Beyond GDP

Measuring What Counts for Economic and Social Performance

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Metrics matter for policy and policy matters for well-being. In this report, the co-chairs of the OECD-hosted High Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Martine Durand, show how over-reliance on GDP as the yardstick of economic performance misled policy makers who did not see the 2008 crisis coming. When the crisis did hit, concentrating on the wrong indicators meant that governments made inadequate policy choices, with severe and long-lasting consequences for many people. While GDP is the most well-known, and most powerful economic indicator, it can’t tell us everything we need to know about the health of countries and societies. In fact, it can’t even tell us everything we need to know about economic performance. We need to develop dashboards of indicators that reveal who is benefitting from growth, whether that growth is environmentally sustainable, how people feel about their lives, what factors contribute to an individual’s or a country’s success. This book looks at progress made over the past 10 years in collecting well-being data, and in using them to inform policies. An accompanying volume, For Good Measure: Advancing Research on Well-being Metrics Beyond GDP, presents the latest findings from leading economists and statisticians on selected issues within the broader agenda on defining and measuring well-being.

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Country-experiences with using well-being indicators to steer policies

This chapter evaluates what is different when policy is approached through a well-being lens. It describes the different ways in which well-being indicators could be used in the different stages of the policy cycle, from identifying priorities for action, to assessing the pros and cons of different strategies to achieve policy goals, to allocate the resources (budgetary, human, political) needed to implement the selected strategy, to monitor interventions in real time as they are implemented, and to assess the results achieved and take decisions on how to change policies in the future. The chapter argues that a broad framework encompassing the most important dimensions of people’s lives, paying attention not just to average outcomes but to how policies affect each of the segments of society, and giving a balanced consideration to well-being today, tomorrow and in other parts of the world, holds the promise of delivering better results and bridging the divide that separates policy-makers and ordinary people today.

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