Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is seen as the most important measurement of a country’s overall success. However, my argument today is that it is time for that to change. What we choose to measure as a country matters. It really matters; because it drives political focus and it drives public activity. The limitations of GDP as a measure of a country’s success are all too obvious. GDP measures the output of a country’s work, but it says nothing about the nature of that work – about whether that work is worthwhile or fulfilling. It values activity in the short term that boosts the economy even if that activity is detrimental to the sustainability of our planet in the longer term. When we look ahead to the challenges of climate change, then I think the case for a much broader definition of what it means to be successful as a country is needed. That is why country’s need to establish a new pathway for political policy. Redirecting attention from how wealthy a population is – to how happy and healthy a population is – the wellbeing of the country.
Yes, economic growth matters. It is important. But it is not all that is important. The objective of political policy should be a collective wellbeing… What really matter to us in our lives? What do we value in the communities we live in? What kind of country and society do we really want to be?
And when we engage the population in those questions, I believe that countries across the globe will have a much better chance of addressing the inequalities that exist in their country today. Indicators such as: income inequality, the happiness of people, access to green spaces, access to housing… None of these are captured in GDP statistics, but are all fundamental in a happy and healthy society.
This broader approach that I’m proposing is at the heart of an economic strategy where we give equal importance to tackling inequality as we do to economic competitiveness. I’m not saying that we should abolish GDP measurements completely. I’m saying that we should accompany GDP with other measures, such as the Human Development Index: which also accounts for literacy rates and life expectancy; to better capture the entire picture of Australia. This approach will drive society’s commitment to fair work, as it ensures that work is fulfilling and worthwhile.
In order for countries to accurately address the inequalities present within society, we need to know exactly what issues to identify – and right now, GDP does not provide an accurate measure. Our focus needs to be measure in terms of wellbeing.
By Lucy Lönnqvist