The Project's Genesis

The way a society chooses to measure progress has an impact on its understanding of issues, priorities and public policy; these measures greatly influence a society's path forward.

The result of co-construction and collaboration within the G15+ collective, organizations from the economic, financial, social, union, environmental, academic and philanthropic sectors have agreed for the very first time on how to measure the well-being of Quebecers.

This project provides public decision-makers and the general public with 51 economic, social and environmental indicators to measure the well-being of the Québec population and to put well-being at the heart of our collective decisions.

Gross domestic product (GDP) and job creation are no longer enough to evaluate the well-being of Quebecers. In the midst of a climate, social and health emergency, it is necessary to return to what matters most to people and to identify what we truly value in Quebec.

This project is an important contribution of civil society to the construction of a prosperous, inclusive and green society. By making the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec available to public decision-makers, the G15+ is helping to improve our understanding of the interdependence of the economy, society and the environment in order to adopt public policies that are in line with the expectations of the Québec population and up to the challenges of a 21st century society.

The G15+ is calling on our public decision-makers to take charge and update the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec. In the absence of robust or frequent data, several indicators will have to be better documented to measure all facets of the well-being of Quebecers. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be integrated by the group in order to have a reliable picture of the evolution of trends.

This approach is based on a rigorous methodology validated by experts from all G15+ member and partner organizations. We would like to highlight in particular the contribution of the Institut du Québec and economist François Delorme. The Indicators of Well-Being in Quebec are made possible by major contributions from the Foundation of Greater Montreal, the Institut du Québec, Fondaction and the Trottier Family Foundation, with support from the Conseil du patronat du Québec, Équiterre, Vivre en Ville, the David Suzuki Foundation and COPTICOM, Strategies and Public Relations.

Doughnut Economics

"What if the best way to visualize the 21st century economy was a doughnut? In 2012, British economist Kate Raworth of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University illustrated the optimal operating space for economic development that serves both society and the planet as a doughnut. The following diagram, adapted from Raworth's model, presents the dimensions that the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec propose to measure.

"This model helps emphasize what the goals of a modern (inclusive and sustainable) economic policy should be as well as how the different economic, ecological and social dimensions are interconnected. Indeed, between these social and ecological boundaries lies a prosperous, sustainable and socially just operating space in which humanity can thrive. The lower limit of the doughnut represents the minimum economic and social requirements for well-being. Below it (inside the doughnut), an individual or a community is not living within fulfilling or acceptable conditions. The upper limit of the doughnut represents the environmental ceiling of well-being as measured by environmental indicators of well-being. Moving beyond this ceiling (outside the doughnut) exceeds planetary bourdaries.

Courses of Action for Policymakers

The G15+ members and partners address five courses of action for policymakers:

  • Make well-being more central to the decisions of policymakers by linking the well-being indicators to the State's budgetary and strategic planning;

  • Produce and update systematically (annually or every two years) the statistical data needed to develop robust indicators on the state of well-being of Quebecers, with the contribution of the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec as a basis;

  • Align methodologies by establishing a high level of federal-provincial-territorial collaboration in order to properly measure the well-being of Quebecers;

  • Provide the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec with targets, where possible, to better measure and accelerate progress towards their achievement;

  • Provide the population with a synthesized evaluation of the evolution of well-being for major economic, social and environmental themes. This means evaluating the opportunities to enrich the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec with three composite indicators and a Quebec index of well-being.


First observation: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and job creation alone can no longer be the litmus test of Québec's well-being. For decades, in Québec as elsewhere, the GDP has become so central to the assessment of "wealth" that it has become the go-to metric to measure a nation's success. However, the shortcomings of GDP as an indicator of a population's well-being are now widely documented. If GDP informs us about the value produced by work and by capital, it falls short of explaining the nature of this work and how it contributes to the growth of society. Similarly, while GDP values the activities that drive our economy in the short term, it tells us nothing about the impact they have on our planet in the long term. In the future, as the challenges to our societies become more complex (aging population, global warming, the state of biodiversity, wealth distribution, automation, etc.), the shortcomings of GDP will become more and more evident to the general public. Second observation: public policy should better reflect the issues that matter to Quebecers, and focus more on collective well-being, population health and the regenerative capacity of our environment. In recent years, several nations such as Scotland, Iceland, Finland, Wales and New Zealand have decided to challenge the narrow view of GDP in favour of a broader view of well-being. According to all recent opinion polls, Quebecers want to make the well-being shift:

  • A June 2020 Leger poll indicated that two-thirds of Quebecers (67%) wanted a Québec emerging from the COVID-19 crisis to prioritize health, the environment and quality of life above economic growth. 

