Wellbeing as a benchmark for policy

Wellbeing as a benchmark for policy

The federal government's view of wellbeing

The federal government believes wellbeing should lie at the heart of policymaking that simultaneously pursues economic, social and environmental goals. It has been clear for some time now that it is no longer enough to simply work to ensure economic growth and greater prosperity. When it comes to material goods, it is no longer just about "more" but also about "better" in terms of the quality of their production and distribution. The focus is also on opportunities available to live a good life and on the conditions that we live in. If the government is to develop effective policies, it is vital to consider all the different aspects of wellbeing and the interrelations between them that both reinforce, but also at times compete with one another. Improving wellbeing is the responsibility of government, but also of business and industry, societal groups and, last but not least, every individual cititzen.

Wellbeing is a concept that continually changes. It reflects efforts towards achieving sustained social progress for as many as people as possible. However, there is no complete, fixed list of dimensions and aspects that constitute wellbeing. The challenges and priorities are subject to change.

Dimensions and indicators for wellbeing

The federal government describes and measures wellbeing in 12 dimensions with a total of 46 indicators and 2 placeholders. The selection is based on the national dialogue and its evaluation. In doing so, it has taken into account the results of interdisciplinary research on wellbeing and the findings of major national and international projects.

Indicators provide orientation. They are statistical aids that show the current state of wellbeing in the twelve dimensions. Observed over time, they reveal changes to relevant economic, social, environmental and political goals, situations and structures. They provide an early warning of critical developments and help politicians and other actors to identify potential areas for action. Indicators make it possible to measure the effectiveness of actions designed to improve wellbeing. They facilitate objective discussion about society's progress or regression.

All the dimensions and indicators are of equal importance. The federal government intentionally avoided weighting them or organising them in a hierarchy. All dimensions, aspects and viewpoints have equal weight.

An overview of the indicator system reveals thematic overlaps and relationships between the dimensions of wellbeing. It allows for an accurate description of the present and identifies points for (policy) intervention. This is especially important in view of potential conflicts between indicators - i.e., measures that posivitely impact one indicator can have a negative effect on another indicator. In this sense, it should be noted that the trade-off of needs in a society is part of the democratic process.

Regular survey of wellbeing in Germany

The federal government is planning to produce a report on wellbeing in Germany in each parliamentary term. This will create a new way of reporting that can continue to develop as part of an open learning process. The basic data underpinning some of the dimensions and indicators has to be improved and existing gaps in the data closed. Fundamental aspects such as the number and customisation of the dimensions and selection of indicators are open to improvement. In this way it will be possible to take into account the significance of new social trends, political challenges and scientific findings about wellbeing in Germany.

Current and future situations

For the first time, this system of reporting and indicators makes it possible to take stock of wellbeing in Germany. It provides a basis for identifying future policy areas and developing effective action to maintain or improve wellbeing in Germany. This is a task for the coming years.

Continuing the discussion about wellbeing in Germany

The selection and prioritisation of areas for action also depends on the political and social discussion about "what matters to us". The report aims to stimulate public debate and align the political debate more closely with the views of citizens. The central issue is how they perceive wellbeing. If in future the political debate is led more strongly by the views and realities of the people, then the report has achieved a significant goal.

The federal government's goal is to use this reporting and indicator system within the scope of its capabilities and political possibilities to improve wellbeing in Germany. The national dialogue has also made it clear that wellbeing in Germany is an issue for the whole of society. Achieving a high degree of wellbeing and maintaining it for future generations requires the involvement of the public, social groups, business, culture and politics. The indicator system can provide useful orientation for all sections of society.

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