched by the Organization on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary in 2011. The OECD Better Life Initiative aims to promote "Better Policies for Better Lives", in line with the OECD’s overarching mission. One of the other pillars of the OECD Better Life Initiative is the Better Life Index (www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org), an interactive composite index of well-being that aims at involving citizens in the debate on societal progress.

  • 2013
 
How's Life? 2013

Dernière édition

How's Life? 2013

Measuring Well-being You do not have access to this content

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Auteur(s):
OCDE
Date de publication :
05 nov 2013
Pages :
212
ISBN :
9789264220096 (EPUB) ; 9789264201392 (PDF) ; 9789264200746 (imprimé)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264201392-en

Cacher / Voir l'abstract

Every person aspires to a good life. But what does "a good or a better life" mean? The second edition of How’s Life? provides an update on  the most important aspects that shape people’s lives and well-being: income, jobs, housing, health, work-life balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective well-being. It paints a comprehensive picture of well-being in OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people’s material living conditions and quality of life across the population. Through a wide range of comparable well-being indicators, the report shows that countries perform differently in the various dimensions of well-being. For instance, low-income countries in the OECD area tend to do very well in subjective well-being and work-life balance, while their level of material well-being is much lower than that of other OECD countries. The report responds to the needs of citizens for better information on well-being and the needs of policy makers to give a more accurate picture of societal progress.

In addition, the report contains in-depth studies of four key cross-cutting issues in well-being that are particularly relevant. First, this report analyses how well-being has changed during the global economic and financial crisis. Even though some effects of the crisis may become visible only in the long-term, the report finds that the Great Recession has large implications for both economic and non-economic well-being of households. Secondly, the report  looks at gender differences in well-being, showing that the traditional gender gap in favour of men has reduced but has not disappeared. It also finds that women and men do well in different areas of well-being and that they are increasingly sharing tasks and roles. Third, it looks at the quality of employment and well-being in the workplace. The report presents evidence on the main factors that drive people’s commitment at work and are key to strengthening  their capacity to cope with demanding jobs. Finally, the last chapter of the report studies the links between current and future well-being. It looks at ways to define and measure sustainability of wellbeing over time.

How’s Life? is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, launched by the Organization on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary in 2011. The OECD Better Life Initiative aims to promote "Better Policies for Better Lives", in line with the OECD’s overarching mission. One of the other pillars of the OECD Better Life Initiative is the Better Life Index (www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org), an interactive composite index of well-being that aims at involving citizens in the debate on societal progress.

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    Foreword

    How’s Life? provides a bi-annual assessment of people’s well‑being in OECD countries and in selected emerging economies. This assessment is based on a multi-dimensional framework covering 11 dimensions of well-being and on a broad set of outcome indicators. Each issue also contains several chapters focusing on more specific aspects. The 2013 edition of How’s Life? covers four topics: the impact of the global financial crisis on well‑being; gender differences in well‑being; well‑being in the workplace; and sustaining well‑being over time.

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    Editorial: Focusing on people

    This second edition of How’s Life? updates the information and deepens the analysis presented in the first edition launched two years ago, as part of the OECD Better Life Initiative. While research and analysis of statistical data have always been central to achieving the OECD’s mission of helping governments design Better Policies for Better Lives, the release of How’s Life? represented an important milestone in providing new evidence on a wide range of aspects that matter most to people’s lives. It presented a new framework for measuring better lives that shifts the focus from traditional economic measures and puts people at the centre. This framework features eleven dimensions of human well‑being, including people’s income and wealth, their jobs and housing conditions, their health and skills, the time they devote to their families and friends, their ties with other people in their community, how much they trust institutions and their capacity to act as informed citizens, the quality of the environment, their experiences of violence and victimisation, their feelings and life evaluations. Thus countries’ performances are no longer assessed through the lens of GDP only. Rather, the new metrics used in How’s Life? allow us to gauge whether a range of well‑being outcomes in each country are moving in line with the aspirations of citizens. In the two years since the first edition was published, OECD work on well‑being has had a profound influence on the way well‑being is measured across the world and on the public debate on what matters to citizens.

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    Reader's guide

    Data shown for OECD and OECD EU are simple averages of countries displayed in each figure for the two areas.

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    Executive summary

    What matters most when it comes to people’s well‑being? The OECD’s Better Life Initiative aims to answer that question by painting a broad picture of people’s lives using 11 key dimensions essential to well‑being. These range from traditional measures such as income and jobs, health, education and the local environment, to personal safety and overall satisfaction with life.