  • A public opinion survey commissioned by the Canada's Department of Finance in August 2020 found that 82% of Canadians agreed that measures beyond GDP were important in their daily lives, and a majority agreed that it was very important for the government to consider factors such as health, safety and the environment when making decisions.

Our policymakers must take into account these results in order to develop public policies that promote inclusive and sustainable development. Third observation: with better indicators, Québec will be better equipped to achieve its aspirations. To develop the Québec we want, it is to develop indicators that measure the economic, social and environmental aspects of our society. Yet, many of Québec's vital signs are impossible to measure in a reliable, robust and frequent manner and many indicators are still missing, particularly in the social and environmental pillars.

A Short History of GDP

GDP is an indicator invented in 1934 by the economist Simon Kuznets to measure the effects of the Great Depression on the American economy. Even at the time, Kuznets warned against using GDP as an indicator of well-being because, although relevant, it omits important measures such as wealth distribution, environmental quality, health or happiness, to name only a few. Despite this warning, GDP quickly became integrated into institutions after the Second World War. Now, as humanity is coming out of another world crisis, it is clear that GDP, an indicator invented over 90 years ago, is not well-suited to understand and overcome the challenges of today's society.

Methodological Approach

The organizations and partners of the G15+ conducted a process of co-construction based on a rigorous methodology validated by the Institut du Québec as well as the economist François Delorme. The objective of this robust social dialogue was to project ourselves towards the Quebec we desire: a Quebec that is prosperous, inclusive and green. The premise of the process was to recognize and reinforce the interdependence of the economy, society and the environment. One pillar is not adjacent to the other, they are connected to each other. For example, climate and environmental disruptions do not affect rich and poor equally, who in turn do not have the same financial means to cope with climate and environmental disruptions. By developing measurable indicators that take the pulse of each pillar, and thus go beyond a single monetary measure of progress (GDP), we are able to recognize this dynamic in a consistent and systematic way. The indicators therefore allow governments to be more effective in monitoring the various pillars and in taking actions to develop a prosperous, inclusive and green Quebec. The lack of frequent reporting regarding these pillars limits the public's ability to hold our policymakers and other various actors accountable for the results of their actions on important aspects to the daily lives of Quebecers. By having at our disposal a broad range of indicators that measure society's progress, we ensure that collective well-being and quality of life increase as inclusive for all of Quebec. Why these indicators? The most important challenge the G15+ faced was to strike a balance between comprehensiveness and simplicity. Too many indicators risks complicating the understanding of the objectives for Quebec and the identification of priority areas for public policy. Yet, too few dimensions might fail to capture key components necessary to properly assess quality of life. The indicators were selected as to maintain a forward-looking approach, a balance of economic, social and environmental components, and a balance between macro and micro indicators. More specifically we asked:

  • Does the indicator tell us about the quality of life and well-being in Québec?

  • Can it be measured correctly? Whenever possible, we have used official sources (Statistics Canada or the Institut de la statistique du Québec)

  • Is it easy to monitor (annually)? Most indicators are updated annually. However, some indicators are updated occasionally (mostly every two years)

  • Can the indicator be used in policy making and does it reinforce the message of interdependence of the economic, social and environmental pillars?

Areas of uncertainty The Indicators of Well-Being in Québec project posed a number of methodological challenges inherent in the desire to present a more comprehensive and accurate portrait of our society:

  • A selection challenge, which required strategic balance between comprehensiveness and simplicity, and the overall usefulness of each indicator. Thus, of the many indicators that were considered, only a subgroup made the final selection.

  • A major deficit of data production and collection in Québec on a very large number of issues that matter to Quebecers and that we would have liked to include. More specifically, social and environmental indicators were not quantified due to the lack of robust and frequent data. Similarly, the absence of targets for many indicators limits the interpretation of trends in the data.

  • Although the data range of this first iteration of the Indicators of Well-being in Québec covers from 2015 to 2019, subsequent annual updates might include longer time series and other improvements, for example, comparability with other jurisdictions. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic starting in March 2020 led us to choose 2019 as the arrival year, 2020 being an outliers in terms of statistics and would not illustrate real trends. We will update the data annually to reflect this, including pandemic data. During annual update, it will be possible to offer a longer range of years, as well as other improvements, such as comparison with other jurisdictions.

  • Some indicators require a more granular or regional approach. One possible avenue for research would be to develop regional indicators or filters to regionalize the data presented in order to get a more accurate picture of certain issues. The same is true for filters related to age, ethnicity or gender, etc.

