Table of Contents

  • How’s Life? is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, which aims to promote “Better Policies for Better Lives”, in line with the OECD’s overarching mission. It is a statistical report released every two years that documents a wide range of well-being outcomes, and how they vary over time, between population groups, and across countries. This assessment is based on a multi-dimensional framework covering 11 dimensions of current well-being, and four different types of resources that help to support well-being over time. Each issue also includes special chapters that provide an in‐depth look at specific aspects of well-being. The 2017 edition features a focus on inequalities in well-being, migrants’ experiences of well-being, and the role of governance in well-being.

  • Well-being cannot prosper in divided societies. Nearly ten years since the start of the global financial crisis, the world economy is regaining momentum. Yet the crisis has left behind scars of uncertainty about the future, and after a period of widening income inequalities, there is a sense of deepening divisions in several OECD countries. In particular, there is concern that the economic shifts in the last 30-40 years have left too many people behind. With the crisis as its backdrop, the “beyond GDP” movement has drawn attention to the limits of macroeconomic statistics in describing what matters most to the quality of people’s lives. This has encouraged us to ask both who and whataspects of life are missing from the traditional indicators that policy-makers most often use to guide their decisions. The OECD well-being framework and the statistics we have been compiling since 2011 offer a unique way to approach these issues directly, injecting some hard-won evidence into the heated debate on inclusiveness.

  • In each figure, data labelled “OECD” are simple mean averages of the OECD countries displayed, unless otherwise indicated. Where data are not available for all 35 OECD countries, the number of countries included in the calculation is specified in the figure (e.g. OECD 33). Where changes over time are shown in the figures, the OECD averages refer to only those countries with data available for all time points.

  • What makes for a good life? While the richness of human experience cannot be captured in numbers alone, it is important that the statistics shaping public policy reflect both people’s material living conditions, and the quality of their lives. This includes how life is changing over time, how lives differ across different population groups, and whether today’s well-being is achieved at the cost of depleting resources for the future. This fourth edition of How’s Life? aims to meet this need, providing a picture of people’s well-being in OECD and partner countries.

  • A key reason for measuring well-being is to understand whether, where and how life is getting better for people. This chapter provides an overview of OECD countries’ achievements across 11 dimensions of current well-being and four different “capital stocks” that help to sustain well-being over time. It features a diverse set of statistics, ranging from household wealth to time spent on leisure, and from air pollution to how safe people feel walking alone at night. Since the last 10 years have been a turbulent time in most OECD economies, the chapter has a particular focus on changes in people’s well-being. It seeks to address the simple question: is life today better or worse than it was in 2005, before the financial crisis took hold? The overview provided here is complemented by , which examines inequalities in current well-being outcomes, and , which provides profiles of each OECD country and 6 OECD partner countries.

  • Describing how outcomes are distributed within societies is an essential part of measuring people’s well-being. While much of the recent debate on inequality focuses on income and wealth, inequality can touch every aspect of a person’s life. This chapter provides a framework and a set of indicators to assess inequalities across a wide variety of well-being domains, covering both material conditions and quality of life outcomes. Since there are several different ways to answer the question of “who gets what?” a number of different approaches to measuring inequalities are also presented. The analysis shows that inequalities in well-being are pervasive in all OECD countries: although some societies are more equal than others, no country “has it all”. The main steps necessary to improve the measurement of inequalities in well-being outcomes are also discussed.

  • Better understanding the lives of migrants is key to ensuring both their well-being and their successful integration. This chapter builds on previous OECD work to explore the meaning and measurement of migrants’ well-being. On average, migrants experience greater poverty, lower levels of income and wealth, and more exposure to poor environmental and housing conditions relative to non-migrants. They also find it harder to access decent work: they are more likely to be overqualified for their jobs, experience more in-work poverty and work more atypical hours. While migrants tend to be less satisfied with their lives in OECD countries, in many cases they still report higher life satisfaction than the peers they left behind in their country of origin. Data on health, social connections, trust in government and attitudes towards migrants are also featured in the chapter. However, a number of important gaps in the evidence remain, and more accurate, timely and granular data on migrants’ well-being are needed.

  • People expect public institutions to create the conditions for them to thrive and prosper, to be responsive to their needs, to support them in exceptional circumstances, and to perform their functions efficiently. This chapter explores the role of governance in shaping people’s well-being, with a focus on how people experience and engage with public institutions at the national level. While governance remains a complex multidimensional concept lacking a standardised definition, key components required for “good governance” and their relation to well-being have been identified in the literature. For each of these components, an analysis is made of the often-limited comparative evidence, which comes mainly from non-official household surveys. The evidence shown in this chapter suggests, amongst other things, that beyond voting other forms of political participation are weak; that only one in three adults believes they have a say in what government does; and that people tend to be dissatisfied with government efforts to reduce inequalities. Finally, the main steps to be implemented in order to improve the measurement of governance are discussed.