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    The OECD Better Life Initiative : Concepts and indicators

    What drives people’s and nations’ well‑being and where do countries need to improve to achieve greater progress for all? Building on more than 10 years of OECD work on measuring well‑being and progress, the OECD Better Life Initiative launched in 2011 addresses these questions through evidence on 11 dimensions. The framework developed by the OECD to measure well‑being distinguishes between current and future well‑being. Current well‑being is measured in terms of both material conditions and quality of life. The chapter also describes a range of statistical advancements made on measuring well‑being since the previous edition of How’s Life?. For example, significant progress has been made in some areas, such as income and wealth, education, environment and subjective well‑being. This progress needs to be sustained while in other well‑being areas statistical challenges still remain.

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    How's Life? at a Glance

    How’s life today in OECD countries and beyond? The OECD framework for measuring well‑being is used in this chapter to present a diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of countries’ well‑being. This diagnosis shows that OECD countries have made considerable progress in many well‑being areas over the past 20 years or so, although progress has been uneven across the 11 dimensions included in the OECD well‑being framework. Similarly, there is great diversity in patterns amongst different countries as well as disparity in well‑being achievements of different groups of the population within a country.

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    Well‑being and the global financial crisis

    How did people’s life change during the global economic and financial crisis? In the wake of the crisis, household income and wealth, jobs and housing conditions deteriorated and have not completely recovered yet in many OECD countries. This had the effect of increasing poverty and inequalities, especially among young people and low-skilled workers. The number of discouraged workers and inactive people has increased, as did perceived work-life conflicts for employed people. Clear negative trends have also emerged in subjective well‑being and civic engagement, with increasing levels of stress, lower life satisfaction and decreasing trust in national governments. Trends in other well‑being dimensions, such as health and social connections, are less clear. Information on short-term trends in well‑being is limited, however, and there is a need to improve the timeliness and frequency of the statistical base used to guide short-term policy decisions in order to better take into account households’ perspective.

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    Gender differences in well‑being: Can women and men have it all?

    Gender equality in well‑being is not simply a women’s issue. While traditional disadvantages faced by women and girls persist in most countries, men and boys are increasingly exposed to uncertain job prospects and need to adapt to changing tasks and societal expectations. Although men continue to score higher than women in a number of areas, no gender consistently outperforms the other and the gender gaps in well‑being have being narrowing in recent decades. Whilst women live longer than men, they are also ill more often. Girls are now doing better than boys in school, but still remain under-represented in the key fields of education that provide greater job opportunities. Similarly, although women are increasingly present in the labour market, they still earn less than men, spend more hours in unpaid work and find it harder to reach the top of the career ladder or start their own business. Men are more often the victims of homicide and assault, but women are the primary target of intimate partner violence. Finally, although women are more satisfied with their lives than men, they are more likely to experience negative emotions. Despite progress in mainstreaming gender perspectives in the collection and dissemination of national statistics, gender data and indicators are still insufficient or lack cross-country comparability in a number of critical well‑being areas.

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    Well‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality

    While employment is a strong determinant of people’s life satisfaction, what matters is not just having a job, but also what kind of job. Measuring the quality of employment is challenging, as it covers many different aspects, from work content and autonomy in decision-making to interactions with colleagues and support from managers, as well as more traditional dimensions such as earnings and job security. Job quality is analysed by bringing together various measurement frameworks and by looking at a range of indicators. A special focus is put on subjective well‑being in the workplace which is a function of various requirements and opportunities that people face at work. Work autonomy, well-defined work goals, appropriate feedback on the work performed and supportive colleagues are conducive to personal accomplishment. When combined with negative work atmosphere and poor workplace organisation, heavy workloads and great time pressures can impair health. These aspects of employment quality are, however, difficult to convert into cross-country comparable indicators as their measurement partly relies on workers’ subjective judgement about their job. Further work is needed to enable the implementation of such indicators in an international context.

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    Measuring the sustainability of well‑being over time

    What are the factors that can shape well‑being in the future? How do the choices that we make today affect the options for future generations? These are complex but important issues. Policy-makers, citizens and organisations need information about what sustains well‑being over time, to help guide decision-making in the present. This chapter focuses on four types of resources (or capital) that can be measured today, and that matter for future well‑being: economic, natural, human, and social capital. It argues that these resources should be monitored through a dashboard of indicators, including measures that can capture stocks of capital, their distribution, and some of the factors that can cause them to increase and decrease over time. This dashboard of indicators should be developed to complement the dashboard of current well‑being outcomes in How’s Life? enabling us to assess today’s well‑being in the context of the resources left for future generations.

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    Glossary

    Affect balance: It captures the net balance between positive (e.g. joy, enjoyment and self-rest) and negative (e.g. worry, sadness, depression) moods and feelings.

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