Sustainability Digital – March 2021

Social conditions and the economy

The ultimate goal of economic policy is simple and timeless—to ensure prosperity and maximize living standards. Broad macroeconomic measures such as GDP growth, the unemployment rate, and inflation had for decades been a good proxy of rising prosperity, so they have dominated economic policy making and are enshrined in most central bank mandates. But even before the COVID-19 crisis, it had become clear that traditional economic measures have increasingly diverged from social outcomes. The economic expansion of the past decade was a success according to traditional measures of full employment, but it was accompanied by deteriorating social conditions across a variety of measures (inequality, health and safety, educational attainment, infrastructure quality, housing affordability, and so on). With the COVID-19 crisis, the pressures have come to a head as the worst economic downturn in decades is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

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