Beyond GDP: Governance and Budgeting for Well-being Resources

The last decade has seen major advances in the measurement of well-being in national statistics often involving extensive public consultation processes.  Incorporating these metrics and frameworks into policy decision-making has often involved the passing of new well-being legislation.  Most countries are also working to align their well-being statistics with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  This website includes some background information on well-being initiatives from a number of countries who were consulted or who participated in the CEF-FEASTA Beyond GDP, Governance and Budgeting for Well-being Webinar.  It also highlights work being done in international collaborations and by non-governmental organisations.


In Ireland political parties are joining the growing chorus of those who believe that a new governance and budgeting approach is needed that will focus on quality of life and not just economic growth.  The main political parties recently commented that; “Our overriding focus is to improve the well-being of the Irish people and society………To assess the performance of a new Government, we must look beyond economic indicators. We will create new, credible, quality-of-life measures of individual and societal wellbeing and progress.  While Ireland is still in the early stages of establishing this approach to governance you can read more about the work being done in this area here.


Scotland is leading the way in creating an economy in which well-being is as fundamental as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) when measuring success.  Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) was launched in 2007, put into law in 2015, and last refreshed in 2018. The NPF sets an overall purpose and vision for Scotland.  You can read more about their approach to well-being here.


Wales is one of the four devolved administrations of the United Kingdom with law-making powers. Sustainability has been a long-standing priority for Wales and the decision to legislate for it has both political and historical foundations.  An increasing awareness of both the social determinants of health and the global challenges related to them led Wales to legislate for sustainability through the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act of 2015. Its implementation process mirrors that of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. (UN SDGs) You can read more about their approach to well-being here.


In 2013, Germany’s political parties stated the following in their Coalition Agreement: “We wish to align our policies more closely with the values and hopes of German citizens and we will therefore conduct a dialogue with them in order to gain an understanding of their views on quality of life issues. […] We will use this dialogue as a basis for developing a system of indicators for reporting on quality of life in Germany.  This system will provide clear and understandable information at regular intervals on well-being in Germany and the progress made with efforts to improve it.”  You can read more about their approach to well-being here.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland (NI), the principal mechanism for assessing societal well-being is the well-being framework of 12 outcomes that was refined during 2016-2017. This framework, which contains 49 supporting population indicators, overarches the NI Civil Service Outcomes Delivery Plan and progress on the outcomes and indicators is currently reported through an Outcomes Viewer overseen by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

United Kingdom

For the UK as a whole, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has a National Well-being Programme. The well-being dashboard, which is updated twice a year, provides a visual overview of 43 headline national well-being indicators and can be explored by the 10 areas of life (domains) or by the direction of change.

United States

Efforts in the United States have been fairly decentralized. The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), an alternative to the GDP developed by San-Francisco-based think tank Redefining Progress in 1995, is recognized in at least four states (Vermont, Maryland, Washington and Hawai’i) and has also been adopted in a number of cities. The GPI incorporates over 250 individual economic, social and environmental metrics that have bearing on quality of life. Still other cities make use of the Wellbeing Index and the Gross National Happiness Index. At the federal level, there is little interest in abandoning GDP, but under the heading of “Beyond GDP” the Bureau of Economic Analysis, within the U.S. Department of Commerce, is taking steps to supplement GDP with “satellite accounts” that capture measures missing from GDP, including health, distribution of personal income, effects of global trade, and the skills and education of workers.

Other countries with well-known Well-being Governance approaches include New Zealand and Iceland.

International Collaborations for Well-being

Non-Governmental Organisations working for Well-being

Compiled by James O’Donovan of the Cork Environmental Forum.

Featured image: “Look at the future”. Author: Martin Boulanger. Source:

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