Ministers held a public policy debate on the economy of well-being, based on a EU Finnish presidency steering note. Ministers broadly agreed that reducing inequalities had to be a policy priority and that the concept of an economy of well-being needed to be integrated in future EU policies. Some participants stressed that social expenditure should be treated as an investment. The debate showed broad support for a horizontal approach to policy design. Ministers also highlighted the importance of taking into account the connection between the economy of well-being and economic growth in Europe’s post-2020 strategy. The debate set the frame for the preparation of Council conclusions on the economy of well-being, which the Finnish presidency plans to table for adoption at the EPSCO meeting in October this year.
The concept of the economy of wellbeing goes beyond GDP as a tool for measuring market production and economic growth. The concept’s primary claim is that, while people’s well-being is a value in itself, it is also vital for ensuring sustainable long-term economic growth. It seeks to increase understanding in the EU of how wellbeing policies and structures enhance productivity, generate economic growth, increase employment, and support fiscal sustainability as well as societal stability.
The EPSCO Council meeting report notes that the economy of well-being favours a cross-sectoral approach to policy-making, taking into account that a sustainable long-term economic growth depends on:
- more inclusive social protection which may lead to higher GDP growth. This can be achieved by promoting more inclusive social protection systems and reducing inequality in opportunities and outcomes;
- improved gender equality that could lead to increasing GDP by up to 9.6% by 2050. This can be achieved by reducing the gender gap in access to quality jobs, ensuring better work-life balance, and providing more care support and flexible working arrangements;
- better health care that can reduce the number of people dying each year in the EU due to non-communicable diseases (550 000 deaths resulting in EUR 115 billion in economic potential lost annually). This can be achieved by ensuring access to high quality health care for all and investing in preventive measures and high levels of health protection;
- more accessible education and training. Estimates show that in OECD countries, highly educated people live on average 6 years longer than less educated people. This problem can be addressed by expanding access to high quality education for all and promoting adult and lifelong learning.
For the full results of the EPSCO Council see here. The discussions will continue based on this draft set of conclusions (for adoption in October), which include different recommendations on investment in high quality early childhood education and care, on developing new initiatives to address disability policies beyond the current European Disability Strategy 2010–2020, on developing a high-level Gender Equality Strategy, and more.