Technological innovation and globalization have opened up a seemingly limitless economic opportunity in every corner of the world. Yet, the incredible pace of change has also created serious challenges, including environmental degradation, economic inequality in various social groups, and the growth of a kind of social marginalization. In today’s integrated world, these issues need to be addressed by all nations, developed and developing, with all of society’s stakeholders shaping the solutions.
New growth strategy
We need to change our way of thinking to manage the economy and society differently and think about the New Growth Strategy. Measure prosperity and reflect it as best as possible in every national policy. The primary purposes of well-being are investigating factors affecting individuals’ well-being and identifying societal advantages and disadvantages that may affect the level of well-being. As well as to observe what aspects of society are improving and what aspects of society are deteriorating. Provide the opportunity for people to obtain a deeper understanding of where society is heading for a wider discussion, and to give individuals some clues on what are the necessary actions needed to facilitate not only an individual’s well-being but also national well-being.
The topic of well-being
During a 2008 discussion of the global financial crisis at the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II famously floored a room full of financial masterminds by asking, “Why did no one see it coming?” That question has been haunting economists ever since, as the recognition has slowly taken hold that, in the supposed “golden age” preceding the crisis, they were blind to the actual cost of “success.” The leaders of the most developed countries seem to understand this, as they call for a new, more comprehensive policy goal to replace national production. And such a target can be established. Indeed, despite its apparent subjectivity, “well-being” — or life satisfaction — can be measured robustly, compared internationally, and used to set policies and judge their success. The task for governments is to commit to putting this focus on well-being into practice. What is important is the effect at the national level and while responding to the need for such services as the number of medical procedures carried out or the number of fires extinguished is a good thing, reducing the need for them would be better. And more efficient health services might spend less on hospitals and doctors and more on encouraging healthy lifestyles.
A policy focus would better serve societies on factors to be critical to life satisfaction: relationships, community, security, and physical and mental health. For example, while mental health is a key determinant of how people feel about their lives, it remains a low priority in most countries. Targeted policies aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues and improving access to treatment would help to kick-start a recovery in well-being. Of course, specific priorities vary by country. Effective policies aimed at developing the citizens’ life skills are solved by improving upbringing and education. This has positive implications for funding well-being-enhancing programs. Is it possible really to understand people’s well-being by GDP or other objective indicators? In, Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia, the work to produce well-being indicators beyond GDP is in progress, and that should help policymakers to evaluate existing policies and prioritize or improve them. Based on the evidence shown by the indicators, it will suggest public policy to be initiated in the future. The goal is to reallocate resources in ways that will ultimately boost citizens’ satisfaction and prosperity. Finally, reliable data will be critical to guiding efforts and evaluating progress. Fortunately, most developed countries — and an increasing number of developing countries — recognize the importance of collecting data on well-being. The world is ready for a new, comprehensive metric for national and global progress and prosperity, one that tells us whether people are really better off — and how to ensure that they are. The goal of economic policy should be happiness, but improving material standards of living does not make people happier. Environmental, social impact, and technological process issues need to be included in assessments of social well-being.
Legatum Prosperity Index
According to the Legatum Prosperity Index (the Legatum Prosperity Index by the Legatum Institute offers a unique insight into how prosperity is forming and changing across the world), “prosperity” is not just about money but also quality of life. It defines prosperity as both wealth and well-being. On this basis, it finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those with only a high GDP but also have happy, healthy, and free citizens. The Index consists of the next subindexes — economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom, and social capital. The top 10 most prosperous countries are no surprise – Norway, Denmark, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Surprisingly, Japan comes in 18th overall. But scratching below the surface provides many insights. Japan is ranked 5th in the world for health. It is the global first for many health indicators. For safety and security, it is ranked 11th. Its economy is also ranked 11th, even though its citizens have low confidence in the job market. For education, it is ranked 24th. Japanese citizens have excellent access to education and are broadly satisfied with it, although gross tertiary enrollment is not so impressive. For entrepreneurship and opportunity, Japan ranks 19th. This index measures the climate in which citizens can pursue new ideas and opportunities for improving their lives, leading to higher levels of income and well-being. While Japan fosters high levels of innovation, perceptions about entrepreneurship are not as optimistic. The country places third from the bottom as an environment for entrepreneurs. When it comes to governance, Japan is ranked only 20th despite its apparently vibrant, well-functioning democracy. Japan is only ranked 31st for social capital, which means the social networks and cohesion that a society experiences when people trust one another directly affect the prosperity of a country. People there enjoy high levels of social capital, but engagement between strangers is relatively weak. It is placed only 88th for those who had donated money to charity and 106th for those who had helped a stranger.
One might refer to it as a kind of “paradox of happiness”. In industrialized countries, this phenomenon refers to the fact that economic prosperity does not increase individual well-being and, for example, the elderly suffer from unhappiness. In general, well-being can be perceived from different points of view: the gap between the ideal state of happiness and the real state of happiness (whether one is happier than the ideal state or not); the expected level of happiness in the future (whether well-being will increase or not); one’s relative achievements in comparison with others. When the gap between the ideal state and reality is wide, it is important to identify the ultimate reason for the gap. Also, even when current well-being is high when people feel their well-being will probably decline in the future, society has a problem. Well-being is what we seek, but even as we seek greater happiness, we can still feel a sense of well-being in the course of ordinary life and the absence of misfortune.
Net Promoter Score for measuring happiness?
A pilot study of the younger generation tends to verify the effectiveness of these categories for identifying people’s sense of well-being from multiple perspectives. A notable feature of this study is that many people answered that their ideal state was not “feeling happiness 100% of the time,” but “feeling happiness 70-80% of the time and feeling unhappiness 20-30% of the time,” or “feeling happiness 50% of the time.” Compared to people in western countries who seek well-being as a way of promoting their sense of self-respect, Asians’ sense of subjective well-being comes from “relationships,” for example, from thankfulness and consideration for others, and living in harmony with nature. Also, measuring people’s sense of what is average is important in the context of understanding cultural gaps and the source of people’s well-being. According to Yukiko Uchida, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Kokoro Research Center, well-being in western countries is achieved by maximizing the desirability of one’s attributes, but well-being in eastern countries includes a perception that “too much goodwill eventually lead to unhappiness,” “It is life to experience equal measures of good and bad,” and “One must consider one’s balance with the surrounding environment.”
Ministry of Well-being
Perhaps the proposal for a functional and progressive Ministry of Well-Being is already quite relevant today? Moreover, individual reactions to specific policies and life events would be addressed by continually examining indicators of people’s subjective well-being. Humans have never had more mobile life trajectories. It’s time to move on to implementing habitats for creative ways of living. All of them! And choice and opportunity matter more to happiness than getting a lot of money fast. And that’s just the starting point of the discussion about well-being in today’s society.