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Mexico City, 11-13 May 2011



30 June 2011


I. Introduction

1.    The understanding of people’s well-being and of its determinants is crucial, since it shapes the direction in which society should move in order to achieve progress. Based on this understanding, it will be possible to develop statistics to keep track of overall social progress and whether it heads in the right direction. As better well-being measures become available, policy makers will be able to make better decisions and citizens will be in a better position to demand actions conforming to their aspirations.

2.    The indicators typically used to know whether people’s well-being is improving or not only partially capture it. This is the case, for example, of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure which focuses exclusively on the economic production of goods and services, but that does not take into account issues such as income distribution, justice, freedoms, people’s abilities to achieve a meaningful life, their life satisfaction and the sustainability of economic progress. An adequate measure of progress should recognize that there are many considerations which require a multi-disciplinary approach involving a variety of stakeholders.

3.    The Latin American Conference on Measuring Well-Being and Fostering the Progress of Societies, which took place in the magnificent “Palacio de Minería” in the Historic Center of Mexico City from 11 to 13 May 2011, was the first of a series of regional conferences geared to enhance and promote the measurement of well being and social progress as well as the use of this information to improve people´s lives. The results of these conferences will feed into the agenda of the 4th OECD World Forum on “Statistics, Knowledge and Policies” to be held in the city of New Delhi in October 2012.

4.    The Latin America Conference was organized by the OECD, Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) and the Scientific and Technological Consultative Forum (FCCT), in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and OECD Development Centre. It brought together 50 internationally renowned speakers and 669 participants from 23 countries, including most Latin American countries as well as countries in the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Lebanon, India and Korea. Leading figures in the world of statistics, academia, civil society and decision makers from public and private sectors, as well as representatives of various international organizations were among the participants. The event allowed the exchange of ideas between specialists from different fields such as statistics, economics, sociology, medicine, anthropology, urban planning, psychology, philosophy, psychiatry and education, among others. This mix of participants, diverse in their backgrounds and areas of expertise, led to a thorough discussion on the elements to be incorporated into a vision of progress that responds to the multiplicity of factors shaping human well-being.

5.    The Conference objectives were: (1) to deepen the debate on how to measure social progress and well-being in Latin America; (2) to improve the relevance of current measurements and analyses to address key policy issues related to progress and well-being, and, (3) to achieve concrete results, lay down frameworks and open avenues for future work.


II. Main conclusions[1]


Well-being in Latin America

6.    The measurement of well-being goes beyond GDP and money, requiring the consideration of both objective and subjective dimensions. The measurement of well being should be focused on individuals and households.

7.    In Latin America, important dimensions of well-being include health, education, working conditions, housing, economic situation, interpersonal relations, availability of free time, access to social protection, effective citizenship, rule of law, and gender and ethnic equality.


Subjective well-being

8.    Subjective well-being refers to people’s experience of being well and it includes evaluative and affective considerations. It is useful in assessing and quantifying the relative importance of non-monetary factors, and in assessing the benefits from different policies. The interpretation of subjective well being indicators should take into consideration aspects such as people’s personal values and expectations and their cultural roots.



9.    There is a close relationship between well-being, equity and social cohesion. In spite of significant economic growth, Latin America is still the most unequal region in the world. Inequalities are manifest not only in income but also in wealth, education, health, access to quality services, security,  availability of free time,  exercising of citizenship and others factors. Emphasis should be put on gender and ethnic gaps, and other vulnerable groups, and on intergenerational social mobility.


Data and measurements

10.    The current goal is not to build a synthetic index of well-being, but to produce a limited number of indicators that are relevant and can inform policy design and decision making on the different dimensions of well being. There is, today, a consensus on the need to collect data on objective and subjective aspects of well being and in exploiting all available information sources; improving existing official statistics and tools, as well as the use, analysis and dissemination of existing data. Attention should also be put on the harmonization of concepts, standards and definitions.


The way forward

11.    Participants agreed on the necessity of:

  •  Promoting the engagement of civil society and policy actors in consultation processes on well-being.
  •  Reflecting well-being in the agenda of the national statistical offices and systems of the region and specifically on the agenda of the Statistics Conference of the Americas.
  •  Enhancing dialogue and develop synergies between public and private sector producers of statistics.
  •  Leveraging the contribution of the scientific community by creating a Latin American research network and a blog hosted by Wikiprogress, as well as promoting other regional and local academic initiatives.
  •  Encouraging international organizations to pursue their work in setting standards, providing guidelines and identifying good practices to produce more comparable data.

12.    The Conference covered a wide array of relevant aspects related to the measurement and explanation of well-being. However, it did not exhaust all the relevant aspects. Three key issues which deserve further consideration are gender, ethnicity, and environmental sustainability.

13.    Finally, participants recognized that we are still collectively experimenting. The key message delivered by the conference is “let’s be ambitious but advance step by step”.


[1]    These final conclusions are based on the preliminary conclusions presented at the end of the Conference, complemented with the comments provided by participants in the space opened for this purpose in the web site of the conference. All participants were invited to give comments.