Measuring National Well-Being (again)

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Back in February 2011 I looked at the British government’s plans to measure the nation’s well-being. Now the National Statistician, Jil Matheson, has published her Reflections on the National Debate on Measuring National Well-being.

Was it worth waiting for?  Have we learnt anything new about well-being?  Was it worth the £2m it cost to conduct this ‘debate?’

Based on the fact that they only captured the views of  some 35,000 people (about 0.06% of the population), probably not. Have we learnt anything new about well-being? Having read Ms Matheson’s Reflections, again probably not. As I pointed out before, they’d secured enough  experts on the advisory panel to tell them everything they needed to know about well-being without spending £2m and 10 months consulting the general public. If the exercise was intended to engage the public and make Cameron et al on the coalition government look like they’re more in touch with the general public, then judging by the numbers who took part, it probably hasn’t succeeded on those grounds either.

And of course, there is always the danger that politicians will actually bow to public opinion about what makes them happy, when they don’t actually know (the  ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ argument).

According to this report, a draft set of national well-being indicators will be published in Oct 2011.  We wait with bated breath.

UPDATE: 18/08/11

In the light of the recent riots in England, you might be interested to read what people said mattered most to them:

  • children who contributed to the debate through events in schools said eating breakfast in the morning, playing on computer games, playing with dolls and push-chairs, celebrating Christmas and birthdays were some of the things that matter most
  • some young adults included make-up, good clothes, alcohol, music and fast food on their list
  • some older people were concerned about the loss of a sense of community

All the age groups highlighted the importance of family, friends, health, financial security, equality and fairness in determining well-being” (p9).

I wonder what the Government will make of that.

Image: The British Parliament & Big Ben: ** Maurice **

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