Cultural engagement is not included as a measure of wellbeing on the government's happiness index. Image: All About Us, At-Bristol

Government wellbeing indicators are flawed, says Davies

Geraldine Kendall, 18.01.2012
Happiness index doesn't measure cultural engagement
The Museums Association is urging members to respond to a consultation into the government's planned Measuring National Wellbeing programme.

The MA is concerned that the indicators proposed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for assessing national and individual wellbeing fail to take into account participation in culture, heritage and the arts.

The ONS published a paper last year outlining the indicators it will use to measure the nation’s wellbeing as part of its UK-wide happiness index.

Data gathered on the basis of those indicators will be published monthly from February and is likely to influence future government policy.

Proposed categories include relationships, health, what we do, where we live, personal finance and education. But many in the arts and heritage sectors were surprised that cultural engagement was not explicitly included.

MA policy head Maurice Davies said: “The proposed new measures of national wellbeing are flawed because they don’t include a measure of culture, heritage and arts - nor indeed of sport, lifelong learning and charitable giving.

“They present a partial picture of wellbeing that threatens to mislead policy makers and commentators.”

As part of the MA’s response to a public consultation into the indicators, Davies wrote: “There should be a measure of people’s access to, participation in, and/or quality of local culture, arts, heritage, and possibly sport and physical activity.”

He added: “More objective measures would perhaps give more useful data over time. For example, an objective measure of participation in culture, arts heritage and sport might give more reliably comparable data over time than the subjective ‘satisfaction with the amount of leisure time you have’.”

The consultation closes on Monday 23 January.

Davies said: “We urge all members to respond.”

Download the MA’s response to the consultation (word)

To read the proposed ONS indicators, click here (pdf)

To take part in the survey, click here


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MA Member
19.01.2012, 00:02
I think people are missing the point here. None of the measures goes into detail so anyone looking for questions such as the number of people who attend football matches, sing in choirs, attend lifedrawing classes or visit museums on rainy days is going to be disappointed.

If every sector of modern Britain wants to be measured as part of the General WellBeing survey, the resultant questionnaire and the bureaucracy it would entail would ensure the nation's GWB was in negative figures for years to come.

Objective measures would soon be massaged by the many vested interests [school league tables being the best example of this fact of life] , whereas a subjective measure puts power into the hands of those surveyed.