Nicola Sturgeon: Wellbeing as important as economic growth

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People's quality of life should be as important as economic growth, according to Scotland's first minister.

In a speech later Nicola Sturgeon will say that Scotland is "redefining" what it means to be a successful nation.

She will tell a conference that Scotland is creating an economy where "collective wellbeing" is as fundamental as GDP.

GDP, a measure of goods and services, has been criticised for undervaluing quality of life.

Ms Sturgeon's speech comes after Scotland fell five places in an index of social and economic wellbeing in developed countries.

'Broader approach'

The Scottish Trends Index Of Social and Economic Wellbeing uses data based on a range of measures including income, education, longevity and inclusivity.

It has placed Scotland in the bottom half of 32 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Last year Ms Sturgeon joined with other leaders to promote a "wellbeing" agenda.

Iceland's prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, joined Ms Sturgeon in calling for new social indicators to be considered beside traditional GDP data.

Ms Sturgeon will tell the Wellbeing Economy Alliance conference in Edinburgh later that Scotland will take centre stage on the issue.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Iceland's prime minister met Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House last April

It will host a number of events to promote a "global wellbeing economy", including a meeting of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WeGo) - Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand - at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

"The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing. This broader approach is at the very heart of our economic strategy which gives equal importance to tackling inequality as economic competitiveness," the first minister is expected to tell the conference.

"It is why we are so committed to fair work and making sure that work is fulfilling and well paid and why we are acting to ensure a just transition to a carbon zero economy where no one is left behind."

What does the welbeing study say?

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Scotland has fallen five places from 16th to joint 21st on the latest Scottish Trends Index Of Social and Economic Wellbeing.

The study uses OECD data from 2006 to 2018 based on a range of measures including:

  • GDP per capita (standard of living)
  • School age attainment levels (standard of education)
  • Life expectancy at birth (standard of health)
  • Employment rate (degree of economic participation).

Scotland and Wales experienced the joint biggest falls over that 12-year period.

The report said this was mainly due to falling GDP and education scores in Scotland.

Greece and Finland also dropped down the rankings, while the biggest rises were credited to Estonia and Poland.

The first minister has previously made a similar plea for modern economies to put more resources into mental health, childcare and parental leave, and green energy in her TED talk.

Other events to be held in Scotland this year to promote a wellbeing economy include:

  • An international business-les summit on the benefits to the private sector
  • Meetings in Edinburgh focussed on "just transition", net zero economies and wellbeing budgeting
  • Work with the OECD to share experiences and expand membership of the Wellbeing Economy Governments

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