ⓘ Genuine progress indicator is a metric that has been suggested to replace, or supplement, gross domestic product. The GPI is designed to take fuller account of ..


ⓘ Genuine progress indicator

Genuine progress indicator is a metric that has been suggested to replace, or supplement, gross domestic product. The GPI is designed to take fuller account of the well-being of a nation, only a part of which pertains to the size of the nations economy, by incorporating environmental and social factors which are not measured by GDP. For instance, some models of GPI decrease in value when the poverty rate increases. The GPI separates the concept of societal progress from economic growth.

The GPI is used in ecological economics, "green" economics, sustainability and more inclusive types of economics. It factors in environmental and carbon footprints that businesses produce or eliminate, including in the forms of resource depletion, pollution and long-term environmental damage. GDP is increased twice when pollution is created, since it increases once upon creation as a side-effect of some valuable process and again when the pollution is cleaned up; in contrast, GPI counts the initial pollution as a loss rather than a gain, generally equal to the amount it will cost to clean up later plus the cost of any negative impact the pollution will have in the meantime. While quantifying costs and benefits of these environmental and social externalities is a difficult task, "Earthster-type databases could bring more precision and currency to GPIs metrics." It has been noted that such data may also be embraced by those who attempt to "internalize externalities" by making companies pay the costs of the pollution they create rather than having the government or society at large bear those costs "by taxing their goods proportionally to their negative ecological and social impacts".

GPI is an attempt to measure whether the environmental impact and social costs of economic production and consumption in a country are negative or positive factors in overall health and well-being. By accounting for the costs borne by the society as a whole to repair or control pollution and poverty, GPI balances GDP spending against external costs. GPI advocates claim that it can more reliably measure economic progress, as it distinguishes between the overall "shift in the value basis of a product, adding its ecological impacts into the equation". Comparatively speaking, the relationship between GDP and GPI is analogous to the relationship between the gross profit of a company and the net profit; the net profit is the gross profit minus the costs incurred, while the GPI is the GDP value of all goods and services produced minus the environmental and social costs. Accordingly, the GPI will be zero if the financial costs of poverty and pollution equal the financial gains in production of goods and services, all other factors being constant.


1. Motivation

Most economists assess progress in peoples welfare by comparing the gross domestic product over time - that is, by adding up the annual dollar value of all goods and services produced within a country over successive years. However, GDP was not intended to be used for such purpose. It is prone to productivism or consumerism, over-valuing production and consumption of goods, and not reflecting improvement in human well-being. It also does not distinguish between money spent for new production and money spent to repair negative outcomes from previous expenditure. For example, it would treat as equivalent one million dollars spent to build new homes and one million dollars spent in aid relief to those whose homes have been destroyed, despite these expenditures arguably not representing the same kind of progress. This is relevant for example when considering the true costs of development that destroys wetlands and hence exacerbate flood damages. Simon Kuznets, the inventor of the concept of GDP, noted in his first report to the US Congress in 1934:

the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income. If the GDP is up, why is America down? Distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth, between costs and returns, and between the short and long run. Goals for more growth should specify more growth of what and for what.

Some have argued that an adequate measure must also take into account ecological yield and the ability of nature to provide services, and that these things are part of a more inclusive ideal of progress, which transcends the traditional focus on raw industrial production.


2. Theoretical foundation

The need for a GPI to supplement indicators such as GDP was highlighted by analyses of uneconomic growth in the 1980s, notably that of Marilyn Waring, who studied biases in the UN System of National Accounts.

By the early 1990s, there was a consensus in human development theory and ecological economics that growth in money supply was actually reflective of a loss of well-being: that lacks of essential natural and social services were being paid for in cash and that this was expanding the economy but degrading life.

The matter remains controversial and is a main issue between advocates of green economics and neoclassical economics. Neoclassical economists understand the limitations of GDP for measuring human well-being but nevertheless regard GDP as an important, though imperfect, measure of economic output and would be wary of too close an identification of GDP growth with aggregate human welfare. However, GDP tends to be reported as synonymous with economic progress by journalists and politicians, and the GPI seeks to correct this shorthand by providing a more encompassing measure.

Some economists, notably Herman Daly, John B. Cobb and Philip Lawn, have asserted that a countrys growth, increased goods production, and expanding services have both "costs" and "benefits" - not just the "benefits" that contribute to GDP. They assert that, in some situations, expanded production facilities damage the health, culture, and welfare of people. Growth that was in excess of sustainable norms e.g., of ecological yield had to be considered to be uneconomic. According to the "threshold hypothesis", developed by Manfred Max-Neef, "when macroeconomic systems expand beyond a certain size, the additional benefits of growth are exceeded by the attendant costs" Max-Neef 1995. This hypothesis is borne out in data comparing GDP/capita with GPI/capita from 17 countries. The graph demonstrates that, while GDP does increase overall well-being to a point, beyond $7.000 GDP/capita the increase in GPI is reduced or remains stagnant. Similar trends can be seen when comparing GDP to life satisfaction as well as in a Gallup Poll published in 2008.

