Wealthy fun

OECD Observer

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Work may drive growth, but for most people, more free time contributes to well-being, as long as it is not accompanied by lower income. Still, one often-heard remark about the gap in economic performance between OECD countries is that US workers may earn more money but they work longer hours, whereas Europeans prefer more leisure to more work, or indeed, more money, and so are better off.

But would ascribing monetary values to leisure time, however arbitrarily, alter GDP per head rankings in favour of European countries? Not by much, according to the latest Going for Growth report. By estimating workers’ time devoted to personal (unpaid) activities, it reports that leisure-adjusted GDP per capita relative to the US is higher for most countries than for the normal measure. But the ranking of OECD countries stays broadly unchanged, with the US still in the top five.

Separately, the OECD Factbook 2006 reports that US household spending on leisure has risen faster than the OECD average over the last decade. It measures spending on recreation and culture by households and government on a range of items from music, show business and sport to pets and photography. Gardening and gambling are also included, but restaurants, hotels and most travel are not. By this measure, the US spends more than France, but less than Spain or the UK.

See Going for Growth 2006, and OECD Factbook 2006; both are available at www.oecdbookshop.org.

©OECD Observer No 255, May 2006




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