How’s life in your neighbourhood? Do you take reviving lungfuls of clean fresh air when you step outside your front door, or struggle to peer through a miasma of polluted particles? Is it easy to find a job or is unemployment higher than in neighbouring areas? When it comes to measuring wellbeing, national figures are all very well, but they cannot tell you what it’s like to live in a particular region or city.
Our day-to-day experience is essentially local – how easy is it to find a job, is there good Internet access and how clean is the air? And how can you find out these things about a new area?
The OECD’s Regional Wellbeing tool enables you to do just that. It compares wellbeing indicators for 362 OECD regions in eight topics – income, jobs, health, access to services, environment, education, safety, and civic engagement. A score has been calculated for each topic and you can compare your region with other regions in your own country, or with regions in other countries. So you can discover, for instance, that northeast England and Utah have a similar wellbeing level, or that life in Nunavut in Canada is similar to that in Chihuahua, Mexico, at least from a wellbeing standpoint.
But why should we care about regional wellbeing? For one thing, metropolitan areas are a major source of economic growth. More than 50% of economic growth and job creation in the OECD area occurs in the 275 metropolitan regions (each with a population of more than 500,000). But now in almost half (45%) of these metropolitan areas unemployment is higher than for the national economy. Once you know that a disproportionately high share of national unemployment is concentrated in a limited number of regions, and which ones they are, you can start to look at regional policies that can help. Does the workforce in the region have a good level of education? The regional wellbeing tool can tell you what proportion of the population has at least completed high school. In Korea the capital region scores highest on a national comparison, and in the top 28% among OECD regions.
If health is what matters to you most, then perhaps your region should take a leaf out of the Ile-de-France’s book. The area round the French capital is the top area in France in health, and in the top 1% among OECD regions.
The new regional tool follows many of the topics already covered at national level in the OECD Better Life Index, and brings wellbeing measures down to a more local level. So, how’s life in your region?