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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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Jobs and Earnings

Having a job that matches one’s aspirations and competencies and that pays adequate earnings is a universal aspiration of people around the globe. In general, the economic growth of the past fifteen years has gone in hand with an increase in employment and earnings in most OECD and other major economies, but these accomplishments are being put to a serious test by the ongoing economic crisis. Further, earnings inequalities have increased in most OECD countries, some aspects of working conditions (e.g. involuntary part-time) have worsened, and having a job seems to provide less of a shield against the risk of poverty than in the past. Women, youth and older workers face relatively high job insecurity and weaker ties with the labour market. Even though employment statistics generally meet high statistical standards, there is scope for improvement in several domains, as in the case of data on hours worked, earnings disparities and measurement of the quality of employment. While many international organisations have been active in defining a measurement framework for assessing job quality, information gaps in this field are still very large, especially as far as official statistics are concerned.

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