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3rd November 2020 | Press Releases

Wellbeing Indicators and not GDP should be used to indicate progress in Ireland

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Minister Joe O’Brien and Deputy Neasa Hourigan lead on demand for change, arguing GDP is not a way to measure the wellbeing and the quality of life of Irish Citizens.

Minister Joe O’Brien of State for Community Development and Charities and Deputy Neasa Hourigan have established a group to look at the potential for using Wellbeing Indicators to measure the welfare of the Irish nation. Until now this has been done purely through the measuring of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is solely a measure of the Irish economy.

Well-Being Indicators look at how Ireland is doing in a much broader way than simply our economic performance and O’Brien and Hourigan argue that this, alongside existing economic tools, provides an opportunity to create a well-rounded, holistic view of how our society is faring and will ensure focused policy with an understanding of the impact it will have on the lives of all Irish citizens.

Opening the TASC online event, ‘Exploring the Potential of a Wellbeing Framework in Ireland’, Minister O’Brien said;

“There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to develop a set of wellbeing indicators and it is particularly significant that the Department of the Taoiseach will be involved in that work. It is time for wellbeing to replace GDP as the primary indicator of progress in Ireland. There has never been a more opportune time to make this transition as, in some respects, the pandemic has underlined for us the importance of particular areas of our lives that we generally do not measure as a government. Social interactions, for example, are an area that the OECD measures. But it also looks at Housing, Health, Knowledge & Skills, Environmental Quality, Subjective Well Being, Safety and Work-Life Balance.”

 “We can’t possibly begin to effectively tackle the challenges we face as a society unless we have a full and true picture of where we stand. The development of Wellbeing Indicators can help us to do this. For me the potentially most valuable aspect of the development of Wellbeing Indicators in Ireland is that they can supersede economic indicators as they can and should be used in decisions around allocation and reallocation of resources. As indicators are used to tackle unequal outcomes for different groups of people. Wellbeing Indicators could be a very useful tool in tackling inequality.”

“GDP only improves alongside economic growth and yet the pursuit of economic growth has often come at the expense of our own wellbeing and that of our environment. By focusing on quality-of-life improvements and not solely economic growth, we have some chance of growing sustainably and improving wellbeing as we move into a post Covid recovery. I believe that, whatever indicators are developed and agreed on, that they are connected to a real mechanism that can address underperformance or inequality in well-being outcomes.”

Also speaking at the event was Deputy Neasa Hourigan who stated:

“Wellbeing can mean many things to us all but for me this policy represents an opportunity to place issues such as the caring economy, language and ethnic rights, environmental justice, women’s rights and intragenerational (youth) policy at the centre of decision making. This process must be ambitious in becoming a formative part of budgetary decision making and oversight and be truly integrated into the political process.”