According to Lawns model, the "costs" of economic activity include the following potential harmful effects:

  • Cost of ozone depletion
  • Cost of resource depletion
  • Cost of air, water, and noise pollution
  • Cost of crime
  • Loss of farmland
  • Cost of family breakdown
  • Loss of wetlands

Analysis by Robert Costanza also around 1995 of natures services and their value showed that a great deal of degradation of natures ability to clear waste, prevent erosion, pollinate crops, etc., was being done in the name of monetary profit opportunity: this was adding to GDP but causing a great deal of long term risk in the form of mudslides, reduced yields, lost species, water pollution, etc. Such effects have been very marked in areas that suffered serious deforestation, notably Haiti, Indonesia, and some coastal mangrove regions of India and South America. Some of the worst land abuses for instance have been shrimp farming operations that destroyed mangroves, evicted families, left coastal lands salted and useless for agriculture, but generated a significant cash profit for those who were able to control the export market in shrimp. This has become a signal example to those who contest the idea that GDP growth is necessarily desirable.

GPI systems generally try to take account of these problems by incorporating sustainability: whether a countrys economic activity over a year has left the country with a better or worse future possibility of repeating at least the same level of economic activity in the long run. For example, agricultural activity that uses replenishing water resources, such as river runoff, would score a higher GPI than the same level of agricultural activity that drastically lowers the water table by pumping irrigation water from wells.


2.1. Theoretical foundation "Income" vs. "capital depletion"

Hicks 1946 pointed out that the practical purpose of calculating income is to indicate the maximum amount that people can produce and consume without undermining their capacity to produce and consume the same amount in the future. From a national income perspective, it is necessary to answer the following question: "Can a nations entire GDP be consumed without undermining its ability to produce and consume the same GDP in the future?" This question is largely ignored in contemporary economics but fits under the idea of sustainability.


3. In legislative decisions

The best-known attempts to apply the concepts of GPI to legislative decisions are probably the Atlantic indicator invented by Ronald Colman for Atlantic Canada, the Alberta GPI created by ecological economist Mark Anielski to measure the long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability of the province of Alberta and the "environmental and sustainable development indicators" used by the Government of Canada to measure its own progress to achieving well-being goals: its Environment and Sustainable Development Indicators Initiative Canada is an effort to justify state services in GPI terms. It assigns the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development Canada, an officer in the Auditor-General of Canadas office, to perform the analysis and report to the House of Commons. However, Canada continues to state its overall budgetary targets in terms of reducing its debt to GDP ratio, which implies that GDP increase and debt reduction in some combination are its main priorities.

In the European Union EU the Metropole efforts and the London Health Observatory methods are equivalents focused mostly on urban lifestyle.

The EU and Canadian efforts are among the most advanced in any of the G8 or OECD nations, but there are parallel efforts to measure quality of life or standard of living in health not strictly wealth terms in all developed nations. This has also been a recent focus of the labour movement.


4. Calculation

The calculation of GPI presented in the simplified form is the following:

GPI = A + B - C - D + I

A is income weighted private consumption

B is value of non-market services generating welfare

C is private defensive cost of natural deterioration

D is cost of deterioration of nature and natural resources

I is increase in capital stock and balance of international trade

The GPI indicator is based on the concept of sustainable income, presented by economist John Hicks 1948. The sustainable income is the amount a person or an economy can consume during one period without decreasing his or her consumption during the next period. In the same manner, GPI depicts the state of welfare in the society by taking into account the ability to maintain welfare on at least the same level in the future.


5. Components

The Genuine Progress Indicator is measured by 26 indicators which can be divided into three main categories: Economic, Environmental, and Social. Some regions, nations, or states may adjust the verbiage slightly to accommodate their particular scenario. For example, the GPI template uses the phrase "Carbon Dioxide Emissions Damage" whereas the state of Maryland uses "Cost of Climate Change" because it also accounts for other greenhouse gases GHG such as methane and nitrous oxide.


6. Development in the United States

Non-profit organizations and universities have measured the GPI of Vermont, Maryland, Colorado, Ohio, and Utah. These efforts have incited government action in some states. As of 2014, Vermont, Maryland, Washington and Hawaii have passed state government initiatives to consider GPI in budgeting decisions, with a focus on long-term cost and benefits.

