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The United Kingdom comes 10th in a new OECD ranking of well being which looks at areas such as work, health and education.
The Better Life Index survey shows the UK doing well in areas such as life expectancy, water quality and sense of community, but it expresses concern about the gap between rich and poor. Australia is ranked top and the UK trails Scandinavia and the US, but is ranked above Germany and France.
It shows the average household disposable income in the UK is around $3,000 more than the OECD average, but there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn nearly six times as much as the bottom 20%, it says.
The number of people working is 5% above the OECD average and people work on average around 150 hours a year less than the OECD average. However, this is mainly due to more people, mainly women, working part time. About 12% of employees work very long hours, more than the OECD average of 9%, with 18% of men working very long hours compared with just 6% for women.
On education, the UK is around average in terms of adults finishing secondary school education, with boys more likely to finish than girls, suggesting, says the OECD, that women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. In terms of the quality of the educational system, the average student scored slightly higher than the OECD average. Girls outperformed boys by 2 points, less than the average OECD gap of 9 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in the United Kingdom is 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 79 for men. Pollution is lower than the OECD average and water quality better.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and a moderate level of civic participation in the United Kingdom, where 95% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 90%. However, voter turnout, is lower than the OECD average, mainly due to lower turnout about lower socio-economic groups.
The report adds that, in general, people in the United Kingdom are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 85% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80%.