Work Package Leader - Enrico Wolleb, ISMERI EUROPA
The research on well being and living conditions aims to clarify how people in the various countries and regions studied benefit from both the growth trajectory from the present to 2030. The current debate on indicators, as regards these topics, highlights that there is not always a clear link between well being and income levels as well as growth. As a consequence, the main research challenge is to try to employ definitions and measures that allow for, both, objective aspects of well being (those related to income and to availability of services such as health care, education, transport, etc.) and subjective factors related to happiness.
Subjective well being can be defined as satisfaction with life and infrequent experience of negative emotions. A crucial finding of this strand of literature is that income seems to contribute to a nation’s well being up to a certain level. However, once basic needs are met (food, shelter, basic security etc.) on a national level, the picture and trends globally change and higher income does not necessarily translate into a nation’s higher well being while other factors, mainly cultural (e.g. collectivism-individualism), become important.
More objective measures of well being, mostly dependent on income and access to public goods, can be discussed on the basis of where and how people spend their time in their lifetime. Active individuals spend a large amount of time in the labour market. Moreover, for most people, work is the main source of income and hence it strongly influences living conditions. The impacts produced by working arrangements on well being and living conditions are mainly related to: quality of work; stability of working relations; remuneration; social recognition; number of workers per household. Most people spend an important chunk of their life with their family and the measure in which families help individual members to deal with critical phases of their life cycles has an important effect on well being and living conditions. Critical phases of an individual life cycle (e.g. births, deaths, divorces, disabilities, ageing etc.) may produce new social risks. The above risks can be defined as new because they are likely to involve larger shares of society and depend on factors (a higher likelihood of job loss; changes in size and composition of families; limited capacity of welfare systems to deal with issues due to financial constraints and difficulty in adapting welfare arrangements) that differ from the drivers of traditional social risks. Inevitably, individuals also spend a share of their life time interacting with the State they are part of. For the purpose of this introduction, States are mainly considered as providers of public goods and welfare (defined both narrowly as provision of pensions and other benefits related to work, and more broadly, as public health, education, transport, quality of the environment, security, leisure opportunities etc). Finally, well being depends on the quality of social relationships. This theme is explored in the literature on social capital and on deliberative democracy. Cultural aspects (trust, participation, openness of networks, etc.) together with policy and institutions play an important role from this point of view.
All the above-mentioned factors and their interactions are part of a complex picture which will be analysed in the project. The relationships between the present Work Package and WP1 (macro-model of world regions, especially concerning foresight exercises), WP4 (global development, demography and migration), WP6 (international governance and regional economic integration) are very strong and important. The links with the findings of WP5 must not be disregarded, since climate change may represent a destabilising factor for well being and living conditions.