A literature overview in Québec, Canada and abroad

The proposal for the Indicators of Well-Being in Québec builds on the experience of many jurisdictions and international organizations that, in recent years, have adopted progressive measurement frameworks that go beyond GDP and focus on the well-being of the population in order to guide public policy. Although frameworks vary from country to country, many contain a similar set of indicators, reflecting a broad scientific consensus on the main determinants of well-being (in our case, the environment, the economy and society).

  • Some countries use frameworks to monitor progress and inform policy debates, without a formal mechanism for integrating quality of life indicators into the policymaking process.

  • Other countries have gone further by developing formal mechanisms to integrate their frameworks into their government's decision-making and budgeting process.

  • A final category of nations have used their frameworks to set priorities and targets, align policy objectives across government, monitor performance, and inform their policy decisions.

This literature overview draws on similar mapping work presented in a recent report by Finance Canada (2021).

Reference frameworks Thematic pillars

Report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission)

  • Identification of the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress.

  • Distinction between the evaluation of present well-being and its sustainability, i.e., its capacity to be maintained over time.

OECD's Better Life Index


11 themes considered essential to well-being. The user can change the weighting he gives to each of the variables as he wishes.

  1. Health

  2. Work-life balance

  3. Education

  4. Social links

  5. Civic Engagement

  6. Environment

  7. Safety

  8. Satisfaction

  9. Income

  10. Employment

  11. Housing

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 169 targets ("sub-goals") are backed by a list of 244 indicators - statistical or qualitative.

  • A key international reference framework for civil society, the private sector and governments.

  1. End of poverty

  2. Fight against hunger

  3. Good health and well-being

  4. Access to quality education

  5. Gender equality

  6. Access to safe water and sanitation

  7. Reliable, sustainable and modern energy at an affordable cost

  8. Access to decent jobs

  9. Building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization that benefits all, and encouraging innovation

  10. Reducing inequality

  11. Sustainable cities and communities

  12. Responsible consumption and production

  13. Tackling climate change

  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans and seas for sustainable development

  15. Life on Earth

  16. Justice and peace

  17. Partnerships for achieving the goals

UN Human Development Index (HDI)

  • Equal weight is given to each indicator

  • Variant: IHDI, which is the actual level of human development taking into account inequalities

  1. Health/Longevity

  2. Knowledge/Education level

  3. Standard of Living

Canada's Index of Wellbeing

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 64 indicators grouped into 8 domains.

  • The indicators are grouped into a single index that is tracked over time, with equal weight given to each indicator.

  1. Healthy population

  2. Living Standards

  3. Education

  4. Time Use

  5. Leisure and Culture

  6. Environment

  7. Community Vitality

  8. Democratic Participation

Canadian Indicator Framework (CIC)

  • Under development: 5 categories, 14 sub-categories, 83 indicators (3 tiers of indicators: general, core and other indicators).

  • Linked to the 17 broad Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • This framework will provide a mechanism to link the SDGs to federal budget priority setting and strengthen the assessment of environmental, social and economic factors in budgeting and policy development to improve policy coherence.

  1. Prosperity: income and growth, employment and job quality, skills and opportunity, economic security and financial stress

  2. Health: healthy people, health care systems

  3. Society: culture and identity, social cohesion and relationships, time use

  4. Sound governance: health and safety, democracy and institutions, justice and human rights

  5. Environment: environment and people, ecological integrity and environmental stewardship

Québec's Genuine Progress Index (GPI) (Commissioner for Sustainable Development)

  1. Land Use Components:

  • Establishment of protected areas

  • Forest Land Use Planning

  • Agricultural land use planning

  • Water management

  • Human settlement planning (urban and rural communities)

  • Urban air management

  • Transportation infrastructure development

  • Mining activity

  • Marine fisheries management

2. Components of progress and well-being:

  • Population growth and the potential labor pool

  • Domestic work, parenting and volunteering

  • Unemployment

3. The components of "psychic income":

  • Personal consumption expenditures

  • Household and government debt

  • Health and well-being benefits from government spending

  • Benefits of graduation from government spending

Dashboard for measuring the green economy in Quebec (Institut de la statistique du Québec, MELCC, MEI)

  • 4 themes, 12 indicators

  1. Clean technologies

  2. Eco-responsible business practices

  3. Green jobs

  4. Circular economy

Compare Montreal (Institut du Québec)

  • The Montreal metropolitan region is compared to 14 North American cities.

  • 29 indicators are grouped into 6 categories.

  1. Economic activity

  2. Economic growth

  3. Human capital

  4. Innovation

  5. Quality of life

  6. Attractiveness

Greater Montreal's Vital Signs (Foundation of Greater Montreal)

  • Portrait of the evolution of the 17 sustainable development goals

  • Same thematic families as the SDGs

Index of the health of the Québec economy (PwC)

  • 30 variables grouped in 5 thematic blocks, analyzing the economic situation in Quebec from 1980 to today.

