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Chapter 1. Well-being today and tomorrow: An overview [introduces the OECD approach to measuring well-being; summarises Ch2 and Ch3 findings; provides an overview of country strengths/weaknesses; etc.]
Chapter 2. How’s life? in figures [updates the headline indicators considered in previous editions; examines changes in well-being since around 2009 – which was the first year we considered in the first edition of How’s Life?; includes some coverage of the distribution of well-being outcomes by age, gender, education and income – but varies depending on the outcome]
Chapter 3. Resources for future well-being [new for 2015. Builds on the approach described in How’s Life? 2013 for measuring the resources that help to sustain well-being over time. Includes illustrative indicators spanning natural capital, human capital, social capital and economic capital. Draws extensively on other OECD work, particularly the Green Growth Indicator Framework, and National Accounts data].
Chapter 4. How’s life for children? [new for 2015. Applies the OECD framework for measuring well-being, but focusing on the material living conditions and quality of life experienced by children].
Chapter 5. The value of giving: Volunteering and well-being [new for 2015. Looks at the available data on the frequency and prevalence of volunteering in OECD countries, and also examines the well-being benefits of volunteering, both to volunteers themselves and to wider society].
Chapter 6. Going local: Measuring well-being in regions [discusses the importance of a regional perspective on well-being, showing that where you live has a large impact on your opportunities to live well. Builds on the 2014 OECD publication “How’s Life in Your Region”, with a particular emphasis on the measurement challenges involved in assessing well-being at the subnational level].
[the slides that follow describe findings in more detail, so you don’t need to expand here]
Examples of countries with similar levels of GDP per capita but different profiles of well-being:
Countries with a GDP per capita in the top third of the OECD:
United States has particular strengths in terms of income and wealth, housing and perceived health, but weaknesses in terms of work-life balance, deaths by assault, and life expectancy.
Ireland is well above the OECD average on air quality, social support, and rooms per person, but falls well below the OECD average in terms of disposable income, the employment rate, long-term unemployment and dwellings with adequate sanitation.
Denmark has strengths in terms of work-life balance, voter turnout, social support and life satisfaction, but falls in the bottom third of OECD countries on life expectancy and housing affordability.
Sweden has strengths across the health and environmental quality outcomes, but weaknesses in the cognitive skills of 15 year olds, and job security (the probability of becoming unemployed).
Countries with a GDP per capita in the middle third of the OECD:
Korea is well above-average in education and skills, housing affordability, job security and long-term unemployment, all indicators where Spain has relative weaknesses. Conversely, Spain is above-average on outcomes such as social support and basic sanitation, both areas of comparatively poor performance for Korea.
Finland and Iceland share some common strengths (e.g. social support, life satisfaction, and environmental quality), yet they have very different weaknesses: Finland falls within the bottom third of OECD countries in terms of job security, perceived health status, and deaths due to assault (all areas of strength for Iceland), while Iceland has comparative weaknesses in terms of education and skills outcomes (where Finland performs strongly).
Countries with a GDP per capita in the bottom third of the OECD:
Czech Republic has high levels of job security and educational attainment, but comparatively low levels of housing affordability and air quality; in Portugal the opposite is true: air quality and housing affordability are relatively good, but Portugal fares worse on educational attainment and job security.
Slovenia faces well-being challenges in relation to long-term unemployment and voter turnout (where Mexico is a high performer), while Mexico has particular challenges in relation to deaths by assault and educational attainment (comparative strengths for Slovenia).
Poland and Estonia both have strong education and skills outcomes, but while Poland faces challenges in relation to air quality, this is a comparative strength for Estonia; and while Estonia has high rates of self-reported victimisation, this is an outcome where Poland ranks among the top third OECD countries
Household income has begin a slow recovery since 2009 in the majority of OECD countries. But the OECD average masks divergent trends. In one third of OECD countries, household income in 2013 is still below the 2009 level. Particularly dramatic falls have been recorded in Greece (-30%), Ireland (-18%), Spain (-11%), and Portugal and Italy (both -9%). Other countries that recorded falls include Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands and Austria.
In general, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain have seen very marked declines in material well-being from 2009 -2013/4: this includes falls in income and earnings, and rises in long-term unemployment and housing costs.
