How's Life? 2013

Measuring Well-being

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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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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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