On this page you can explore case-studies that we have pulled together from countries around the world, focussing on developments and experiences in a selection of National Statistics Offices.
None of the views expressed should be taken as official statements – but do they offer a present-day snapshot of global ideas about how to measure wellbeing. We believe that some important themes and actions are beginning to emerge.
Firstly, there is a growing general agreement that the wellbeing of national populations needs to be measured in ways that go beyond financial measures such as income and citizens alike. In some cases, the information can also be relevant to business.
Secondly, there is a recognition that potential issues are important: the opportunities people have to do the things they value. These are often reflected in multiple domains and it has been suggested that what we now need is a ‘dashboard’ of indicators to supplement national income figures.
And there is an increasing concern among voters and political actors about the distribution of wellbeing, both within and between countries around the world.
We also believe there is some evidence of a convergence in the main domains of life that are being measured to assess wellbeing. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been keen to help member states in this regard, and its own work provides an indication of what the ‘common core’ indicators internationally might look like.
Australian social statistics have long been related to the idea of human wellbeing. Based on the OECD’s 1976 proposal that wellbeing could be measured by defining goal areas, or areas of concern, Australian social statistics have been organised around a set of ‘aspects of life’ considered core to wellbeing.
Statistics Austria uses the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey, including the general wellbeing question in the national part of SILC. It also leads a programme called 'How is Austria?' that looks at measures such as environment, quality of life and material living conditions.
The National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus views wellbeing as complex and multifaceted - defined as being the degree of availability of essentials and livelihood to people. The key source of data about the wellbeing of the Belarusian population is an annual sample household living standards survey that started in 1995.
Ga-Kyid (Happiness and Wellbeing) has long been an integral part of Bhutanese society. The 1829’s legal code of Bhutan states that the very existence of the governance system is to foster the enabling conditions for Happiness and Wellbeing for all its citizens, including all species of beings.
During Bolivian president Evo Morales’ administration, the Ministry of Development and Planning developed a National Social and Economic Development Plan [NDP] that focused on human development and wellbeing. The NDP was officially launched in 2015.
Statistics Denmark was inspired by the Stiglitz Commission, Eurostat and the OECD, to create quality of life indicators for the nation. There is a focus on measuring wellbeing at the level of Denmark’s 98 municipalities, whose responsibilities include health care, social services, employment, integration and environmental planning.
Israel has been a pioneering state in developing national wellbeing, sustainability and resilience indicators. There has been a thorough process of consultation with government ministries, diverse sectors of the public, and relevant agencies on what these indicators should be.
In Sweden, Wellbeing has been measured in a broad sense and as a complement to GDP for around 45 years. The National Living Conditions Survey has been conducted annually since the 1970s. It asks people about areas of their lives such as health and education. And recently, Sweden has begun to measure subjective wellbeing in a more direct sense.
Since 2010, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs a Measuring National Wellbeing Programme. This programme aims to produce “accepted and trusted measures of the wellbeing of the nation – how the UK as a whole is doing”. It is about looking at ‘GDP and beyond’.
Multidimensional well-being has been a key focus of the OECD’s work since the early 1970s. This case study provides a few examples of how well-being statistics have been recently mainstreamed into various OECD policy processes and works, inspiring new action for the future.