Long-term unemployment remains higher than in 2009 for two-thirds of OECD countries - - and youth continue to bear the brunt of this in the majority (two thirds) of countries. In 2014, the highest rates of long-term unemployment are in Greece (19.5%) and Spain (13%). Rates are above 7% in Italy, Portugal and the Slovak Republic. But rates are below 1% in Korea, Mexico, Norway, Israel, Iceland, New Zealand and Canada.
Housing now costs the average OECD household just over 20% of their [gross adjusted] disposable income per year. These costs are significantly higher for households who went into debt to purchase their home, as debt repayments are not included in the OECD measure of housing affordability. The highest rates of housing expenditure are found in Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Greece (each around 25% or more). The lowest rates are found in Korea (16%) and Norway (17%).
1 in 8 employees in the OECD routinely work very long hours (50 or more per week). This has gone up by 0.7% (from 11.8% to 12.5%) since 2009. At the country level, the proportion of employees working very long hours ranges from 1 in 250 in the Netherlands, to 1 in every 2.4 employees in Turkey (and more than 1 in 4 in Mexico).
Voter turnout has declined in two thirds of OECD countries since around 2007. Chile saw the largest fall, but this can be attributed to the fact that Chile abandoned compulsory voting in 2012. Other large falls have been recorded in the USA, Greece, Japan, Slovenia and Italy.
The share of adults of working age having completed upper secondary education went up 3.2% across the OECD as a whole. Greece and Portugal have seen particularly large gains. But fewer than 60% of working-age adults have completed upper secondary education in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.
It is not yet clear what impact the Great Recession will have on life expectancy in the longer run. 5 years is not a long enough timeframe for the effects to become known.
Household income is measured as household net adjusted disposable income per capita, and the 1.9% increase is a cumulative increase over the entire period (not an average annual increase).
Voter turnout was assessed from around 2007 to ensure that every country had experienced a national election in the time period under consideration (if we took 2009 as a baseline, that would not have been the case)
This chart shows areas of well-being strengths and weaknesses in Germany, based on a ranking of all OECD countries. Longer lines show areas of relative strength, while shorter lines show areas of relative weakness.
Germany is among the OECD countries with relatively high average household disposable income per capita.
German workers receive higher average earnings, enjoy higher job security and report having more time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than the average worker in the OECD.
Regarding educational attainment, while 86.3% of the German adult working-age population have completed at least an upper secondary education, this share is only 77.2% in the OECD on average.
Nonetheless, adults of working age were found to have numeracy and literacy scores close to the OECD average in the OECD’s first survey of adult skills.
Germany has a relatively high level of social network support: 93.6% of Germans report having friends or relatives that they can count on in times of trouble compared to the OECD average of 88%.
While 94.9% of Germans are satisfied with water quality, air quality (assessed in terms of air pollution) lies below the OECD average in Germany.
Life expectancy in Germany (80.3 years) is close to the OECD average level, but 64.9% of the German adult population perceive their health as good or very good, compared to the OECD average of 68.8%.
BACKGROUND NOTES FOR Q&A: CHANGE SINCE 2009
Since 2009, Germany has experienced improvements in almost all aspects of material well-being since 2009, include:
an increase in household net adjusted disposable income per capita (a 3.4% increase, cumulatively)
an increase in household net financial wealth per capita (a 25% increase, cumulatively)
an increase in the employment rate (up 3.4 percentage points, to 73.80)
an increase in average annual gross earnings per full-time employee (up 3.7% from 2009 to 2013)
a reduction in long-term unemployment (the proportion of the labour force out of work for one year or more – down from 3.51 in 2009, to 2.21 in 2014). Although note that comparisons over time for Germany need to be interpreted with caution here, due to a redesign of the labour force survey that occurred in 2010.
a reduction in the probability of becoming unemployed (down from 4.5 in 2009, to 2.9 in 2014)
Germany recorded relatively small changes in most quality of life outcomes that could be assessed:
There was a decrease in voter turnout between the 2005 and 2013 national partliamentary elections (from 78% of the population registered to vote in 2005, to 72% in 2013)
Little change in life expectancy and perceived health
Little change in employees working very long hours
Little change in upper secondary educational attainment rates
Little change in the rate of deaths due to assault
Overall child well-being is high in Germany. German children tend to enjoy better material well-being conditions than the average child in the OECD. However, 31.7% of German children live in homes with self-reported poor environmental conditions compared to the OECD average of 21.6%.
