Singapore ranks highly for well-being but slips in converting its national wealth

11 August 2018 3 min. read

Singapore has been ranked as the only non-European country in the top ten for well-being in a report from The Boston Consulting Group, yet falls below par when measuring national performance in converting wealth into well-being.

The Boston Consulting Group's annual Sustainable Economic Development Assessment (SEDA) index, initiated in 2012, provides a relative guide to the well-being of citizens across the globe, while further measuring a country’s effectiveness at converting income levels into well-being as per key societal baselines. Singapore, according to the analysis, has high levels of well-being but falls behind expectations when factoring for wealth.

For the analysis, BCG has identified ten key indicators of well-being, divided into three overriding classifications; ‘economics’, ‘investments’, and ‘sustainability’ – aggregating scores across the categories to determine a SEDA total, which is then measured against gross national income per capita to arrive at a relative ranking as to the conversion of wealth into well-being.Key indicators of well-beingIn terms of well-being, Singapore earned a perfect score for wealth as a measure of GDP per capita, and against its peers scored particularly well for infrastructure and employment, while less so with respect to equality (income distribution as per the Gini co-efficient, education equality, and equality in life expectancy), environment, health (access and outcomes) and governance – the effectiveness and accountability of government.

Altogether, Singapore was ranked seventh globally for well-being with a SEDA tally of 81.80, placing behind only Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the full suite the Nordic counties bar Finland in eighth. Yet, with a gross national income (GNI) of $51,880 per capita, Singapore was assessed as falling below par in its wealth-to-wellbeing-coefficient rating of .98 – lagging several of its economically developed top-table peers.National sustainable economic development rankings

Further, while Singapore has steadily improved its SEDA well-being score over the past decade, from 79.88 in 2009 to outperform almost all of its peers, its wealth-to-wellbeing rating has decreased from 1.05 (above expectations) during that time – although, besides Switzerland, this was a trend common to the world’s leaders for well-being, despite the top four of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Luxemburg all rating at above or par for wealth-to-wellbeing.

The issue here is that, according to BCG, the analysis demonstrates the economic growth benefits for countries which focus on enhancing well-being, contrary to the common political wisdom that holds the fostering of economic growth and investments into well-being to be competing priorities. The countries which registered the highest initial co-efficient conversion ratings have exhibited the fastest growth over the past decade, as well as proving to be the most resilient economies.

So while Singapore has done well to raise its SEDA score over time, if it continues to perform poorly in converting wealth to well-being, it runs the risk of economic decline and failing to capture what the report terms as the virtuous cycle of well-being and growth. The authors conclude; “Countries must resist the temptation to prioritise stimulating economic growth or reducing fiscal deficits at the expense of wellbeing… There is in fact a virtuous cycle at work, in which gains in one lead to progress in the other.”