Focus must be on wellbeing when measuring economic progress in post-Covid world

Pandemic exposes shortcomings in current measurements

8th October 2020 - Fine Gael Press Office

Covid-19 has turned our lives upside down and highlighted the need to implement a holistic and people-centred approach to inform Government policy making, Fine Gael Ministers, TDs and Senators have said.

The pandemic has had an adverse impact on people’s mental health and well-being. It has made society and communities dependent on the efforts of volunteers and has highlighted the need to achieve a better work-life balance as citizens adapt to our new normal.

The pandemic has also exposed shortcomings in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the key tool used to measure a country’s economic performance which Governments’ target in policy making.

Economists are increasingly calling for indicators related to wellbeing and progress to supplement GDP to more accurately reflect the state of the nation.

The Wellbeing of the Nation 2017 report by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) was an important first step to correct this by attempting to provide an overview of overall living standards. However, it omitted indicators in key areas like climate resilience and work life balance.

Fine Gael, as a party, believes it is time for a new approach and today publishes,  ‘Measuring Wellbeing: A Fine Gael Discussion Paper,’ supported by Richard Bruton TD, Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Emer Currie, Fine Gael’s Seanad Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Work/Life Balance & Northern Ireland and Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English.

Deputy Bruton said, “What gets measured is what gets done. This is particularly true across government which often operates in narrow silos. The shortcomings of measures like GDP are well documented. The Covid experience has shown that policy undervalues much that is vital in our lives. New policies must help us to make better choices to support our wellbeing.

“Fine Gael’s overarching purpose stems from a desire to transform the wellbeing of our country and citizens, and wellbeing indicators must be embedded in our political process so they can drive, guide, inspire and measure public policy” Deputy Bruton said.

The Fine Gael representatives believe there is a timely need to supplement our existing economic measurements with new measures of wellbeing and progress.

We believe this can be done through the implementation of a broad dashboard of indicators in areas such as work-life balance, sustainability of our environment  and subjective wellbeing, which can help drive improvements in the outcomes of the State for citizens.

The intention is that this scorecard of indicators should drive government policy. It should guide what Government is seeking to achieve in setting our shared goals, and it should be used in strategy statements which Ministers set out for their departments.

The introduction of new policy measurement brings with it the opportunity for further public sector reform. The potential benefits include more targeted policies, better policy evaluation, better resource allocation and better ‘whole of government’ interaction between departments and agencies working towards a common goal.

The Government has already outlined its desire to develop new measures of wellbeing and progress in the Programme for Government, ‘Our Shared Future’. This project will be a significant piece of work and Fine Gael believes that it should commence with immediate effect.

Deputy Bruton added, “We must make an immediate start to focus on new needs. Each Minister as they create their Strategy Statements due within the next hundred days must set targets for the wider dimensions of wellbeing. This is the start of a framework for a new social contract at the heart of government.”

Damien English, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, said, “I very much welcome the proactive approach taken by the Fine Gael party in seeking to reflect the changes to how people live in Ireland into Government policy formation. We want a sustainable future and good and effective public services for our citizens, and having a broader set of metrics with a focus on wellbeing will be essential in realizing this vision for Ireland.”

Emer Currie, Fine Gael’s Seanad Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Work/Life Balance & Northern Ireland, said, “It has taken a global pandemic to make us reconsider how we do things, especially how we work, and these metrics will help support that change. We need a 21st Century social contract based on new challenges and needs like work-life balance, affordability and climate resilience. People need a better deal, a better balance and a better future.”

– The full report ‘Measuring Wellbeing: A Fine Gael Discussion Paper,’

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