Much like people try to achieve work-life balance, countries that engage civil society, battle corruption and take care of the environment — rather than just focusing on economic growth — tend to serve their populations best.
And which country is doing the best at it? Poland has made the most progress in converting its economic growth into well-being, according to a study released Thursday by Massachusetts-based global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group.
Well-being is defined as the country’s economic stability, health, governance and environment, among other factors.
Out of 149 countries assessed, Poland improved its governance the most from 2006 to 2013, including in terms of corruption, rule of law and intellectual property rights, said Douglas Beal, who leads BCG’s economic development practice.
“They’ve also improved employment. Everyone’s heard of a lot of Polish people immigrating to London to work. That immigration has actually slowed down and stopped as Poland is improving its own labor market and its own job market,” he said.
The European country also bucked the trend in terms of environment. Usually, the fastest-growing countries economically make fewer environmental improvements, said Beal. “Poland’s GDP growth rate is relatively strong, but it’s also improving the environment very well.”
While Poland made the most progress relative to its GDP growth rate, he said, Rwanda made the most improvements overall in the areas of governance, gender equality, economic stability and health care.
The United States made the top 20 but ranked below Western European countries plus Singapore, Australia and New Zealand mainly because of income inequality, the study says.
In addition, while the United States and Germany grew economically at a similar rate — about 1.1 percent annually — from 2006 to 2013, Germany outpaced the U.S. in making progress in areas including infrastructure, employment, health and economic stability.
BCG started doing its wealth-to-well-being study in 2012 as a benchmarking tool to help government officials craft their development plans. The firm gets its information from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Economist, among other international sources.