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Inequality and Well-Being Frameworks

Inequality, although a contested concept, is generally understood to mean the unequal distribution of social, biological and other factors, which results in unequal opportunities and/or outcomes for those negatively affected. It has damaging consequences for individuals, as well as for the wider society and economy.

A variety of methods and approaches are used by governments and international governmental organisations to address inequality. These include macro-level policies supporting redistribution, legislation and national strategies; institutions to monitor and promote equality, policy proofing and equality budgeting; and positive action and pilot programmes. These approaches range from the ‘hard’ (e.g. legally binding) to the ‘soft’ (e.g. collection of data). Legally binding commitments are usually the strongest, but softer approaches play a role too, in terms of introducing ideas and concepts to promote equality and address inequality. Political will behind their implementation is also key.

This report examines a new approach that may hold promise for identifying and addressing inequalities: a well-being framework (WBF). Such frameworks have been increasingly developed since 2008 as a way of moving away from a focus on gross domestic product (GDP) in order to measure a country’s outcomes (e.g. economic, social, environmental).