The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) today overwhelmingly adopted an ‘own-initiative opinion’ on the sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that Europe needs. It calls on the EU ‘for a new vision of prosperity’, developed in close collaboration with WEAll Ambassador and CUSP director Tim Jackson as Expert to the Rapporteur.
Wellbeing economy language and ideas are central to the opinion, which called for a ‘new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values’.
Professor Tim Jackson has worked closely with the EESC over the last year to help craft the opinion. He was appointed by the Committee as expert to the rapporteur early last year and took a lead role on drafting (and re-drafting) the opinion in the intervening months.
“I’m absolutely delighted by today’s vote,” said Prof Jackson. “It lays the foundations for a far-reaching transformation of Europe’s economic vision for the future.”
The Committee highlighted that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting ‘a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth’ and proposed the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress.
Its detailed proposals include a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules, an end to perverse subsidies and action ‘to address hyper-consumerism’ across Europe. It also proposed the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU.
What does the ‘opinion’ call for?
- The EESC underlines that the European Union (EU) has fully committed itself to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To guarantee their proper implementation the EU urgently needs to develop the foundations for a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that works for everyone.
- The vision of social progress only relying on the pursuit of growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ignores important elements of individual and social wellbeing and fails to account properly for environmental and social considerations.
- The EESC calls for the EU to propose a new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values. The economy is an enabler for this vision.
- The wellbeing economy should protect ecosystems, conserve biodiversity and deliver a just transition to a climate neutral way of life across the EU and foster sustainable entrepreneurship. Educational systems across the EU will play a key role in promoting such concepts across society, thus inscribing in them the way of thinking of the decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow.
- To achieve this goal, the EESC recognises the need to support the fundamental changes that have already begun to emerge in the nature of enterprise, the organisation of work, the role of investment and the structure of the money system.
- The EESC highlights that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth. It proposes the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress beyond GDP.
- The EESC proposes the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU, modelled on approaches already adopted elsewhere.
- The EESC calls for an end to perverse subsidies and for the alignment of all public sector spending across the EU and its Member States with the goal of achieving climate neutrality.
- The EESC calls for a European Green and Social Deal to deliver the large-scale investment needed for a just transition to a climate neutral economy and to provide quality jobs in every community.
- The EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to carry out green fiscal reform to help align taxation, subsidies and pre-distributive policies with the goal of achieving a just transition to a wellbeing economy, in particular by enforcing existing legislation.
- The EESC proposes a review of the growth dependency of the EU Member States and a strategy to focus on sustainable and inclusive wellbeing in the EU economy. It also recommends a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules to ensure they are fit for purpose in achieving the transition to a climate-neutral economy.
- The EESC calls for all existing EU policy and budgetary/financial frameworks and tools (such as the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Semester and Better Regulation) to be urgently aligned with a just transition to a wellbeing economy.
- The EESC proposes the adaptation of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Annual Growth Survey to ensure that the wellbeing economy is fully consistent with the SDGs and the European Pillar of Social Rights.