Here’s an infographic we commissioned ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. It was drawn by the superb Kath Harding from MakeMark.
Click the image for full page view. PDF available here: PI_brazilWC_ig_web
Sipping coffee outside a small café on Lisbon’s Freedom Avenue, it’s easy to forget that Portugal is a country in serious trouble.
It is, after all, a country of great history and architecture, incredible weather, and beautiful beaches. It is no wonder that an increasing number of Britons are opting to escape from the cold of the British Isles to visit the sunny Algarve. And yet, even brief conversations with the Lisbon locals reveals that Portugal is a bruised and brittle country. There is hope for the future but this is rarely matched with any real sense of optimism.
While meeting with people in Lisbon this week there was a clear sense that, while the country has been pulled back from the brink of disaster, it is not yet out of the danger zone. It is as if at any moment things might deteriorate once more. At Lisbon University, amid conversations about the financial crisis and the ensuing austerity policy, the most telling comment I heard was: “We’re not Greece…yet.” The inference was clear: yes things have been very bad, and in many respects they still are bad, but we’re not giving up; the future can still be bright.
The University of Lisbon is a fitting analogy of the Portuguese ability to adapt and to thrive by making the best out of what life throws at you. I was hosted by the Instituto Superior de Ciencias Sociais e Politicas (Institute for Political and Social Sciences); a school with a proud history, having taught its first lesson in 1906 in the presence of the then King Charles (whose demise thereafter signalled the end of the Portuguese monarchy). Today the university teaches more than 40,000 students spread across 18 separate schools including another of my hosts, the impressive Instituto de Direito Economico, Financeiro e Fiscal (Institute of Economic, Financial and Fiscal Law).
But while the university offers Portugal’s young the opportunity to learn and develop, the biggest problem facing graduates is the distinct lack of opportunities once they leave. Portugal has an unemployment problem. Moreover it has a youth unemployment problem. The national unemployment rate currently stands at a little over 15% (having come down from a high of nearly 18% a year ago), while youth unemployment stands at a depressing 35%.
I spoke to Alice Trindade, Vice President of the Institute for Political and Social Sciences who spoke of her worry that the talented graduates she sees passing through her classes will have no other option than to search for work outside of Portugal. And who could blame them? Even Portugal’s President Pedro Passos Coelho has encouraged young people in his country to move away from Portugal to find work. While President Coelho’s controversial words may be seen by some as sensible advice for job seekers, as a long-term economic policy it leaves much to be desired.
Proving the maxim that attitude reflects leadership, Portuguese people seem to share their President’s pessimism. Perhaps the most stark reflection of the dire employment situation in Portugal is the mere 7% of citizens who believe that it is a good time to find a job. In Germany, that number is 51%. Further, when asked about their satisfaction with living standards, only 54% of Portuguese citizens respond positively (compared to 82% in the UK).
Attitudes towards the government are equally negative. Government approval dropped from 41% in 2010 to 26% in 2013, which, although low, is unsurprising given the level of dissent over the government’s austerity policies. And it’s not just opposition to policies that’s fuelling the protests. There is a strongly held view in Portugal that government is corrupt. When polled, a staggering 91% of Portuguese people believed corruption to be widespread in government and business. To put that into perspective, that’s the highest percentage in the world on this measure, higher than Zimbabwe (78%), Russia (79%), and Nigeria (87%).
And so what next for Europe’s westernmost country? There are some statistics that are moving in the right direction for Portugal. Measures of entrepreneurship have improved in recent years with business start-up costs falling to 2.3% of GNI (down from 7%). On top of that, a number of social indicators have seen positive changes in the last four years: volunteerism is up by 5%, donations to charity have increased by 12%, and those reporting to having helped a stranger has increased by 13%.
Perhaps these strong social ties are an unintended consequence of the crisis, having caused people to come together to survive tough times. Whatever the reason, Portugal’s social fabric seems to be strong despite difficult national challenges. And that, at least, provides a small ray of optimism for a country in need of some good news.
This post first appeared on the Legatum Institute blog.
Here’s a post I wrote for the recently-launched Legatum Institute blog. The post provides a short summary of some of the current initiatives, reports, and programmes involving wellbeing …
Right now wellbeing is very topical. Around the world governments are beginning to warm up to the idea of measuring something more than just economic progress. Countries currently engaged in measuring wellbeing in some form include Germany, Australia, Bhutan, Ireland, France, Japan, Korea, China, Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and, of course, the UK.
Broadly speaking this new focus from government and policy organisations fits into what is known as the “beyond GDP” movement. Essentially, this is the belief that when we measure a country’s progress/success/development we should include more than just its wealth.
Different initiatives are currently being undertaken around this topic. I have listed some of these below. The first relates directly to policy making, while the remainder are mainly concerned with the issue of measurement:
1. Firstly (and most importantly!) is the Legatum Institute Commission on Wellbeing Policy. This high level commission – chaired by Lord Gus O’Donnell – will report in Jan 2014 on how wellbeing data can be used by central government during the policy making process. When the report is launched, the Commission’s recommendations will set the standard for using wellbeing data in policy making.
2. The OECD recently published a superb set of guidelines on measuring subjective wellbeing. The aim of these guidelines is to introduce uniformity in how subjective wellbeing is measured so as to be most useful to governments and other decision-makers.
3. UNICEF has just published a Report Card on Child Wellbeing, which places the UK 16th out of 29 countries. The summary of the UK findings does not make for pleasant reading: “high rates of teenage pregnancy, and high numbers of young people out of education, employment and training… one of the highest alcohol abuse rates among 11-15 year olds, and…in the bottom third of the infant mortality league table.”
4. The French government is getting ready to launch the first report into what it is calling the “Positive Economy”. This initiative, which was commissioned directly by President Hollande, is a “platform to develop relationships and create knowledge about an economy that seeks more than profit”.
5. Next month the German Parliament is set to vote on a new report entitled “Growth, Wellbeing and Quality of Life”. The report was drafted by a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee and proposes that societal welfare should be measured across three dimensions: material wealth, ecology, and social aspects including social inclusion. Further details are here.
6. Last month, the Social Progress Index was launched. This new index aims to measure how countries “provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens.” Comprising 52 separate indicators spread across three broad categories and including both subjective and objective data, this index is one to watch in the years to come.
7. And while new initiatives are emerging, several international organisations continue to provide cross-country measures of wellbeing. See for example the OECD Better Life Index, the UN Human Development Index, and our own Legatum Prosperity Index™.
A selection of articles that I have enjoyed over the last few days…
More Capitalism, not less of it, is the Answer – Ian Birrell
What Data Can’t Do – David Brooks
Real Conservatives cut spending before taxes – Daniel Finkelstein
The Great Think-Tank Bubble – Ken Silverstein
Europe Needs Cameron’s Tough Love – Andrew Mitchell
Michael Gove Interview – Daily Mail