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New methodology to accurately measure wellbeing

The Humankind Index has demonstrated a new methodology to measure quality of life that goes beyond the ‘simplistic’ traditional methods of wellbeing assessments. The charity Oxfam’s Scottish arm has launched the index, which is now being considered for use across theUK.

The project uses 18 measures, including health, transport, family life and employment to evaluate wellbeing, with the measures weighted based on the importance the public gave them.

In collaboration with the New Economics Foundation, the Fraser of Allander economic thinktank atStrathclydeUniversity, Yougov and the Scottish TUC, the index was developed through interviews and focus groups with over 3,000 people.

Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said the index “goes beyond simplistic economic measures like GDP. It reminds us that the economy should serve its people, not the other way around.”

Dr Katherine Trebeck, the Oxfam UK poverty project adviser who oversaw the Humankind Index, said: “This isn’t about ‘happiness’. We’re not asking people ‘are they happy’. It’s about collective wellbeing; it’s about what communities need and is more asset-focused, rather than saying to someone ‘are you happy?’

“The Indian economist Amartya Sen said you can bear adversity cheerfully, but that doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing adversity. This is about inclusion and social justice.”

Stephen Boyd, assistant director of the Scottish TUC, said the huge amount of part-time and temporary work was having a detrimental effect on quality of life.

He said: “There are huge issues with the quality of life and work for our citizens. We’ve been told for 30 years that flexible labour markets are the absolute lynchpin of economic success. The Humankind Index suggests that we’re not as successful as perhaps we’ve been told, compared to other nations.”

Image c. Håvar og Solveig

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