Demand is growing worldwide for better criteria for assessing well-being in a broad sense. In the public debate, gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy, is still very often the dominant indicator underlying the debate on well-being in a country and the basis on which new policy is developed. But well-being encompasses much more than just the economy and income; it also involves health, education level, people’s feelings of safety, the accessibility of facilities, the quality of the natural living environment, and many other factors.
This publication describes the development of well-being in the Netherlands up to the end of 2019. The great impact of the corona crisis on many aspects of society is therefore not addressed in this edition. However, these recent developments highlight even more strongly the major significance of matters such as access to health care for all, social safety nets, trust in institutions, and access to unspoilt nature for people’s well-being and quality of life. This makes the concept of well-being even more relevant than before, for example for decisions on the organisation of society after the corona crisis.
Politicians, policy-makers, companies and citizens are increasingly questioning whether the current level of well-being can be sustained over the long term. It is also important to look at the way this well-being is distributed over the population. In order to create a clear picture of progress in specific policy areas, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are used as the thematic basis of this publication. In 2015, all 193 members of the UN, including the Netherlands, signed up to this ambitious package of 17 goals, which are to be achieved in 2030.
The first chapters of the publication build on the methodology and dimensions of previous editions, focusing on well-being ‘here and now’ as well as the pressure that the current level of well-being is putting on future generations (‘later’) and on other countries (‘elsewhere’). In these chapters, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) follows the international recommendations of the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) for measuring well-being. Although the monitor continues to focus on developments in the medium term (2012–2019 in this edition) and the most recent year-on-year changes, time series from 1995 have also been added to this edition. This makes it possible for the first time to place short and medium-term developments in the context of the last 25 years.
A frequent wish is for the monitor to include figures that are as up-to-date as possible and this edition has therefore taken particular note of this aspect. Wherever possible, initial provisional results for 2019 have been calculated specially for this publication. These rapidly obtained figures are recognisable as such in the dashboards. Attention has also been paid to the distribution of current well-being according to background characteristics such as sex, origin, education level and age. For greater depth, we have also looked at the extremes in this distribution: the accumulation of more favourable or less favourable results according to personal characteristics.
Chapter 4 of the publication shows the progress made on each of the 17 SDGs. This is based on the list of SDG indicators that was drafted under the aegis of the UN. For each SDG, CBS has enriched the associated SDG indicators with CES indicators that are of particular interest in the Dutch context (SDGplus). This creates a more comprehensive picture of progress by the Netherlands in relation to the 17 goals than is possible with SDG indicators alone.
The Dutch edition of this Monitor was released on ‘Accountability Day’ (20 May 2020) and was presented to the House of Representatives by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, together with a response from the Dutch government. In this way, the report aims to contribute to creating a broader basis for the Accountability debate.
Director General (acting)
Dr A.H. Kroese
The Hague, Heerlen, Bonaire, July 2020