Opinion
21.02.20

Reassessing the measurement of well-being

GDP rose steadily in the last 40 years, but that is only part of the story, Dennis J. Snower and Katharina Lima de Miranda write in Die Zeit.

The measurement of progress needs to be re-examined, argue Dennis J. Snower, Professor of Macroeconomics and Sustainability at the Hertie School and President of the Global Solutions Initiative, and co-author Katharina Lima de Miranda, a scientist at the Kiel Institute for World Economy in Germany’s weekly newspaper Die Zeit. Instead of merely looking at GDP growth, they suggest a new concept of well-being in countries based on a more comprehensive definition of human needs.

Due to globalisation and the latest developments in technology, GDP per capita, widely regarded as the most important measure for assessing economic development, has increased by 13 percent in the last ten years alone. However, according to Snower and Lima de Miranda, economic and technological progress cannot be “decoupled” from social and ecological progress any longer.

“A counter-strategy primarily aimed at economic redistribution is not enough because it only addresses the economic point of the problem and does not address the other, equally important need for recognition, solidarity or a healthy environment,” they write. 

In concrete terms, they propose four different dimensions: empowerment, social solidarity, ecological sustainability and economic prosperity, as the current model, which focuses primarily on growth, is not suitable as a future model in view of global challenges.

“Together, these factors form the core of a new prosperity dashboard,” they say. “This new ‘recoupling dashboard’, as we call it, is intended to help link economic prosperity with our social-ecological prosperity – and to promote a new understanding in politics, business and society.”

Read the full opinion piece from 20 February in Die Zeit (in German).

More about Dennis J. Snower