Monday, 29 August 2011

Correspondent "Editor's Choice"

Our new monthly feature will be adding a selection of highlights from our UK-based Correspondent to the ever-growing discussions on well-being and progress.

From Dafydd Thomas of Wellbeing Wales Network.

Mid July saw the Office of National Statistics in the UK launch the results from their extensive consultation regarding a National Wellbeing Index. After receiving 34,000 responses to this national debate, The Telegraph reported that the respondents felt “the most important elements of life for wellbeing and happiness were health, relationships, work, education and training.” BBC Breakfast also pointed out that equality was a key issue in wellbeing, with the nef’s Charles Seaford being quoted saying “national wellbeing depends on quite a high level of equality.”

As the results were published, Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service, sent guidelines to all Whitehall departments calling for “a culture change” and ordering officials to consider the implications for people’s happiness when drafting new policies. Two areas picked out for special attention were the workplace and the classroom. Sir Gus wanted workers to feel less stressed about the workplace and for children to value more than the latest iPod. The results from in-depth consultations will be published next year. It’ll be interesting to see if that information will affect Government thinking in the future, because it's not that obvious at the moment.

For example, those busy people at ONS also published details on the state of the UK economy. They felt that “the economic mess” wasn’t the Chancellor’s fault, but down to dastardly warm weather, an extra bank holiday and royal street parties as reported by The Independent.

So in summary, GDP goes down when people do things that boost their wellbeing. And policies designed to increase GDP have little effect on the economy … but dramatic effects on health, work, education and training.

Fortunately, the UN General Assembly thinks it's time to change. Surprisingly, it was the China’s People’s Daily which ran the story as the British press and public were focused on events at the News of the World.  It seems that the UN has decided to “pursue …. measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding public policies.”  The new resolution calls for a ““balanced approach” to economic growth that would lead to sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of the planet.”  Lhatu Wangchuk, Bhutan’s ambassador to the UN, whose country was a cosponsor of the resolution, said it was “inspired by the belief that we need to begin discussing a topic whose moment has come.”  I couldn't agree more.

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