National Indicators: What has the pandemic taught us about how we measure wellbeing?

It is impossible to ignore the changes we have experienced over the last 18 months and the different light the pandemic has shone on what contributes to the wellbeing of Wales. As a result, we’re looking at whether this experience has highlighted any gaps in the way we measure progress towards our well-being goals.

What are national indicators?

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 required Welsh Ministers to set national indicators to assess progress towards achieving the seven wellbeing goals. Collectively, the indicators provide us with a clear picture of where we’ve come from on the road to achieving the goals and inform our decisions in the next stage of that journey.

The national indicators were published for the first time back in 2016 following widespread public consultation. Technically speaking, a national indicator must be expressed as a value or characteristic that can be measured quantitatively or qualitatively against a particular outcome. We also established four essential criteria on what makes a good indicator.

  1. The number of indicators should be short and manageable so that we can focus our energy on the most important issues.
  2. The indicators should be measures for the whole of Wales, rather than any one organisation or service. They should require action from a range of partners to work collaboratively to deliver against the wellbeing goals.
  3. The indicators should be coherent and fit together, telling a clear story of our progress towards a Wales that is prosperous, resilient, more equal and healthier, with cohesive communities, a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh Language, and globally responsive.
  4. The indicators must resonate with the public, capturing key issues which affect the wellbeing of future generations.

Each year the annual ‘Wellbeing of Wales’ report provides an update on progress made in Wales towards the achievement of the seven well-being goals, making reference to the national indicators alongside other relevant data.

What changes are already planned for the National Indicators?

In 2019 the Welsh Government ran a consultation to seek feedback on the first three years of using the national indicators.

The feedback we received showed that there was no overwhelming appetite for substantial updates to the indicators but we did commit to making some changes, including:

  • Amending the national indicators around the quality of work, taking into account the recommendations of the Fair Work Commission:
    • amend the national indicators around the quality of employment
    • remove the indicator on job satisfaction
    • introduce an indicator on collective bargaining
  • Investigating a new National Survey for Wales question on “active global citizens” to replace the indicator on Sustainable Development Goal partnerships
  • Extending the pay difference indicator to other population groups.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic meant we weren’t able to make these changes to the indicators last year. However we have not wavered in our commitment to implement these and intend to make these changes this year.

What have we learned about well-being during the pandemic?

It is impossible to ignore the changes we have experienced over the last 18 months and the different light the pandemic has shone on what contributes to the wellbeing of Wales.

As a result, we’re looking at whether this experience has highlighted any gaps in the way we measure progress towards our well-being goals. There may be a case to make some small changes to our national indicator framework to fill these gaps.

We have already begun to talk to people about this and have received a number of suggestions on possible gaps such as digital inclusion, children’s mental health and sustainable travel. We’d really like to hear your views on these questions.

  • What has been important to you during the pandemic?
  • How does it help us progress towards our well-being goals?
  • Is this topic already a part of the national indicators?
  • If it’s not, what do you think would make a good national indicator?

You can post your ideas here in the comments or send any suggestions to ShapingWalesFuture@gov.wales.   

Stephanie Howarth

Chief Statistician

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