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
- Good jobs
Everyone should be able to find secure, stable employment that pays at least enough to provide a decent standard of living.
Improving people’s lives should be the ultimate aim of public policy, measured at headline level as average reported life satisfaction.
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.
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.
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.
Winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling prize, these eco-friendly homes are one of the first new council housing projects in a generation.
A once illegal fishery has been reborn as a model of sustainability.
Community-led campaign saved seabed and marine life from devastation.
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.
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.
Company connecting people with self-care and counsellors trails four-day week.
Co-op is the largest local authority and community solar energy and battery storage project in the UK.
PR firm’s shift to four-day week has proved highly popular with staff – and the company has grown.