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Scotland wellbeing measure fall powered by education and life expectancy hit

Wales and Northern Ireland also tumbled in the Index of Social and Economic Well-being rankings due to declining GDP while England remains mid-table in OECD countries ranking

Scotland’s relative social and economic wellbeing has fallen drastically between 2006 and 2018, according to a measure that compares all 32 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The Index of Social and Economic Well-being measures the relative progress of countries across four of the most essential elements of wellbeing: income, education, longevity and inclusivity between 2006 and 2018.

Compiled by Scottish Trends’ economist John McLaren, the latest index ranking makes pleasant reading for Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Iceland and Sweden who make up the top five while Italy slipped into the bottom five alongside Poland, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Greece.

Both Wales and Northern Ireland dropped into the bottom quartile of countries as both were hampered by poor GDP performance. England remained mid-table.

But Scotland experienced the joint-biggest fall, along with Wales, plummeting from 16th down to joint-21st. The slump was pinned on a decline in education as well as income performances associated with decline in North Sea activity. However, the biggest impact on Scottish wellbeing was found in life expectancy, where growth has stalled since 2012-14.

Scottish men are now expected to live for 77 years while women’s life expectancy is at 81.1 years, according to the National Records for Scotland’s latest figures.


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McLaren said in the report: “The relatively poor Scottish performance, in terms of education and health, suggests that changes may be needed to the, still young, devolved political system. Such changes should involve strengthening the challenge and scrutiny roles both within and out-with the Parliament.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie warned that a “change of approach” is needed to stop Scotland from falling further down the rankings.

He said: “Scotland is a great place to live but our government has failed to get to grips with fundamental challenges facing our economy and our society.”

The rankings were revealed as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Wellbeing Economy Alliance conference in Edinburgh to stress that “Scotland is creating an economy where collective wellbeing is as fundamental as GDP”. It follows the SNP’s leader’s campaigning with Iceland’s prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern for new social indicators to be considered beyond GDP data.

The Big Issue, too, is pushing for wellbeing to be given greater importance with Lord John Bird’s Future Generations Bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.

And, only in this week’s edition of The Big Issue, you can read about Richard Layard’s bid to ensure happiness usurps economic data as the true measure of a country’s progress. Get your copy from a Big Issue vendor or The Big Issue Shop now.