"We can't measure the challenges of the future with the tools from the past," said Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
"GDP is a tool of the 1930s, which does not take into account sustainable consumption matters," said Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.
"GDP measures the final market values of goods and services. While it is widely believed that people's wellbeing and quality of life improves as they get wealthier, economic wealth is not everything. Quality of life depends to a degree on the type of goods consumed, good access to healthcare, quality of education, family relations, the integrity of our public officials and the state of our environment. So, we should be able to measure these important objectives. GDP is not an indicator that measures wellbeing or welfare," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
Bruno S. Frey, Professor of Economic Policy and Non-Market Economics at University of Zurich underlined that well-being can't be measured by happiness, and that it would be an error if politicians tried to maximise happiness. "Life satisfaction indicators are important but let's let people decide on and find their own happiness."
Professors Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger at Princeton University, New Jersey, think that a national well-being index could eventually be developed, as a complement to the National Income and Product Accounts. However, they think that it is not possible to measure 'Gross National Happiness' "in view of the present state of knowledge and limitations of subjective measurement".
However, the UK and the Australian governments are committed to producing national measures of subjective well-being.
David Cameron, the leader of the UK Conservative Party, has established a Quality of Life Policy Group to investigate all aspects linked to the quality of life. These include transport and housing; urban planning and the quality of public space; pollution, waste, biodiversity and the countryside; energy and climate change. The Policy Group has several working groups dedicated to each of the issues. The aim is to provide Conservatives, in July 2007, with an independent input on the issues related to quality of life.
Marco Grasso and Luciano Canova from the Milan University have compared the quality of life (QOL) indexes with the GDP per capita rankings in EU countries. "To be noted is the remarkable similarity between the QOL and GDP rankings, which means that income is in general a good proxy for the quality of life in the EU."
The 2007 Worldwide Quality of Living Survey by Mercer - Human Resource Consulting found that the European cities ranked among the top ten for quality of life are Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Dusseldorf, Frankfort, Munich and Bern. The worldwide health and sanitation ranking 2007 puts the Nordic capitals Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm among the top six.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide quality-of-life index 2005: "When one understands the interplay of modernity and tradition in determining life satisfaction, it is then easy to see why Ireland ranks a convincing first in the international quality-of-life league table. It successfully combines the most desirable elements of the new - material well-being, low unemployment rates, political liberties - with the preservation of certain life satisfaction-enhancing, or modernity-cushioning, elements of the old, such as stable family life and the avoidance of the breakdown of community."