A National Happiness Index?



Currently, the principal indicator used to gauge a nation’s prosperity is its GDP (Gross Domestic Product*), an index of economic development often considered to reflect quality of life and happiness. But, as a sole indicator of wellbeing, GDP has many drawbacks: as an aggregate index, it does not depict the division of resources among a nation’s inhabitants, the national resource-base available to the economy or the range of facets that determine an individual’s quality of life.



For example, GDP does not gauge activities that are unrelated to financial expenses,

yet which bear upon the welfare of individuals and societies. These include such varied aspects as social contacts, public confidence, household activities, volunteering and nature trips. Acquiring a comprehensive picture requires a complementary system of indices that take additional environmental and social factors into account.



To more accurately evaluate its people’s level of personal satisfaction and wellbeing, Israel recently joined the other OECD nations in developing a comprehensive new index,

which includes measures of quality of life, sustainability, and national resilience.

Along with economic indicators it also considers environmental factors such as infrastructures, biodiversity, land resources and waste treatment,

as well as social indicators such as healthcare expenses, life expectancy,

education, volunteering and civic involvement.

Published this month, the first report depicts the current quality of life in Israel.



The findings reveal significant room for improvement.

From the environmental standpoint, for example: Israel's average amount of waste per person (1.71 kilograms per day) is higher than the OECD average (1.43 kg. per day); Israel recycles only 18.1% of this waste; and, the percentage of renewable energy from all energy sources in sun-drenched Israel stands at less than 1%, while the OECD average is 21% (12.5% in the USA).



However, the report does include encouraging news regarding the trend toward including indices of sustainability in decision-making and in assisting governmental bodies in developing a comprehensive picture of national assets and public resources. As a small country with rapid population growth, the burden on Israel's scarce natural resources will only increase, making proper long-term resource management crucial. Can today’s quality of life be maintained over the long-run? Will current social and economic development come at the expense of future generations or the nation’s limited resource-base? Relating to indicators of sustainability will enable a more prudent, data-based dialogue that considers the inheritance today’s decision-makers will leave behind for future generations and the way in which it will be divided among the population.



The report’s findings are an important tool for everyone involved in deciding on matters of quality of life and sustainable socio-economic development. To read more about the report, visit the web site of the Ministry for Environmental Protection.


*Gross Domestic Product expresses the monetary value of all products and services produced by a nation