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Measuring wellbeing in Scotland : the Oxfam Humankind Index

Dunlop, Stewart and Swales, Kim (2012) Measuring wellbeing in Scotland : the Oxfam Humankind Index. Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, 36 (1). pp. 81-88. ISSN 2046-5378

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    This paper describes recent work by the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) which constructs an index of wellbeing in Scotland. The issue of wellbeing has been extensively discussed in the economics literature on happiness, and wellbeing indices have been assembled for other counries. However, this is the first attempt to measure wellbeing in Scotland. The overall aim of the research is to identify in detail what people in Scotland believe affects their wellbeing and to construct an overall measure. The Scottish results are clearly interesting in that they identify the priorities that people in Scotland have in terms of wellbeing or happiness. A key finding is the relatively limited role that economic variables appear to contribute to wellbeing, Having secure work and suitable work and having enough money to pay the bills both ranked as joint fifth in the list of elements affecting wellbeing, reinforcing arguments made in the 2009 Sarkozy report, the broad thrust of which was that govermnent policy should focus less on creating economic growth and more on those areas which people identify as increasing wellbeing. A wellbeing index itself is clearly also a useful policy tool – for example, it allows us to assess how the government is performing in succesfully addressing issues which people in Scotland have identified as increasing wellbeing. A good example of this is when we compare health and safety. The index shows that while both being in good health and feeling safe in the local community contribute significantly to wellbeing, the performance on health far exceeds the performance on safety.