Bridging the gap between GDP and Welfare


Bridging the gap between GDP and Welfare

Research Seminar

Tuesday 12 February 2019, 16:30 — 17:30

Presented by  Richard Heys (Office for National Statistics)

Venue: Office for National Statistics, 1 Drummond Gate, London, SW1V 2QQ

Economic measurement is currently under debate as rarely before. Many authors have challenged the traditional approach to National Accounts, each with their own solution to better measuring the modern economy. Described by one eminent economist as ‘akin to a religious war’, the debate about which activities should be within the production boundary defining the scope of the National Accounts is an active one with strongly argued opposing positions. This paper is interested in two aspects in the debate: i) different users require different measures to address different policy problems and ii) changes in technology, data techniques and new sources of data mean the economic measurement community, and specifically National Statistics Institutes, are on the cusp of being able to affordably move from just measuring what the economy can produce to potentially measuring variables of wider interest, particularly economic welfare. As such, this paper attempts to map and prioritise the options available on a practical spectrum, which can be broadly broken into four segments; variants within the current SNA / ESA definitions (Current GDP), variants which could be seen as being in scope of potential future iterations of these manuals (Future GDP), variants which move beyond the likely potential scope of SNA changes, and which therefore stray into being welfare measures (Welfare), and finally the range of frameworks which capture multi-dimensional measures of wider human well-being beyond the economic (Well-Being).

Richard Heys is Deputy Chief Economist at the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) with responsibility for economic statistics research and productivity research and statistics. Prior to joining the ONS, Richard was a member of the Government Economic Service in the Department for Education and Skills and Ministry of Justice before becoming Associate Director with responsibility for Justice and Business Analytics at London Economics. He holds degrees from Balliol College, Oxford and University College London.