GDP (Gross Domestic Product) alone cannot indicate whether a country's population enjoys a good quality of life, as it takes no account either of environmental and sustainability standards or of distributive justice. This is the conclusion of this week's debate on "Let's talk happiness – Beyond GDP" and the reason why the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is calling for a shift from a system of production-oriented measurement to a broader focus on real household income and the well-being of current and future generations, as also recommended in the "Stiglitz report".
The introduction of new indicators is crucial
"It is important to measure the well-being of our citizens and to learn in good time about their concerns. Involving citizens in selecting political priorities will improve political governance", said Luca Jahier, President of EESC group III (various interests) and organiser of this event, stressing that "doing well for society – in other words, investing in sustainable development, social cohesion, and quality of life – will drive growth, employment, development and wealth." The greening of the economy should create 20 million new jobs in Europe by 2020.
A bigger role for Eurostat
The EESC is calling for the development of independent, high quality and internationally comparable official statistics. For this, Eurostat should be given a bigger role, particularly in collecting data which measure the quality of life and the sustainability of political decisions.
High time for a realignment of EU policy instruments
"The new Commission must carry out impact assessments of its policies, especially with regard to their impact on Europeans' quality of life", said Mr Jahier in his closing remarks. He suggested a conference of civil society organisations, at which their priorities could be announced in a special "State of the Union" address, and a broad public debate on the review of the Europe 2020 Strategy.
The emphasis in the revised Europe 2020 Strategy must be on growth and development and it should also integrate indicators beyond GDP.
Accordingly, the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) and the European Semester exercise should be re-balanced by including additional indicators (beyond GDP) targeting sustainability, innovation, development, and social and human capital.