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Create your Better Life Index!

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Gross national happiness

How do we measure the quality of our lifes? Is the GDP per capita an indication of citizens’ happiness?

These are questions that have more than one right answer and there has been a lot of struggle on finding the most adequate KPIs to measure the well-being of societies. The world’s richest countries by GDP, don’t have the best structured societies and systems. For example, based on a Forbes analysis made in 2010, Qatar has the highest GDP per capita, but doesn’t have an equal distribution of its wealth, as some areas are really poor and its economy is based on one resource – oil. Other countries, like Australia (no. 11) or Canada (no. 14) may not be in the top 3, but their wealth is better distributed to the society and they have more solid economies.

Over time, innovative methods of measuring the well-being of societies appeared in an attempt to capture all social aspects of the economy. In the ’70 His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck created the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) based on nine domains: well-being, health, education ,time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and living standards. The index has 33 indicators and the domains are equally weighted. The 2010 GNH Index reflected that 74% of the Bhutanese are happy and that rural areas do better in community vitality, cultural resilience and good governance than urban areas.

A recent initiative to assess societies belongs to The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Through the Better Life Index, citizens can express their opinion regarding what makes their life better. The index takes into consideration 11 dimensions: housing, income, jobs, community, education, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance. Each dimension is reflected  by 3 specific KPIs and their weight in the index is given by the citizen. By accessing the OECD’s website, people can choose what matters most for them and so, build  their own index. Every time an index is created, it will enter a publicly accessible database and comparisons can be done between indexes created by people around the world.

The Better Life Index allows citizens to assess performance of 34 countries in a way that is relevant for them, but the lack of a standard methodology limits the possibility to compare this index over time. The feedback received from citizens can be used in creating a standardized index with pre-set weights for each dimension that can be adopted at international level as an new expression of a nation’s wealth and quality of life.

Until then, make your own Better Life Index and see who scores best!

References:

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The Human Scale
Community indicators for sustainable aging in place
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