The UK is losing ground to Germany and other countries when it comes to using economic growth to improve the wellbeing of its citizens, according to a report.
The sustainable economic development assessment (Seda) by the Boston Consulting Group measures the wellbeing of citizens across 160 countries. Using measures other than just GDP, such as employment rates, economic stability, income equality and environment, it gives countries an overall score and a recent progress score, and compares their ability to convert wealth and growth into wellbeing.
This year’s report found that the UK was losing ground in key areas linked to sustainable economic development such as income, health and education. It ranked well in its overall wellbeing rating, coming in 16th place.
But the UK’s recent progress in improving the wellbeing of its citizens was much weaker. It ranked in the bottom 25 worldwide in this measure in the period 2006 to 2014.
Douglas Beal, a co-author of the report and a partner with the Boston Consulting Group, said the UK’s recent trajectory indicated it was losing ground in terms of the wellbeing of its citizens.
“As regards its current level of wealth versus current level of wellbeing [the UK is] better than average,” he said. “But its trajectory is in the bottom 20% of the world. Growth over the past eight years has not translated into improved wellbeing as much as the average in other countries.”
The US, France and Spain have also struggled to improve wellbeing levels. While these countries have become “stuck”, Beal said others, including Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands have been relatively successful in continuing to translate growth into improved wellbeing.
Seda measured the wellbeing of citizens across 162 countries and Hong Kong. Norway retained its position as the country with the highest overall wellbeing score, with the Netherlands and Finland ranking in second and third place.
Ethiopia achieved the best recent progress in the wellbeing of its citizens, whereas Greece had the lowest.
The report noted that central and eastern European countries that had either recently joined or were joining the EU had witnessed improvements in civil society, governance, income equality and the environment.
Beal said the message from the research was that “as countries are globalising politicians need to pay attention to inclusive growth and ensure the benefits are accruing to people” – something that may not be evident just by looking at a country’s GDP alone.
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