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Recommendations of the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Report: A few illustrations

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In September 2009 the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission submitted its report on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. The report is based on a large body of applied research work conducted in recent years in various fields of the economic and social sciences. Some of this research work proposes composite well-being indicators more appropriate than GDP. A parallel trend rather favours the construction of dashboards, i.e. sets of indicators designed to provide an understanding of the several facets of economic performance and quality of life. Without neglecting the interest of constructing composite indicators, the commission strongly emphasized the multidimensional nature of well-being. To address this multidimensional nature, it did not propose its own ready-made dashboard. The report must rather be read as providing guidelines to be followed for constructing such a dashboard. This dossier outlines the main lessons to be learned from a comparison between France and a few other countries with the same level of development, as measured against the criteria used by the Stiglitz Commission. The use of alternative standard of living indicators involves a few reclassifications across countries but without really calling into question the apparent advance of the United States. However, living conditions indicators do show far more marked contrasts in the areas of health, education, the risks of unemployment and poverty, and security. Contributions to the problem of climatic sustainability can be up to three times greater from one country to the next. As for economic sustainability, the indicator proposed by the commission suggests that this sustainability remains warranted, although with a fairly small safety margin in several countries.

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