While more and more countries are thinking about changing their growth indicators, Finland and New Zealand have already done so. They are no longer measuring their performance solely in terms of growth but also in terms of well-being. It is therefore no coincidence that these two women-led nations are regularly cited as role models, particularly for their exemplary management of the pandemic.
“GDP does not allow us to take into account social or ecological realities,” explains economist Éloi Laurent*. As a result, France, which uses this tool as a compass to establish its public policies, “has not measured, and therefore not dealt with, the extent of the effects of the pandemic”, analyses the professor at Sciences-Po and Stanford. Conversely, in other countries such as Finland and New Zealand, the economics of well-being is at the heart of political decisions.
New Zealand voted a welfare budget in 2019, a world first. Specifically, the budget includes increased public spending on mental health, allowances for indigenous people, and the fight against child poverty and domestic violence. “We said we wanted to be a government that did things differently, and with this budget we have done just that. We have created the basis not only for a ‘welfare budget’, but for a different approach to government decision-making as a whole,” said Jacinda Ardern, head of government.
The test of Covid-19 has shown the relevance of this choice. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has been one of the most successful in controlling the virus. The country has often been cited as an example of bold Covid management. The Lowy Institute in Sydney voted it the best performer after assessing nearly 100 countries on six criteria, including confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, deaths and screening facilities. The New Zealand government’s policy was also praised by the WHO.
Another sign of public confidence was the triumphant re-election of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the middle of Covid. The head of state was able to show an exemplary record at the time of the elections in October 2020, particularly in the face of the successive crises that have troubled her term of office (the Christchurch bombing, the volcanic eruption, the Covid-19 pandemic).
Finland, the happiest country in the world
Another good student often cited as a model for its management of the pandemic: Finland. In 2019, the country is choosing to measure well-being and steer its public policies accordingly. Like New Zealand, Finland has integrated well-being indicators into the orientation and evaluation of its public policies.
As a result, while Europe was hit hard by the pandemic, Finland was relatively unaffected. The state managed to control the epidemic quickly, thanks to measures taken at an early stage, without major restrictions for the population. Moreover, 60% of employees telework, the highest figure in Europe, according to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, quoted by “Le Monde”. According to a survey published in mid-June by the think tank Eva, 86% of the population says it is “proud to be Finnish”, in the context of the pandemic.
Another source of satisfaction for the 5.5 million inhabitants: for the fourth consecutive year, the “World Happiness Report” has crowned Finland the happiest country in the world. The UN’s global study, published last March, is based on the personal feelings of its inhabitants and indicators such as GDP and corruption. All the rankings on education, gender equality (male ministers are in the minority in the government) and inequality put the small Nordic country in pole position.
“These experiences show the relevance of putting health at the heart of political decisions and of building “alternative indicators to GDP and its growth”, defends economist Eloi Laurent. “When you have this well-being reflex and you face a crisis like Covid, it makes all the difference,” says the professor at Sciences-Po and Stanford.