Chapter 16

Policy and Wellbeing

The U.K. Government Perspective

David Halpern

No. 10/Institute for Government, U.K.

economic growth is a means to an end. If your goal in politics is to help make a better life for people—which mine is—and if you know, both in your gut and from a huge body of evidence that prosperity alone can't deliver a better life, then you've got to take practical steps to make sure government is properly focused on our quality of life as well as economic growth, and that is what we are trying to do.

David Cameron, 25 November 2010

Policy and Wellbeing

It is a long road that has brought governments and societies to the point that “wellbeing” is more than a rhetorical flourish in speeches. But in November 2010, the U.K. Prime Minister publically announced that the Government was committing itself to the large-scale measurement of subjective wellbeing and its systematic consideration in policy.

The seniority of the line-up was as significant as the announcement itself. To one side of the Prime Minister sat the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O'Donnell. To the other side sat the National Statistician, Jil Matherson. The heads of our political, administrative, and statistical systems were standing together to say that there was a serious gap in how previous governments had thought about the objectives of policy, and it was time to get serious about subjective wellbeing.

This chapter sets out these “practical steps” that the Prime Minister referred to, and gives ...

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