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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Personal security

Personal security is a key component of people’s well-being. Although many factors influence personal security, crime is one of the most common ones. Crime may lead to the loss of life and property, physical pain, post-traumatic stress and anxiety, both in the short and in the long run. Living in safe communities is essential to people’s well-being, as feelings of insecurity will limit people’s daily activities and functionings. The indicators considered in this chapter provide a general picture of the nature and extent of crime, and of its effects on people’s wellbeing. This chapter shows that intentional homicide rates are low in most OECD countries, although there is significant variation across countries. Self-reported victimisation rates for assaults and muggings are below 5% in most OECD countries, but higher in other major economies. Similarly, most people living in OECD countries declare that they feel safe when walking alone in their neighbourhood at night, while this proportion is much lower in some of the other major economies. Evidence on other threats to personal security, such as domestic violence, remains scattered and suffers from cultural biases and methodological limitations that hamper international comparability.

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