An economy of wellbeing simultaneously increases wellbeing and sustainable economic growth

The economy of wellbeing has rapidly gained prominence, because mere economic growth has not brought an increase in wellbeing for everyone. This has far-reaching economic, social and political implications, both in Finland and other European Union countries.

Changes in demographic structure, an ageing population, growing health inequalities, changes in the world of work and serious environmental threats have also made this theme more topical.

This all boils down to concern about increasing inequality, equal opportunities in society, and ecologically sustainable living.

The OECD has defined the economy of wellbeing in terms of material factors, such as housing, income and jobs, and factors related to quality of life such as education, skills, health and security.

Implementing the Agenda 2030 goals of sustainable development is a significant element in the economy of wellbeing.

Council conclusions on the economy of wellbeing

The Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on the economy of wellbeing at the second Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) under Finland’s Presidency on 24 October 2019.

In its conclusions, the Council calls on the European Commission and the Member States to integrate a cross-sectoral economy of wellbeing perspective into all policy areas of the EU and the Member States. The Council conclusions will create a basis for further work on the concept in Europe.

Finland pro-actively promotes an economy of wellbeing

The economy of wellbeing was chosen as the main theme of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health during the 2019 Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The conclusions of the Council on this subject were approved unanimously.

These conclusions placed particular emphasis on education, social security, equality, health care, and healthy and safe working conditions. Rising social and health care costs are one problem that may be mitigated by investing in these areas.

Wellbeing at the heart of economic policy

An economy of wellbeing creates opportunities to increase wellbeing and economic growth at the same time, with the economy growing and the long-term sustainability of general government finances improving as wellbeing increases.

An economy of wellbeing places human wellbeing at the heart of economic policy, with decisions accordingly made on the basis of their wellbeing impact.

Making human wellbeing the goal guides growth in economic prosperity and stability. The converse also applies: economic growth and stability enable increasing wellbeing.

An economy of wellbeing mentality essentially holds that economic growth is never an end in itself, nor is wellbeing a mere public expenditure item.

GDP growth alone cannot resolve current problems. Growth must be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable, and it must reduce inequality. The measures that we take in pursuit of economic growth must increase the wellbeing of all people.

This requires indicators complementary to GDP that describe wellbeing and sustainable development. Finland is currently seeking suitable metrics for its economy of wellbeing.

Finland boosts the economy of wellbeing

Finland is actively advancing the economy of wellbeing, both nationally and internationally.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) has appointed a steering group on the economy of wellbeing that will sit until the end of the current term of government. Its mission is to develop the economy of wellbeing as a tool of policymaking and action, both nationally and internationally.

The steering group is responsible for drawing up an action plan suitable for Finnish conditions. This action plan will include measures to make the economy of wellbeing part of informed central government policymaking and processes. The steering group is chaired by STM Permanent Secretary Kirsi Varhila.

The steering group is working in partnership with the economy of wellbeing committee of the Advisory Board for Public Health.

This committee is seeking to reinforce the structures of the economy of wellbeing in national, regional and local policymaking. The economy of wellbeing committee is chaired by STM Director General Veli-Mikko Niemi, and its members include representatives from various government ministries, R&D institutes, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, and various organisations.

This intensive interdepartmental work seeks to ensure that central and local government and civil society collaborate to build an economy of wellbeing.

Finland is involved in the work of international organisations, such as the OECD and WHO, and in informal networks between countries, such as WEGo. Finland joined the Wellbeing Economy Governments network at the end of 2020. Other members of this network include New Zealand, Scotland, Wales and Iceland.

Implementation of the European Council conclusions on the economy of wellbeing is linked to the Commission’s strategy and work programme, which includes implementing the social rights pillar and numerous other programmes.

See also

Further information

Päivi Mattila-Wiro, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Work and Gender Equality / TTO, Legislation Unit / SY  

Riikka Pellikka, Senior Specialist 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Management Support Unit / JOT, Strategy Group / STRA 0295163659