The Canadian House of Commons recently passed a motion that encourages development of “a set of indicators of the economic, social and environmental well-being of people, communities and ecosystems in Canada.” The motion will create an alternative to the current measurement of economic growth—the Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
GDP, used by economists and governments to assess economic activity, is the market value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given year. This means that, for example, burning more fossil fuels and spending more money on addressing crime, sickness, war, and the cleanup of pollution raises GDP. Childcare and housework—unless they are paid for—do not count toward GDP.
“We cannot assume that a growing GDP indicates that we are doing well,” said Joe Jordan, the Canadian member of parliament who introduced the well-being index motion. “We have to look more closely at what money is used for. We have to distinguish expenditures that truly benefit society from those that signal trouble.”
The next step will be passage of the Well-Being Measurement Act as binding law.