CBS to compile a Monitor of well-being

© Hollandse Hoogte
The Dutch Cabinet has commissioned Statistics Netherlands (CBS) to compile an annual Monitor of well-being. The need for such a monitor is the result of the acknowledgement that welfare comprises more than GDP growth alone. In addition to GDP-related indicators, well-being comprises a range of other domains, such as environment, health, education, labour, security, confidence and inequality. Moreover, these aspects should not just be considered ‘here and now’; the consequences of our actions for the rest of the world and for future generations should also be taken into account. Where possible, the Monitor will also examine the distribution of various elements of well-being across various groups in the population.

The policy assessment agencies – the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) – will also contribute to the Monitor. In addition they will conduct a periodic exploration of well-being based on the monitor.

Accountability day

The Monitor of well-being is the follow-through of the recommendations by the temporary parliamentary committee on a broad definition of welfare, chaired by Rik Grashoff. In its report, the committee concluded that there is a need for a single authoritative instrument to present the wide range of available information on well-being clearly and concisely, and based on up-to-date data.
The Monitor of well-being will be published annually in the spring. On the basis of the Monitor, the Cabinet will deliver its considerations with respect to the state of well-being in the Netherlands. This state of affairs and the Cabinet’s considerations will subsequently constitute part of the accountability debate in the House of Representatives on the third Wednesday in May. This means the Monitor of Well-being will serve as the instrument to facilitate the public and political debate on well-being.

Quicker statistics and improved presentation

The three editions of the Sustainability monitor for the Netherlands can be viewed as the foundation for the Monitor of well-being. The indicators used in the Sustainability monitor will be updated one more time, this April. This update will be published with an accompanying article. The Sustainability monitor will then be converted to a Monitor of well-being in accordance with the recommendations of the committee report.
To be able to publish the Monitor of well-being every spring, CBS will have to publish a number of statistics earlier in the year. It also intends to design an attractive and easy-to-understand presentation for the Monitor.

Relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

One of the other international initiatives in the area of well-being is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the UN summit of government leaders and heads of state in September 2015, the Netherlands endorsed the SDGs, to be realised by 2030. As Dutch national statistics do not yet cover all the SDGs, CBS and other organisations in the Netherlands are working towards filling the gaps. In December 2016 CBS published a report with an overview of already available indicators. The Monitor on well-being will standardly comprise a chapter on the SDGs.

Capital approach

In terms of metrics, the Monitor of well-being – like the Sustainability monitor - will be based on internationally accepted recommendations for the measurement of sustainable development developed by the Conference of European Statisticians. These recommendations distinguish three dimensions of well-being: well-being ‘here and now’, future well-being (‘later’) and impact on other countries (‘elsewhere’). The ‘later’ dimension will be based on the capital approach: what is the situation with regard to the ‘stocks’ that are relevant for the well-being of future generations? These are expressed in terms of physical, human, natural and social capital.