Press Release of the Day – 11th May

Only 12% want UK to prioritise economic growth
over wellbeing

Little more than 1 in 10 (12%) Britons think the UK should prioritise economic growth over the health and wellbeing of citizens amid the covid pandemic, according to polling from research and campaign group Positive Money, released today.

The online polling, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Positive Money, asked 2,061 GB adults whether the UK should prioritise economic growth or the health and wellbeing of citizens during the coronavirus crisis. More than 8 in 10 (82%) said the UK should prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens, while just over 1 in 10 (12%) opted for economic growth, with 7% saying they don’t know.

Respondents were also polled on whether the UK should prioritise more economic growth or improved social and environmental outcomes (such as life expectancy, education and lower carbon emissions) when the covid pandemic is over. More than 6 in 10 (61%) opted for improved social and environmental outcomes, while fewer than a third (31%) chose more economic growth, with 8% saying they don’t know.

The polling comes ahead of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishing its first estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth from January to the end of March on Wednesday, which is expected to show the dramatic impact of emergency public health measures on UK growth.

A report published by Positive Money on Monday calls for the ONS to stop publishing GDP stats and instead place more emphasis on a wider dashboard of social and environmental indicators to help save lives and the environment. Titled the ‘Tragedy of Growth’, the report puts forward a range of policies which could help increase wellbeing without GDP growth, such as a universal basic income funded by newly created central bank money, higher taxes on the wealthy, and cancellations or reductions of household debt.

Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, said: “As economic growth continues to fall politicians will come under increased pressure to ease emergency public health measures, based on the misguided belief that lower GDP in itself will do more damage than the actual coronavirus.

“It’s clear the vast majority of the public think we should worry more about people’s health and wellbeing than economic growth. The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment.

“With the coronavirus crisis hitting after a decade of anaemic economic growth, we are heading towards a ‘post-growth’ economy whether we like it or not. We have a choice of whether this will mean mass unemployment, deepening inequality and lower quality of life for all, or whether we want to ensure that people are able to live longer, happier lives while avoiding catastrophic climate collapse.”

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