Nowadays a high percentage of the population still does not have access to basic healthcare services. A lot of people are living in poverty and highly polluted environment, or working in health threatening conditions, which is particularly common in the developing countries. Because of the importance of healthcare-related issues and well-being, the third SDG of the UN is designed to achieve universal health coverage, financial risk protection, and access to essential health-care services and medicines, as well as to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from health-damaging chemicals, air and water pollution.
In order to achieve this goal, we should first look at the cause of all these problems, instead of addressing every single issue separately. Exactly because everything within our planet is interconnected, it is not hard to indicate that the logic of endless growth built into our economic system is the primary cause of these issues. GDP is currently the benchmark used for measuring the economic activity of the countries and respectively their competitiveness. Usually, faster growth is correlated with rising debt, which very often leads to economic crisis, when the economy slows down or even stops growing. This model, however, is based on an incomplete picture of the system within which the human economy operates and takes into account only monetary transactions related to the production of goods and services. It does not cover the negative ecological and social impact of this growth. For instance, GDP measurement encourages the depletion of natural resources faster than they can be renewed and it also leads to higher income inequality, making the access to healthcare and education for people living in poverty even harder, which further impairs the quality of their lives. Given the limits of our planet, this addiction to growth is only damaging our health, our society, our environment and our economy.
The answer seems to be obvious: to stop using GDP as the primary tool for measuring economic progress and replace it with a more thoughtful measure, such as well-being. As a part of the WWWforEurope project, in cooperation with the Austrian Institute of Economic Research, a new strategy for Europe was introduced, based on well-being and simultaneous accomplishment of three strategic goals: economic dynamics, social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability. Unlike GDP, which addresses problems in isolation, well-being in this context addresses these three goals with a systematic and comprehensive approach and not by aiming to achieve them separately. With respect to the planetary boundaries, only in an economic system, which considers all aspects simultaneously, a long-term well-being for more people could be achieved.
When discussing different strategies on how to achieve the third SDG of the UN, maybe we should look closer at the work of Karl Aiginger on well-being. Economic dynamics as part of well-being imply that a bigger number of people will benefit from the economic achievements, supported by structural change, improving skills and boosted innovation. Social inclusiveness implicates lower income differences and lower unemployment rates. A focus on more equitable allocation of education, life chances and capabilities will create equal opportunities and will contribute to health care related issues particularly in the developing countries. It will ultimately lead to a lower income disparity and risk of poverty, longer life expectancy and decreased social unrest. The environmental sustainability goal demands technological, behavioural and institutional changes, which will lead to a reduction of emissions and resources consumption.
Only within an economic system, in which all of these three goals are addressed simultaneously, a long-term well-being for more people could be achieved. This would contribute to the economic development and poverty reduction in poorer countries and would allow the next generation to have decent living standard and a chance to make a choice. Observed from this perspective, well-being will have a greater impact on the impoverished people, giving them the opportunity to live a healthy life, and granting them access to essential health-care services, medicine, education and other resources.