12 November 2007
Worldwide Support for True Wealth Measures:
Three-Quarters Say Governments Should Look Beyond Economics and Measure Social and Environmental Progress
Three-quarters of people in ten countries believe their governments should look beyond economics, and include health, social and environmental statistics in measuring national progress. Only 19 percent believe that economic growth alone is the most important measure.
Around 1,000 respondents in each country were asked which of two points of view was closest to their own:
Support for the beyond GDP statement is especially strong in developed countries. The French and Italians are most enthusiastic, with 85 percent of people supporting true wealth measures from health and social statistics. Only 10 percent support purely economic indices. In the developing nations of India and Kenya, around 70 percent agree with the broader growth measures, but a significant minority of 27 percent still believe in economics alone.
This survey was conducted by GlobeScan, on behalf of Ethical Markets Media, in June to August 2007, and looked at opinions in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Kenya and Russia. Alignment in the United States seems likely. Previous studies (from the Americans Talk Issues Foundation) have shown up to 79 percent approval of a scorecard of quality of life indicators in the United States.
These international polling results are timely as a handful of governments have started using growth measures that look beyond pure economics. The Green GDP, unveiled by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in 2004, was an effort to adjust Chinas economic model to take more account of its environmental consequences. Although recently suspended, the concept was popular with the Chinese population. And Bhutans Gross National Happiness Indicators have received media attention worldwide. More recently, the British Conservative Party policy paper recommended using a beyond GDP index as a superior measure to GDP.
Further, many governments and non-government organizations have taken the initiative and devised their own indices. The best-known and emulated worldwide is the United Nations Human Development Index, founded in 1990, which measures quality of life criteria. The World Wildlife Funds ( WWF) Living Planet Index employs data on species loss. Ecological Footprint analyses measure hectares used to sustain our lifestyles. Other similar indices include the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) and the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life indicators, assessing national trends in the USA since 2000. Many local and city indexes are now in use worldwide, such as those in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Jacksonville, Florida since 1985.
This research across 10 countries shows public support for such broader measures of true wealth, looking beyond GDP. Clearly, international public opinion would be supportive of the goals of the Beyond GDP Conference in the European Parliament in November 2007.
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