Measuring Progress: GDP & Beyond

The ONS mission to better inform understanding of economic, environmental and social progress more broadly than can be captured purely in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has taken another step forward. Under the banner ‘Quality of life in the UK’ we have begun publishing fresh estimates of national well-being alongside the latest monthly and quarterly estimates of GDP. Combined with the recently-added Climate Change Insights publication, this quarterly package aims to offer a more holistic view of our economic, environmental and social progress. Liz McKeown unveils the new ‘GDP& Beyond’ day and invites stats users to get involved in its continuing development.

The ONS has long been committed to “Measuring Progress” of the UK , and we provide a wide range of data, statistics and insights that do exactly this. As I laid out in this previous blog we now want to go further and ensure each quarter the public and policymakers have the data they need to measure progress in the round – including the latest assessment of GDP but also going beyond it.

Last quarter we published Climate Change Insights alongside our quarterly GDP estimates for the first time. This brought together the latest climate change-related statistics and analysis from a range of sources and was welcomed by the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of the Commons, which says the ONS will now “offer policymakers and commentators the tools to keep net zero on track while keeping a clear focus on economic progress.”

Now, alongside both the GDP estimates and the latest Climate Change Insights release, we have today also published Quality of Life in the UK, which provides the latest data and insights on the ten areas that matter most to people’s well-being as set out in our Measures of National Well-being framework. Together, these releases will offer a wider picture of how the UK’s economy, society and environment are changing in order to provide better understanding of progress.

Today’s Quality of Life publication also represents our first update of the measures in the Measuring National Well-being Framework since the onset of the pandemic, having paused updates during this period to focus on more frequent and timely tracking and analysis of personal well-being. It is worth noting that the National Well-being Framework was first created over a decade ago, shaped by 34,000 public responses to a national debate.

It is also interesting to reflect whether changes to society over this period – including for example changes brought about by the UK’s exit from the European Union, the Coronavirus pandemic or the current cost of living challenges, will have affected what matters most to well-being in the UK today. Our assessment is that the ten areas of life that were identified as important back in 2011, remain important today. Our relationships, what we do,; our personal finances and our environment, to take four examples from the ten, all continue to matter for our well-being. However, at the more detailed level, we want to make sure the 44 measures captured under the framework are still the best measures of well-being in the UK.

Reflecting that ambition, we will be launching a consultation in the Autumn, to review these measures, to make sure we are still capturing what is most important to the well-being of the UK public today. The consultation will also consider how we should best communicate these well-being insights. We will launch the consultation at an event hosted by the National Statistician Sir Ian Diamond on Monday 3rd October – if you are interested in attending, please sign up here.

In the meantime, we welcome feedback on all aspects of this new approach, including the usefulness of providing data across these dimensions (GDP, Climate Change, Well-being) on the same day each quarter and the extent it provides the information needed to help you measure progress.

If you have any thoughts, feedback or any comments, please get in touch with us at

Liz McKeown is Director of Public Policy Analysis at the ONS