By Liza Horan, Editor
“Fifty years have elapsed since Robert Kennedy rightly said that GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile,” Iceland’s prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said in 2019 as she laid the groundwork for what is now the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) within the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. It’s a collaboration between governments, organisations, alliances, movements and individuals to transform the economic system into one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.
It’s not just lip-service.
Five governments have signed on to put policies and practices in place that make their citizens’ wellbeing as important a success measure as the traditional financial one — gross domestic product (GDP). Those governments, which happen to be led by women, are Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland, Finland, and Wales. Norway announced its intention to do the same.
This is a significant development because it recognises that mental wellness is not just the responsibility of each individual; the system plays a major role. Governments need to provide, “…opportunities for everyone to flourish, no matter where they live or who they are. These things are currently lacking for many people, especially those on lower incomes. Having basic needs met would open up space for people to do things they love and create/innovate, especially in the arts,” WeGo says. “Wellbeing is about the ability of everyone to lead a good life, not only the privileged, which means social and economic security, strong and lively communities, good working conditions and time for our friends and family.”
In Scotland, one of the founding WeGo members and the home of Mindstream, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a TEDTalk on the topic, and led the formation of a national framework to cultivate a “wellbeing economy.” The purpose is, “To focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.” The values are clear: “We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way.”
While this may be more aspirational at the moment, there is a plan to achieve this vision.
“Building a Wellbeing Economy is a top priority for the Scottish Government,” the government website states. “This means building an economy that is inclusive and that promotes sustainability, prosperity and resilience, where businesses can thrive and innovate, and that supports all of our communities across Scotland to access opportunities that deliver local growth and wellbeing.”
While Scotland and Wales are part of WeGo, England and Northern Ireland are not. There’s a petition collecting signatures right now for the entire United Kingdom to commit to a wellbeing economy.
Imagine if other countries got on board with this? My feeling is that they have to — our lives, and the planet’s, depend on it. Just like the COP26 climate change conference happening in Glasgow in November. They are both about saving our lives and ensuring a positive future. What’s more important than that?
Learn more about how these governments are putting practices and policies in place to ensure a robust wellbeing economy in their countries at WEALL.org.