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Spa people

Katrin Jakobsdottir

"A wellbeing budget is in the works, with a number of priorities already having been identified"


At a time when wellness is truly at the forefront of people’s minds, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has urged for wellbeing to be given greater priority than GDP and economic growth.

Speaking at London’s Chatham House international affairs think tank in early February, just before coronavirus took hold globally, Jakobsdóttir called for “an alternative future, based on wellbeing and inclusive growth”. She urged governments to take up both green and family-friendly targets, instead of just concentrating on economic growth.

Iceland is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), a recently formed body working to change the economic system so it focuses on wellness. It defines a wellbeing economy as one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing.

New Zealand and Scotland are also a part of the WEAll and Jakobsdóttir recently teamed up with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to promote a “wellbeing agenda”.

With matters of wellbeing and happiness being recognised as essential to the health of democracy and political stability, this can only be positive news for the spa industry which has been built around this ethos.

Writing for the Evening Standard, Jakobsdóttir confirmed that the Icelandic government is also planning to finance this initiative, saying: “A wellbeing budget is in the works, with a number of priorities already having been identified. These include the improvement of mental health and reduction of carbon emissions.”

When asked whether the creation of a ‘wellbeing budget’ was achievable for both developed and developing countries, Jakobsdóttir responded: “You can always have an emphasis on wellbeing, it’s just about how you prioritise it in the public budget”.

Jakobsdóttir heads up The Icelandic Prime Minister’s Committee on Measurements for Wellbeing in Iceland. “This committee has developed 39 wellbeing indicators that include economic, environmental and social factors, GDP and other economic indicators are among them, but in a new context with social and environmental indicators, to aim for the delicate balance of sustainable development.”

The indicators are linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – an initiative which spas are also looking to align with (see SB20/1 p44) – and are used to inform government policy formulation.

According to a survey commissioned by the committee, the general public in Iceland views health to be the most significant factor in the quality of life, followed by relationships, housing and making a living.

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