How’s life? OECD reveals well-being global standards drop

The global economic crisis has had a profound impact on people’s well-being, reaching far beyond the loss of jobs and income, and affecting citizens’ satisfaction with their lives and their trust in governments, according to a new OECD report.

How’s Life? finds that subjective well-being deteriorated in countries most affected by the crisis. Between 2007 and 2012, reported average life satisfaction declined by more than 20% in Greece, 12% in Spain, and 10% in Italy. However, moderate increases were recorded in Germany, Israel, Russia, Mexico and Sweden.

The Paris-based think tank assessed well-being’s standards according to a number of surveys and indicators assessed under 11 categories, ranging from income and wealth to personal security, health, political engagement, and life-work balance.

The report also finds that citizens in the hardest-hit euro area countries have lost trust in their governments and institutions. The percentage of people in these countries claiming to trust national government fell by 10 percentage points in the five years leading to 2012. In the OECD countries as a whole, less than half of those surveyed said they trusted their governments – the lowest level recorded since 2006.

“This report is a wake-up call to us all,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “It is a reminder that the central purpose of economic policies is to improve people’s lives. We need to rethink how to place people’s needs at the heart of policy-making”.

Work has a major influence on well-being, says the report. Achieving the right balance between requirements and opportunities drives people’s commitment at work, and is key to strengthening their capacity to cope with demanding jobs.

In Europe, 50% of persons who face poor work organisation and workplace relationships report that their job impairs their health, compared with only 15% among those experiencing favourable conditions. With appropriate resources and support, even highly demanding jobs can be fulfilling. But without them, the accumulation of stress factors in the workplace frequently leads to health problems.

The data also show that the gender gap in favour of men has narrowed, but has not disappeared. Women still generally fall behind in terms of income, but measuring well-being based on gender reveals a more complex picture. Girls are now generally doing better than boys in school, although still remain under-represented in fields that provide greater job opportunities.

Click here to read full report.

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