Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress

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This article published in the review Ecological Economics addresses the need to go beyond GDP and to use indicators that will better assess the social, economical and political progress of nations. Global Gross Domestic Product has increased more than three-fold since 1950 but The Genuine Progress Index shows that economic welfare has decreased since 1978.

While global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased more than three-fold since 1950, economic welfare, as estimated by the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), has actually decreased since 1978. The authors synthesized estimates of GPI over the 1950–2003 time period for 17 countries for which GPI has been estimated (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam). Comparing The Genuine Progress Index, the Human Development Index, Ecological Footprint, Biocapacity, Gini coefficient and Life Satisfaction scores showed some variations among the countries but also some major trends.

Results showed that globally GPI/capita does not increase beyond a GDP/capita of around $7000/capita. If the wealth was distributed equally around the planet, the current world GDP ($67 trillion/yr) could support 9.6 billion people at $7000/capita. The authors conced that while GPI is not the perfect economic welfare indicator, it is a far more comprehensive one than GDP. To achieve a sustainable future, there must be a shift in the policy focus from maximizing prodution and consumption (GDP) to improving human well-being(by charting it with the GPI or another comprehensive indicator). This will require taking into consideration environmental protection, full employment, social
equity, better product quality and durability, and greater resource use efficiently.

This shift is underway in several countries and regions and alternatives measures of progress like GPI, are useful to help chart and guide the course if appropriately used and understood.

Author

Ida Kubiszewski, Robert Costanza, Carol Franco, Philip Lawn, John Talberth, Tim Jackson and Camille Aylmer. 2013.”Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress”. Ecological Economics (93): 57-68

See also

The Genuine Progress Index

Social Progress Index