Futuribles Journal n° 412

Économie, emploi - Société, modes de vie

The OECD’s Better Life Initiative: Measuring what Counts for Citizens and Society


“There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics” runs the opening sentence on the website of the OECD’s recently created Better Life Index. This is an encouraging stance, given that, until the first decade of this century, economic indicators alone governed the measurement of the wealth and development of societies, despite that choice of quantitative indicators being regularly contested, not least in the columns of Futuribles. For 10 years or so, there has been increasing debate on the need to incorporate other elements (environmental and social factors, in particular) to measure the progress of societies and the OECD itself has moved into this new field by developing novel, more qualitative indicators. Martine Durand offers a view of this Better Life Initiative, launched by the OECD in 2011 and aimed at measuring what contributes to improving both individual and collective well-being. Apart from economic resources and job satisfaction, also assessed are state of health, housing conditions, quality of environment, work-life balance, educational level, community, civic engagement, personal safety and subjective well-being. After presenting this initiative and the value of the exercise, Martine Durand shows the main lessons that flow from it, particularly for France compared to the other member states of the OECD. She particularly stresses the specific attention given in the last edition of the “How’s Life?”report to the situation of children and the impact of voluntary work on individual well-being. Lastly, she highlights the need to incorporate these new indicators measuring well-being into the direction of public policy (as France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom do), so that they contribute effectively to social progress in the fields identified as essential by individuals.

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