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Wellbeing should be put above economic growth, says poll

Eight in 10 people said health and wellbeing told Positive Money and YouGov should be the priority

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The wellbeing of people in the UK should be placed above economic growth when it comes to measuring how the country is doing in the Covid-19 crisis, most Brits said.

As the Prime Minister delivers the message that people can return to work if they cannot do their job from home, Positive Money and YouGov revealed the results of their poll which found just one in 10 people think the UK should prioritise economic growth over health and wellbeing.

Instead, the 82 per cent of the 2,061 adults quizzed believed the opposite – that measures such as life expectancy, education and lower carbon emissions should be prioritised over GDP.

The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment

Once the pandemic is over, improved social and environmental outcomes still had higher importance with pollsters as they found that six in 10 adults opted for that over economic growth – a third backed the latter as the most important.

Boris Johnson’s announcement that some workers can return to the workplace on Sunday night has been seen as an attempt to get the British economy moving again, especially as the Office for National Statistics is, this week, set to publish a gloomy estimate of GDP growth from January to March.

Today’s YouGov poll accompanied a report from Positive Money that called on the ONS to sideline GDP stats in favour of a wider dashboard of social and environmental indicators. The advocacy group’s report recommended higher taxes on the wealthy, cancellations or reductions of household debt and a Universal Basic Income.

Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, said: “As economic growth continues to fall politicians will come under increased pressure to ease emergency public health measures, based on the misguided belief that lower GDP in itself will do more damage than the actual coronavirus.

“It’s clear the vast majority of the public think we should worry more about people’s health and wellbeing than economic growth. The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment.

“With the coronavirus crisis hitting after a decade of anaemic economic growth, we are heading towards a ‘post-growth’ economy whether we like it or not. We have a choice of whether this will mean mass unemployment, deepening inequality and lower quality of life for all, or whether we want to ensure that people are able to live longer, happier lives while avoiding catastrophic climate collapse.”

Interestingly enough, the results of Finland’s two-year Universal Basic Income trial recorded an increase in wellbeing as well as a small increase in employability for the people who received the unconditional monthly payment.

Wellbeing is also at the heart of Big Issue founder Lord John Bird’s Future Generations Bill which, if it came into law, would require public bodies to set wellbeing targets for which they would be held accountable.

Speaking at the bills’ House of Commons debut in March, Green MP and the bill’s co-sponsor Caroline Lucas said: “When we are rebuilding on the other side of this pandemic we can choose to do so with greater consideration for future generations with stronger passion for every person and their wellbeing.”

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