Well-being should be at the heart of policymaking

Well-being should be at the heart of policymaking

The issue of well-being has been much discussed for years now. (Reuters)
The issue of well-being has been much discussed for years now. (Reuters)
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The issue of well-being has been much discussed for years now, with an abundant, diverse body of research devoted to finding an elixir that can guarantee it. Yet in recent times, macroeconomic uncertainties, the rising cost of living, and various other precarious factors have negatively influenced the overall levels of well-being in societies.
Addressing these driving factors, through evidence-based policies and interventions, can help governments elevate feelings of well-being within their societies.
The well-being of a population is influenced by the complex interplay of several factors, including positive social connections and access to quality educational and healthcare services, reliable social safety nets, employment opportunities, affordable housing, and safe environments.
Furthermore, factors such as standard of living, cultural identity, systems of values and individual life choices also play a significant role in shaping the overall levels of well-being within communities.
Provided certain conditions are met, therefore, individuals can have realistic hopes of achieving the dream of a life well lived.
The recently published World Happiness Report 2024 arrived at a pivotal time and offered some illuminating insights for governments regarding the critical role they can play in crafting policies that help elevate levels of well-being.
The report reveals that individuals tend to experience higher levels of life satisfaction when they express contentment with various aspects of their daily lives, including standard of living, opportunities for social interactions and friendships, accessible and quality healthcare services, availability of adequate and affordable housing, and an effective public transportation system.
Notably, it found that the degree of satisfaction with the general standard of living had the most substantial effect on overall life satisfaction, which underlined the importance of authorities implementing policies pertaining to the creation of jobs and income generation.
The findings of the report have crucial implications for populations in the Middle East and North Africa region, as they suggest that in many countries the levels of happiness declined from 2006-2010 to 2021-2023, with more pronounced decreases observed among individuals in middle age groups, compared with younger and older ones.
On the other hand, successful policies developed and implemented by the governments of some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait helped them move up the list of the happiest countries in the world and they now rank in the top 30.
By understanding the factors that drive well-being, through the study of the plethora of research and evidence that has been published, governments can help their populations achieve greater levels of well-being, thereby unlocking the long-term benefits this brings.
To optimize the well-being and success of individuals, it is vital to prioritize critical policies that have been proven to deliver positive results, tailored to different stages of life.

It is vital that governments consider providing support for financial literacy programs and retirement planning.

Sara Al-Mulla

Considering that the MENA region is home to more than 250 million people below the age of 24, representing 47 percent of the total population, according to UNICEF figures, it is crucial that policymakers pay special attention to this age group.
Several factors contribute to the subjective well-being of children and adolescents, according to the World Happiness Report. Strong relationships, particularly with parents and peers, are pivotal, and other influential factors include aspects of life such as health, physical activity, use of time, neighborhoods, safety, and children’s rights.
Naturally, the most effective interventions that can improve the well-being of children and adolescents are closely linked to their most immediate environments, namely families, schools and communities.
There are many policies available to help enhance the well-being of young people with the aim of nurturing the development of healthy, thriving individuals. For example, policymakers should build on the science behind effective early childhood development by prioritizing equitable access to quality education, care, and health services that enhance nutrition, cognitive stimulation, and emotional development during this crucial time in a child’s development.
Initiatives that help to foster positive family and social connections enable children and youths to thrive in these settings, and so policies related to family well-being should support generous provision by employers of parental leave, affordable childcare, and family-friendly workplace practices.
In schools, policies that promote healthy levels of physical activity, extracurricular activities that encourage self-expression and creativity, the provision of effective career guidance, positive mentoring and counseling programs, and the protection of children are all essential in promoting the well-being of students.
By prioritizing such policies, governments can create environments that are conducive to the holistic development and well-being of children and adolescents, thereby laying the foundations for success throughout their lives.
Moving on to higher education, students at universities benefit greatly from courses that align closely with the demands of the job market, thereby ensuring they acquire the skills required for future employment trends and maximizing their chances of successfully entering the workforce.
A special focus should be placed on vocational education that provides the kind of practical knowledge and training that helps prepare young people for many job opportunities. In addition, post-graduation job-matching schemes can help connect graduates with the career opportunities for which they are most suitable, and in doing so jump-start their professional journeys.
The middle-aged are considered the backbone of the regional economy, while also often acting as carers for young dependents and elderly relatives. Governments therefore should take proactive actions to ensure this critical section of the population remains resilient, productive, and competitive.
Several important employment policies are available to help focus on and improve the well-being of middle-aged workers, including job-creation schemes, investment in apprenticeship and training programs tailored to the needs of strategic industries, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and promotion of flexible working arrangements.
It is also vital that governments consider providing support for financial literacy programs and retirement planning, home-ownership schemes, mental health support, preventative health and care services, and initiatives that foster social connections and community engagement.
For the elderly, governments should cultivate age-friendly environments that preserve the well-being and dignity of older adults, allowing them to age with as much security and independence as possible.
Social security and pension systems should provide enough financial support to retirees and those on low incomes to ensure a dignified standard of living. Healthcare facilities must be prepared to deliver tailored services to the elderly. Homecare services must be provided to support vulnerable elderly groups who are immobile.
Creating a more age-friendly infrastructure, including specially designed housing and accessible transportation networks, promotes independence and mobility among the elderly. Exercise classes, hobby groups, educational workshops, and social events that foster social inclusion can also be provided for this age group at community centers, creative festivals, cultural institutions, and parks and outdoor spaces.
By taking steps to fully understand the many fascinating dimensions of well-being, policymakers can craft proactive interventions that ensure populations across the region, of all age groups, live happy and prosperous lives thanks to the responsive actions of their governments.

  • Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and children’s literature. She can be contacted at www.amorelicious.com.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view