OECD Better Life Index

Published on October 24, 2017

Putting Numbers on What Makes a Better Quality of Life

What ingredients are key to better lives — and how do these elements vary from Saskatchewan to Hamburg to Brazzaville? These are the questions asked by the OECD’s Better Life Index, which compares the well-being priorities of people around the world. Since its launch in 2011, more than 100,000 people from 180 countries have created their own index — including visitors at the Discovery space, where the OECD organized a stand today.

Rating 11 Essential Topics  

The index asks people to rate the importance of 11 topics reflecting material living conditions and quality of life: housing, jobs, education, civic engagement, life satisfaction, work-life balance, income, community, environment, health and safety. It breaks this information down by gender and age group, and compares it among countries.

OECD Map.jpg

The resulting map shows how preferences vary from one region to another. Take the example of North America: an orange circle in the United States, based on more than 20,000 responses, reflects an overriding desire for life satisfaction, whereas a green circle in Mexico shows that for 7,000-plus respondents, the priority is education. Meanwhile, in Canada, a purple circle indicates that health is a main concern for the more than 6,000 people who used the index.

The Index is an instrument created to allow anyone in the world to share with everyone else what is most important to their well-being.
Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the OECD

Not Just Numbers, But Stories That Impact Policy

These numbers tell stories — in Australia, for example, the topic of greatest concern is work-life balance. That’s not simply about having more time to surf; close to 14% of employees in Australia work long hours, one of the highest rates in the OECD and something that can affect health, relationships and communities. 

Safety is rated highly in Japan and South Korea, two countries where assaults and homicides are relatively low. To address this gap between being safe and feeling safe, the city of Seoul introduced a violence prevention program called the Initiative for Single Women in 2012.

Policy is increasingly becoming a collaborative process. The potential for this approach to be harnessed on a considerable scale is huge and necessary at a time when many have become profoundly disillusioned by old ways of doing politics and policy that have not always delivered what was promised.
​- Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the OECD

Every two years the OECD publishes “How’s Life?”, a report of people’s well-being based on the survey. By using statistics to build up a comprehensive picture of what citizens care about, the organization can better advise policymakers on how to improve quality of life.

"Policy is increasingly becoming a collaborative process," says Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the OECD. "The potential for this approach to be harnessed on a considerable scale is huge and necessary at a time when many have become profoundly disillusioned by old ways of doing politics and policy that have not always delivered what was promised.

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