LATIN AMERICAN CONFERENCE ON MEASURING WELL-BEING AND FOSTERING THE PROGRESS
Mexico City, 11-13 May 2011
30 June 2011
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
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
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.
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
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
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”.
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.