In 2009, the state of Maryland formed a coalition of representatives from several state government departments in search of a metric that would factor social well-being into the more traditional gross product indicators of the economy. The metric would help determine the sustainability of growth and economic progress against social and environmental factors typically left out of national indicators. The GPI was chosen as a comprehensive measure of sustainability as it has a well-accepted scientific methodology that can be adopted by other states and compared over time. Marylands GPI trends are comparable to other states and nations that have measured their GPI in that Gross State Product GSP and GPI have diverged over the past four decades where GSP has increased more rapidly than GPI. While economic elements of GPI have increased overall with a significant drop off during the Great Recession, social well-being has stagnated, with any values added being cancelled out by costs deducted, and environmental indicators, while improving slightly, are always considered costs. Combined, these elements bring the GPI below GSP. However, Marylands GPI did increase by two points from 2010 to 2011.

The calculation methodology of GPI was first adapted to US data in the late-1990s. Results show that GDP has increased substantially. At the same time, the GPI has stagnated. Thus, according to GPI theory, economic growth in the US, i.e., the growth of GDP, has not increased the welfare of the people during last 30 years. So far, GPI time-series have been calculated for the US and Australia as well as for several of their states. In addition, GPI has been calculated for Austria, Canada, Chile, France, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, and the rest of the UK.


7. Development in Finland

The GPI time-series 1945 to 2011 for Finland have been calculated by Statistics Finland. The calculation closely followed the US methodology. The results show that in the 1970s and 1980s economic growth, as measured by GDP, clearly increased welfare, measured by the GPI. After the economic recession of the early-1990s the GDP continued to grow, but the GPI stayed on a lower level. This indicates a widening gap between the trends of GDP and GPI that began in the early-1990s. In the 1990s and 2000s the growth of GDP has not benefited the average Finn. If measured by GPI, sustainable economic welfare has actually decreased due to environmental hazards that have accumulated in the environment. The Finnish GPI time series have been updated by Dr Jukka Hoffren at Statistics Finland.


8. Development in regions of Finland

Within EUs Interreg IV C FRESH Project Forwarding Regional Environmental Sustainable Hierarchies GPI time-series were calculated to Paijat-Hame, Kainuu and South-Ostrobotnia Etela-Pohjanmaa regions in 2009-2010. During 2011 these calculations were completed with GPI calculations for the Lappland, Northern Ostrobothnia Pohjois-Pohjanmaa and Central-Ostrobothnia Keski-Pohjanmaa regions.


9. Criticism

GPI considers some types of production to have a negative impact upon being able to continue some types of production. GDP measures the entirety of production at a given time. GDP is relatively straightforward to measure compared to GPI. Competing measures like GPI define well-being, which are arguably impossible to define. Therefore, opponents of GPI claim that GPI cannot function to measure the goals of a diverse, plural society. Supporters of GDP as a measure of societal well-being claim that competing measures such as GPI are more vulnerable to political manipulation.

Finnish economists Mika Maliranta and Niku Maattanen write that the problem of alternative development indexes is their attempt to combine things that are incommensurable. It is hard to say what they exactly indicate and difficult to make decisions based on them. They can be compared to an indicator that shows the mean of a cars velocity and the amount of fuel left.

They add that it indeed seems as if the economy has to grow in order for the people to even remain as happy as they are at present. In Japan, for example, the degree of happiness expressed by the citizens in polls has been declining since the early 1990s, the period when Japans economic growth stagnated.


10. Supporting countries and groups

  • Redefining Progress. Reports and analyses. A non-profit organization with headquarters in Oakland, California.
  • Canada planning applications. GDP has functioned as an "income sheet". GPI will function as a "balance sheet," taking into consideration that some income sources are very costly and contribute a negative profit overall.
  • Beyond GDP is an initiative of the European Union, Club of Rome, WWF and OECD.
  • on sustainability indicators or the genuine progress indicator Standard measurements are given in the OECD Main Economic Indicators Individual psychological
  • pollution and other unsustainable costs. It is similar to the Genuine Progress Indicator GPI The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare ISEW is roughly
  • enhancing the traditional GNP. In 1995, Redefining Progress created the genuine progress indicator GPI as an alternative to the traditional GNP. This
  • A performance indicator or key performance indicator KPI is a type of performance measurement. KPIs evaluate the success of an organization or of a particular
  • economic progress Disability - adjusted life year Economics Green national product Gender - related Development Index Genuine Progress Indicator Gross domestic
  • An economic indicator is a statistic about an economic activity. Economic indicators allow analysis of economic performance and predictions of future performance
  • domestic product Green GDP Gender - related Development Index Genuine Progress Indicator GPI Global Peace Index Gross National Happiness Gross National
  • social progress has been advocated by varying realms of political ideologies with different theories on how it is to be achieved. Specific indicators for
  • Times. 2010 - 05 - 16. Retrieved 2011 - 01 - 15. Genuine Progress Indicator - Putting a dollar figure on progress The Baltimore Sun. 2010 - 09 - 11. Retrieved