How's Life?

Measuring Well-being

image of How's Life?

Every person aspires to a good life. But what does “a good or a better life” mean? This report looks at the most important aspects that shape people’s lives and well-being: income, jobs, housing, health, work and 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. The report responds to the needs of citizens for better information on well-being and of policy makers to give a more accurate picture of societal progress.

The report finds that well-being has increased on average over the past fifteen years: people are richer and more likely to be employed; they enjoy better housing conditions and are exposed to lower air pollution; they live longer and are more educated; they are also exposed to fewer crimes. But differences across countries are large. Furthermore, some groups of the population, particularly less educated and low-income people, tend to fare systematically worse in all dimensions of well-being considered in this report: for instance they live shorter lives and report greater health problems; their children obtain worse school results; they participate less in political activities; they can rely on lower social networks in case of needs; they are more exposed to crime and pollution; they tend to be less satisfied with their life as a whole than more educated and higher-income people.

How’s Life? is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, launched by the Organization on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary. 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 Your Better Life Index ( www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org ), an interactive composite index of well-being that aims at involving citizens in the debate on societal progress.

English Also available in: French, Chinese

Civic engagement and governance

Civic engagement allows people to express their voice and to contribute to the political functioning of their society. In turn, in well-functioning democracies, civic engagement shapes the institutions that govern people’s lives. While civic engagement and governance are essential for democracies, they are also very difficult to measure. This chapter presents some limited evidence, and emphasises the need for a better conceptual foundation for these concepts and for their measurement. The indicators included provide information about the possibility for citizens to express their voices in political processes, on some aspects of the quality of governance, and on people’s satisfaction with public institutions. Even if these indicators are far from ideal, this chapter identifies some important patterns. First, while levels of voter turnout vary across countries, most OECD countries experienced declining participation rates over the last few decades. Second, the shift towards greater transparency and consultation in rule-making has not translated into higher civic engagement. Third, even if all OECD citizens enjoy fundamental civic rights, they do not necessarily exercise them effectively, particularly in the case of the poor, the less educated and the youth. Overall, these patterns are important as they point to shortcomings in democratic institutions, and to a gap between how citizens and elites perceive the functioning of democratic systems.

English Also available in: French



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