The OECD recently characterised its mission as “better policies for better lives”. This implies a concern with the nature and drivers of people’s well-being. In order to develop better policies, it is essential to understand what constitutes “better lives” for the citizens of OECD countries. This concern with what constitutes well-being and how well-being should be measured has been reflected in OECD work, including the activities related to the OECD-hosted Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies and the associated series of World Forums on Statistics, Knowledge, and Policy held in Palermo (2004), Istanbul (2007), Busan (2009) and Delhi (2012). More recently, building on the foundations set out by the
Report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (the Sen/Stiglitz/Fitoussi Commission), the OECD has developed tools that allow users to build their own measure of average well-being across countries, through the Your Better Life Index.
Following on from the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, a number of statistical agencies have launched initiatives aimed at measuring subjective well-being. These include the UK initiative (launched in November 2010) to develop a new set of measures of national well-being (combining both subjective and objective measures) and the steps taken by Eurostat to develop a module on well-being for the 2013 wave of EU-SILC.3 Similarly, the French national statistical office, INSEE, has developed a well-being module for the national component of EU-SILC and has collected information on affect in the Enquete Emploi du temps 2009-2010. In the United States, a well-being module has also been included in the most recent wave of the American Time Use Survey. Also, the US National Academy of Sciences has established a panel on Measuring Subjective Well-Being in a Policy Relevant Framework. In Italy, the national statistical office has recently published its first official measures of life satisfaction as part of its general social survey (Indagine Multiscopo). In the Netherlands, the national statistical office is currently scoping a module on subjective well-being for one of its surveys to go into the field (if approved) in late 2011/12. Plans to collect data on subjective well-being as part of their official statistical systems were also recently announced by Japan and Korea.
A number of national statistical agencies have collected data on subjective well-being even before the recommendations of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. In Canada, Statistics Canada has collected information on subjective well-being in the General Social Survey since 1985 and published this information as part of data releases from the survey for some time. The national statistical office of New Zealand also collects data on life satisfaction through the New Zealand General Social Survey, and this forms a core component of its data release. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has collected information on subjective well-being in a number of vehicles, including the 2001 National Health Survey and the Australian General Social Survey.