Icelandic Prime Minister Urges Wellness Over Economic Growth

Katrín Jakobsdóttir has called for an ‘alternative future’

The Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has urged for wellbeing to be placed in higher regard, and made an even greater priority than GDP and economic growth.

Calling for “an alternative future based on wellbeing and inclusive growth” during London’s Chatham House international affairs think tank, Jakobsdóttir urged governments to begin instating both green and family-friendly targets as opposed to simply concentrating on economic growth.

Jakobsdóttir was asked during the event if the creation of a wellbeing budget was achievable for both developed and developing countries, and she responded by saying “You can always have an emphasis on wellbeing, it’s just about how you prioritise it in the public budget”.

Iceland is part of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEA), a newly established global collaboration of organisations, groups and individuals that are working towards shifting the current economic system to create a ‘wellbeing economy’ – something the organisation defines as an economy that delivers human and ecological wellbeing

Jakobsdóttir also recently teamed up with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (now both also WEA members) in order to promote a wellbeing agenda globally. Jakobsdóttir has confirmed in a media interview that the Icelandic government is planning to finance this initiative. “A wellbeing budget is in the works, with a number of priorities already having been identified,” she said. “These include the improvement of mental health and reduction of carbon emissions.”

But her work towards wellness does not stop there. Jakobsdóttir also heads up The Icelandic Prime Minister’s Committee on Measurements for Wellbeing in Iceland, which has “developed 39 wellbeing indicators that include economic, environmental and social factors, GDP and other economic indicators are among them, but in a new context with social and environmental indicators, to aim for the delicate balance of sustainable development”.

“Developing wellbeing indicators has the potential to transform fiscal policies, putting people and the planet first”, says Jakobsdóttir. These indicators are linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and are used throughout the formation of government policy.

“Developing such indicators is a step towards ensuring a common understanding of what factors make our lives better”, said the Icelandic government in a statement.

The committee recently commissioned a survey in Iceland to establish the general public’s views in relation to wellbeing: health turned out to be the most significant factor in overall quality of life, followed by relationships, housing and making a living.

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