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Coronavirus: Only 12% of Brits want UK to prioritise economic growth over wellbeing

Kalila Sangster
·2-min read
A woman wearing a face mask in Green Park, London, as the UK's coronavirus death toll rose to 35 with a total of 1,372 positive tests for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Sunday.
The majority (82%) of Brits want indicators of the UK’s quality of life to come before economic growth, according to a poll. (PA)

Just over one in 10 (12%) of Brits think the UK should prioritise economic growth over the health and wellbeing of citizens amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

An overwhelming majority (82%) want indicators of the UK’s quality of life to come before economic growth, according to the poll of 2,061 UK adults conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group Positive Money.

The statistics come ahead of the publishing of the first estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth from January to the end of March on Wednesday (6 May) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures are expected to show a dramatic decline in UK growth due to the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

Six in 10 would still want the government to pursue health and wellbeing ahead of growth and focus on environmental outcomes such as life expectancy, education and lower carbon emissions after the coronavirus pandemic has passed, though nearly a third would prioritise the economy instead at that point, the survey found.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Boris Johnson starts to reopen UK economy by easing lockdown

A new report by Positive Money calls for the ONS to stop publishing GDP statistics and instead place more emphasis on a wider view of social and environmental indicators that affect quality of life to more accurately show what the public wants and help the government to meet people’s needs.

The report recommends several policies which could help increase wellbeing without GDP growth, such as a universal basic income funded by newly created central bank money, higher taxes on the wealthy, and cancellations or reductions of household debt.

Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, said: “As economic growth continues to fall politicians will come under increased pressure to ease emergency public health measures, based on the misguided belief that lower GDP in itself will do more damage than the actual coronavirus.

“It’s clear the vast majority of the public think we should worry more about people’s health and wellbeing than economic growth. The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment.

“With the coronavirus crisis hitting after a decade of anaemic economic growth, we are heading towards a ‘post-growth’ economy whether we like it or not. We have a choice of whether this will mean mass unemployment, deepening inequality and lower quality of life for all, or whether we want to ensure that people are able to live longer, happier lives while avoiding catastrophic climate collapse.”