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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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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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