Germany’s teenage birth rate is among the lowest in the OECD. Furthermore, only 2.8% of Germans aged 15 to 19 are neither in employment nor in education or training compared to the OECD average of 7.1%. The share of German students reporting that they feel a lot of pressure from schoolwork stands at 3.9% and is the lowest in the OECD.
10.2% of German children report that they have been bullied at least twice in the last two months, which is close to the OECD average of 10.1%.
The life satisfaction of German children also lies below the OECD average – although it should be noted that country average differences on life satisfaction among children tend to be very small, and Germany is not markedly lower than many other European OECD countries.
The main element of the How’s Life? Measurement framework that is missing from this approach is work-life balance. However, some relevant constructs are picked up in social and family environment (e.g. feeling pressure from school, and time spent with parents.
Data sources include:
Health and Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study (HBSC)
The OECD Income Distribution Database (for information about income and poverty in homes with children)
EU-SILC, HILDA (Australia), ENIGH (Mexico), CASEN (Chile), ACS (United States ) survey vehicles
OECD Health Statistics
WHO Health Statistics
World Bank World Development Indicators
OECD PISA (2012) and the OECD Education at a Glance database
The International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS)
OECD calculations based on Time-Use Surveys (e.g. the Harmonised European Time Use Survey web application for European Countries, and public-use survey micro-data and tabluations from National Statistical Offices for non-European countries)
Across all OECD countries there are large inequalities in child well-being. Children from wealthier households enjoy much better material living conditions, but they also have a higher quality of life, on average. In Germany, children from high socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to report being bullied than children from low socio-economic backgrounds. There are also substantial differences in life satisfaction.
The extent of inequalities varies a lot across OECD countries.
Children from more affluent families generally find it easier to talk to their parents. In Belgium, the gap is 9 percentage points, while in the United States it is 10 percentage points.
Italy (shown) is the only OECD country where children from less affluent backgrounds find it easier to talk to their parents.
Compared to more affluent children, children from less well-off families are twice as likely to be obese in the average OECD country.
But in Poland (shown) and Ireland, children in more affluent households are slightly more likely to be obese.
Charts focus on the OECD countries with the largest and the smallest inequalities between children from different SES backgrounds.
The exception is Belgium, which has the 2nd largest gap in talking to parents. The largest gap is the United States with around 10 percentage points.
If we put a value on the amount of time that people spend volunteering, it amounts to around 2% of GDP in the average OECD country, going up to 4.1% in New Zealand, and 4.7% in Australia. The smallest valuations are for Hungary (0.2%) and Korea (0.5%). This calculation is based on what it would cost to hire people to do the work that volunteers do (using information about hourly wages and volunteering rates in OECD countries).
Volunteering appears to be a «virtuous circle», where people can do well by doing good.
Yet some people are missing out on all these benefits.
Disadvantaged groups, such as the unemployed and those on lower incomes, are more disengaged from our civil society: they have less trust in others and in the institutions that are meant to serve them, and they show lower participation rates in volunteering.
The upshot is that all of us miss out, because the economically disadvantaged are excluded from playing a part in shaping and improving our societies.
This is a huge missed opportunity. It underscores the fact that building inclusive societies is about a lot more than just addressing income inequalities.
These data relate to what is called «formal volunteering» (volunteering through an organisation).
However, when we look at «informal volunteering» which is about helping people, other than family and colleagues, on an informal basis (available for European countries only), we see a similar overall pattern (with the differences being slightly less marked).
Compared to France and the United Kingdom as well as several other OECD countries, regional inequalities in income are rather small in Germany: household adjusted disposable income is 1.3 times higher in Bavaria than in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Regarding relative income poverty, while 2% of people in Bremen have an income of less than half of the German median income, the share is 17.4% in Saxony-Anhalt. Unemployment rates range from 2.9% in Bavaria to 9.8% in Berlin. This gap (6.9 percentage points) is larger than the regional differences observed in France or the United Kingdom .
Regarding educational attainment, 94.6% of the labour force has at least a secondary education in Saxony, while this share is only 81.9% in Bremen. This gap (12.7 percentage points) is larger than regional differences in the United Kingdom, but smaller than in France.
Equally, regional variation of air quality is smaller in Germany than in France, but larger than in the United Kingdom.
The share of households with a broadband connection ranges from 91% in Bremen to only 71% in Brandenburg.