Replace GDP with better measures of national success

Replace GDP with better measures of national success

Better headline indicators – that reflect the things we really want – are essential for better policymaking.

An economy is only as strong as what it delivers. The UK public, when asked, is consistent and clear about what that should be: secure, well-paid work; high levels of personal wellbeing; effective public services that guarantee good health and education; low levels of economic inequality, and a healthy environment.

Good economic and social policy would aim to make these priorities a reality. But when it comes to assessing how our nation is performing, such outcomes are not sufficiently taken into account. Instead increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has become shorthand for national success.

Better headline indicators are essential for better policymaking. By using them to guide policy decisions, rather than assuming economic growth will automatically translate into other benefits, we can build an economy better suited to the needs of the individuals, communities and businesses it serves.

Implementing the five new headline indicators below will usher in a new, more rounded, smarter approach to policymaking – one which moves beyond a short-term obsession with narrow economic measures and our current, flawed conception of national success.

Five better measures of success

  1. Good jobs
    Everyone should be able to find secure, stable employment that pays at least enough to provide a decent standard of living.
  2. Wellbeing
    Improving people’s lives should be the ultimate aim of public policy, measured at headline level as average reported life satisfaction.
  3. Environment
    Our prosperity and that of future generations depends on a healthy environment. UK carbon emissions must not exceed the set limit if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.
  4. Fairness
    High levels of inequality, evidenced by a growing gap between the incomes of the top and bottom 10% of households, have been proven to have corrosive effects on both society and economy.
  5. Health
    Good quality healthcare and public health provision, measured by a reduced percentage of deaths considered avoidable, is a prerequisite for all other social and economic goals.

Policy in practice

Projects that demonstrate the benefits or may be helped by polices like this.

  • Goldsmith Street
    Winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling prize, these eco-friendly homes are one of the first new council housing projects in a generation.
  • Poole Harbour
    A once illegal fishery has been reborn as a model of sustainability.
  • Arran COAST
    Community-led campaign saved seabed and marine life from devastation.
  • CMG Technologies
    Suffolk manufacturing firm is the first business in the region to work a four-day week.
  • Schools’ Energy Co-operative
    Schools’ Energy Co-operative has installed solar panels on schools across the country, working with a network of local groups.
  • Administrate
    Tech firm offers staff a three-day weekend, all year round.
  • Isle of Eigg
    Community-owned Eigg has been labelled Britain's most eco-friendly island.
  • Memiah
    Company connecting people with self-care and counsellors trails four-day week.
  • Energise Barnsley
    Co-op is the largest local authority and community solar energy and battery storage project in the UK.
  • Radioactive PR
    PR firm’s shift to four-day week has proved highly popular with staff – and the company has grown.