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How's Life?

Measuring Well-being

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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.

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Education and skills

Education and skills have a strong influence on people’s well-being. Education opens opportunities for people and brings a wide range of benefits to society, including higher economic growth, stronger social cohesion and less crime. By investing in education, families and governments can reach many economic and social goals at the same time. This chapter considers a few wellestablished educational indicators that provide a basic picture of both the current educational status of the adult population and selected skills of youth, skills needed to undertake the broad range of activities essential to life in modern society. This chapter finds that education has increased substantially over the past few decades, with countries converging towards a similar level of educational attainment. However, strong disparities remain in the quality of educational outcomes, as measured by the reading and civic skills of students. Despite the free availability of school services in many countries, educational attainment and students’ skills are strongly influenced by the incomes and socio-economic backgrounds of their families, with educational disadvantage cumulating over the life course. This suggests that educational inequalities should be tackled as early as possible in life.

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