Beyond GDP to quality of life

Despite the pandemic and its challenges, the start of year 2021 is seeing thousands of pensioners benefitting from an increased pension

Recently, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Maltese Catholic Church launched an initiative, inspired by the international event “The Economy of Francesco”, calling on governments to measure the economy through socio-economic indicators as well as through economic growth.

The “Beyond GDP” initiative encourages the use of the OECD Better Living Index in addition to GDP when measuring quality of life. The report highlights six dimensions index to reflect the local context, namely income, housing, education, jobs, health and lifestyle, and environmental quality.

Malta is not a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, and therefore unfortunately it is not possible to participate in the OECD Better Living Index, which is compiled for its members and is based on OECD detailed datasets that are not accessible to non-members.

It is also pertinent to point out that many of the OECD indicators relate to averages and specific years which do not allow time-series comparisons.

Malta is already committed to measuring quality of life beyond the Gross Domestic Product. It does this through the EU and UN frameworks.

We are very much aware that life satisfaction involves an evaluative subjective reflection on peoples’ present and past experiences to take into account their diverse choices, priorities and values. Measuring subjective well-being, in addition to aggregating people’s experiences of these objective dimensions by implicitly weighing their own preferences, is vital. Yet, just using GDP for this purpose is very much sub-optimal.

In 2017, the EU started delivering on its embedment of quality of life into its policy through the ‘8+1’ quality of life indicators framework. The first eight quality of life indicators focused on various individual dimensions, such as productivity or main activity, education health, leisure and social interactions, economic and physical safety, governance and basic rights, and the natural and living environment, which are often analysed from both an objective and a subjective perspective.

But the EU recognised that no assessment of quality of life can be complete without taking into account the overall subjective well-being of persons.

That is why it added a ninth indicator to integrate the diversity of the experiences, choices, priorities and values of an individual through the overall experience of life.

In 2018, Malta has earned a score of 75 percent on the Eurostat measurements for quality of life (EU: 73%). This is a considerable improvement on the score of 71 percent achieved in 2013 (EU: 70%). And the Maltese Government is constantly strengthening its commitment towards providing a better quality of life for everyone.

Further evidence to this is the setting up, for the very first time ever, of a Ministry specifically focusing on social well-being and inclusion. This Government’s vision of economic success through good governance, education for a long-term healthy economy, the improvement of Malta’s infrastructure and the drive towards a better environment including good air quality and open spaces for everyone to enjoy all translate into a better quality of life. As Prime Minister Robert Abela clearly stated in his message for the new year, this government will be focusing of 3 pillars; environment, education and social impetus.

Despite the pandemic and its challenges, the start of year 2021 is seeing thousands of pensioners benefitting from an increased pension.

And we cannot forget to mention that the same pensioners are also benefitting from improved healthcare services and free medicine where the previous so commonly heard ‘out of stock’ phrase has become obsolete. This is what reflects a good quality of life.

As a ministry and as a government, we are committed to continue providing a good quality of life to all Maltese citizens even in these difficult pandemic conditions.

I am honoured to be entrusted by the Prime Minister to actively work towards the attainment of this very important objective, together with the continuous strengthening of the rights of persons with disability and the promotion of active inclusion.

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