  • The index is resolutely prospective and methodologically constructed in order to identify major trends.

  • The weighting is endogenous and depends on the variability over time.

  1. Industrial demography

  2. Investment

  3. Growth

  4. Human capital

  5. Environment

New Zealand's Living Standards Framework (NSLF)

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 43 indicators for the 12 domains of current well-being and 22 indicators for the four capitals (human capital, natural capital, social capital and financial and physical capital).

  • Very similar to the OECD's Better Life Index.

  1. Civic Engagement and Governance

  2. Cultural Identity

  3. Environment

  4. Health

  5. Housing

  6. Income and consumption

  7. Jobs and Income

  8. Knowledge and skills

  9. Safety

  10. Social relationships

  11. Subjective well-being

  12. Time use

Scotland's National Performance Framework (NPF)

Hyperlink (en anglais)
  • A mandate statement, three values and 11 national outcomes (domains) measured by 81 national indicators.

  • Each national outcome is linked to one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals.

  1. Children and Youth

  2. Communities

  3. Culture

  4. Economy

  5. Education

  6. Environment

  7. Fair Work and Business

  8. Health

  9. Human Rights

  10. International

  11. Poverty

Well-being in Germany

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 3 main domains of well-being (our life, our environment and our country), 12 associated dimensions and 46 indicators.

  • All dimensions and indicators of the framework have equal weight and importance.

  1. Good Health Across the Lifespan

  2. Good work and equitable participation

  3. Equal educational opportunities for all

  4. Time for family and work

  5. A secure income

  6. Living a life in security and freedom

  7. Home in urban and rural areas

  8. Solidarity within the family and society

  9. Strengthening the economy, investing in the future

  10. Preserve nature, protect the environment

  11. Living freely and being equal before the law

  12. Acting with global responsibility and ensuring peace

Equitable and sustainable well-being in Italy

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 130 indicators in 12 areas.

  • Italy's budget law now requires the annual economic and financial document (a three-year planning document that sets the framework for the budget).

  • The budget law also requires the Minister of Economy and Finance to report to Parliament later in the year with updated forecasts for each of the indicators, taking into account the measures contained in the last budget.

  1. Health

  2. Education and Training

  3. Work-Life Balance

  4. Economic well-being

  5. Social Relationships

  6. Politics and Institutions

  7. Security

  8. Subjective well-being

  9. Landscape and cultural heritage

  10. Environment

  11. Innovation, research and creativity

  12. Quality of services

Indicators for measuring well-being in Iceland

Hyperlink (ein English)
  • 39 indicators to measure prosperity and quality of life.

  • Iceland has divided its indicators into three categories. These three categories of indicators are further divided into 13 sub-categories.

  • Iceland has also developed a detailed mapping of its well-being indicators to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  1. Society: Health, education, social capital, safety, work-life balance

  2. Environment: Air quality and climate, land use, energy, waste and recycling

  3. Economy: Economic conditions, employment, housing, income

National wealth indicators (France)

  • 10 flagship indicators of sustainable development - compatible with an international theoretical framework - and complements GDP in three areas: social, economic and environmental

  1. Employment rate

  2. Research expenditure

  3. Public and private debt

  4. Life expectancy in good health

  5. Overall life satisfaction

  6. Income dispersion

  7. Poverty rate in living conditions

  8. Early school leaving

  9. Carbon footprint

  10. Land artificialisation

Well-being of Wales

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 4 pillars of well-being (environmental, social, cultural and economic) and 7 cross-cutting well-being goals.

  • 46 indicators to measure progress against these goals.

  1. A globally responsible Wales

  2. A Prosperous Wales

  3. A resilient Wales

  4. A vibrant culture and a thriving Welsh language

  5. Healthier communities

  6. A more cohesive community

  7. A more equal Wales

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH)

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 4 pillars, 9 areas of application, 33 indicators

  • Sustainable and equitable economic and social development

  • Preservation and promotion of Bhutanese cultural traditions

  • Safeguarding the environment

  • Good governance

Genuine Progress Index

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 24 indicators under three main pillars.

  1. Economy

  2. Environment

  3. Social

World Happiness Report

Hyperlink (in English)
  • 14 areas and 7 pillars are examined in an international survey: business and economics, civic engagement, communications and technology, education and family, well-being, environment and energy, food and housing, government and politics, justice and security, health, religion and ethics, access to transportation, access to work.

  1. Happiness Score

  2. GDP per capita

  3. Social support

  4. Healthy Life Years

  5. Freedom of life choices

  6. Generosity

  7. Corruption