Measuring human and Sustainable Development: An Integrated Approach for European Countries
During the last few years, sustainable development has represented one of the most important policy goals at global level and how to design specific policy actions, measuring performance and results continues to present a challenge. Scientific research has explored different analysis directions in order to identify a synthetic indicator to evaluate policy planning and achievements that goes beyond traditional income indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In consideration of the social dimension of sustainable development, including health, education and employment, the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme represents a widely accepted methodology to be used as a starting point for building a more sustainable-oriented development index. The aim of this paper is to identify a numerical measure of what Amartya Sen defined as “sustainable human development” using a human development framework and adapt it taking into account more specific environmental aspects. For this purpose, building a complex Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI) may be a difficult task because of data availability and the European countries – especially the European Union - could be a useful pilot area for testing the methodology. The most recent efforts of the EU to standardize statistical information at country level enable us to build more complex indicators, including those with economic, social and environmental dimensions. Long-term sustainability requires the maintenance of capital stock to guarantee constant or growing welfare levels. In a human development perspective, the sustainability condition has been directly analysed on the well-being side, assuming that a constant or growing SHDI could be the result of constant growing capital assets. An SHDI represents the core element of a comparative analysis to assess the effectiveness and the distributional effects of European policies, including environmental actions. Finally, a sensitivity analysis of the results will enable us to underline the key factors of effective sustainable human development and, at the same time test the real meaning of such a modified composite index compared with the existing GDP and HDI.
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