Government 'planning to measure people's happiness'

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The government will attempt to measure the happiness of UK citizens, it is expected to announce later this month.

The Office for National Statistics is to devise questions for a household survey, to be carried out up to four times a year.

This follows calls by David Cameron, when leader of the opposition, to look at "general wellbeing", arguing there was "more to life than money".

Downing Street promised an announcement "reasonably soon".

Happiness measuring is expected to begin as soon as next spring with the results published regularly, possibly on a quarterly basis

Such a move has been proposed by two Nobel Prize-winning economists and is being considered by the governments of France and Canada.

'More to life'

After becoming Conservative leader in 2005, Mr Cameron said gauging people's wellbeing was one of the "central political issues of our time".

He said: "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB - general wellbeing."

Start Quote

While it's not government's job to make people happy, regular measures of wellbeing will at least make sure it is taken into account”

End Quote Jo Swinson Liberal Democrat MP

In its recent Spending Review, the government said there was "widespread acknowledgement that GDP is not the ideal measure of well-being".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "There is a huge literature on this issue and it's something that the prime minister spoke about in opposition and it's something this government says it is going to look at.

"But as to precisely what we are going to do and when we are going to do it, you should wait and see."

Almost 30 MPs have signed a Commons motion, proposed by Lib Dem Jo Swinson, arguing that "promoting happiness and well-being is a legitimate and important goal of government".

Ms Swinson said: "This is a positive and forward-looking move by the government, which will give us a much better idea of the health of UK society.

"Relying solely on GDP to track the nation's progress excludes many of the things that we all know to be important, but that can't be measured by money.

"What gets measured gets done. While it's not government's job to make people happy, regular measures of wellbeing will at least make sure it is taken into account."

'Voodoo'

Existing surveys suggest Britons' happiness has remained broadly static for at least 25 years, the motion says, arguing that the data should be used to inform policy.

The UK's National Statistician, Jil Matheson, who will oversee the happiness measurement, said: "There is growing international recognition that to measure national well-being and progress there is a need to develop a more comprehensive view, rather than focusing solely on gross domestic product.

"Important though that indicator is, there is a need to look at broader economic measures, 'quality-of-life' indicators and the impact progress has on the environment to assess national well-being, and how the UK is doing."

But UK Independence Party MEP Godfrey Bloom said it was an attempt "to invoke voodoo sociology in the service of a bigger and interfering state".

"I can guarantee that the only results of this proposal will be greater spending, greater bossing around and a decrease in happiness across the board," he added.

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