Press Release: Ireland a laggard in legislating for a Well-Being Economy

Organisers of a recent groundbreaking webinar on Governance and Budgeting for Well-being in Ireland have cautiously welcomed the new Programme for Government’s emphasis on developing new measures of well-being and progress[1], but have expressed concern that Ireland lacks concrete legal structures that are needed to bring about a well-being-oriented economy.

“Our current GDP-based model of progress is pushing us over a cliff. We badly need a change in direction, and so I am – tentatively – pleased that the Programme for Government states that we need to supplement our existing economic measurements with new ones,” said ecological economist and Feasta researcher Caroline Whyte, who introduced the June 5 webinar. “But this change in direction needs to be enshrined in law. We would urge the new government to quickly introduce legislation for well-being – as has already been carried out in Wales and Scotland – so as to ensure that the Programme for Government’s suggested well-being measures will truly be devised and implemented.”

According to Seán Ó Conláin – one of the organising team – “A useful tool to consider adding to Ireland’s well-being indices would be an aggregated index such as Germany’s National Welfare Index. Such an index can draw attention to the complicated and problematic relationship between GDP and well-being. Combined with a broader dashboard of metrics this could transform our approach to well-being in Ireland”.

Participants at the webinar, which is available to view here and was jointly organised by Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, and the Cork Environmental Forum, heard of two very contrasting approaches to measuring well-being from Wales and Germany and were given an update on what is current thinking in our own CSO (Central Statistics Office).

Dr Benjamin Held, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST, described developments in Germany. The German National Welfare Index (NWI) is a single integrated index where a range of aspects of economic activity, environmental impact and well-being are monetised and tracked against GDP. He also described the collaborative work on NWI with Feasta.

Wales on the other hand having passed The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 has identified seven critical Well-being Goals, with national indicators for Wales, corresponding milestones and tracking through an annual Well-being of Wales Report. Glyn Jones, Chief Statistician of the Welsh Government, gave rich insights into the ongoing developments there.

Sinéad Bracken, Health Statistician at the CSO, presented insights into The Well Being State of the Nation Report in 2017, and ongoing developments in the gathering of data principally through the Environmental Indicators Ireland 2019 Report and a range of other reports.

During the panel discussion moderated by Emeritus Professor John Sweeney, the need to move away from a strictly economically determined paradigm towards a more sustainable, well-being focussed one was emphasised, and it was suggested that Ireland apply to join WeGO, the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, which comprises the governments of Scotland, Wales, Iceland and New Zealand, all of whom have a shared ambition to deliver and improve well-being through their economic approach.

CEF and Feasta have published links to international resources relating to this important topic and it is planned to develop the information gathered in the future.
More information about the webinar can be found here.

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