Living standard about more than money but not high without money

27/05/2011

Treasury has decided there’s more to higher standards of living than material wealth:

Treasury’s understanding of the term living standards goes beyond the narrow material definition – often proxied by GDP – to incorporate a broad range of material and non-material factors such as trust, education, health and environmental quality. In taking a broad approach to understanding living standards, Treasury is in line with other economic institutions internationally. For example, the Australian Treasury acknowledges that “analyses of economic development or progress that only take income into account neglect other important determinants of wellbeing”  . . .

I can’t argue with that. Anyone who thinks the standard of living is all about material wealth knows more about price than value.

The OECD certainly thinks so in its better life initiative:

The Index allows citizens to compare well-being across 34 countries, based on 11 dimensions the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety, work-life balance..

New Zealand performs well on the index which rated factors including  income, employment, education, health, civic participation and satisfaction.

New Zealand performs exceptionally well in overall well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.. .

. . . When asked, 77% of people in New Zealand said they were satisfied with their life, above the OECD average of 59%.

Our average incomes are lower than those for the OECD but we’re above average for most other factors. However, the report acknowledges that while money can’t buy happiness it contributes to higher living standards.

That reminds me of a quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher:

“No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions – he had money too.”

A high standard of living must take into account more than material possessions, but it still requires material goods and services and the money to buy them unless you remove yourself from society and become wholly self-sufficient.

You don’t need a lot of money to have a good life but you’ll have a better life if you, and your country, have more than enough.


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