Is economic growth still measurable?


Economic growth has long been considered the main indicator of a country’s prosperity. Gross domestic product (GDP) is the tool traditionally used to measure this growth.

However, over time, new approaches have been developed to better capture complex aspects of human development and well-being.

In this article, we will examine the different methods of measuring economic growth, their limitations and the debates surrounding them.

We will also explore the importance of these measures in political decision-making and their impact on society.

The traditional measure of economic growth

Gross domestic product (GDP)

GDP is the total amount of goods and services produced in a country during a given period. It is widely used as an indicator of a country’s economic performance and level of prosperity. GDP is calculated by adding together consumption, investment, government expenditure and net exports.

GDP limitations

Although GDP is a commonly used tool, it has some limitations. First of all, it does not take into account the distribution of wealth or social inequalities. A country can have a high GDP while having a large portion of its population living in poverty.

Moreover, GDP does not take into account negative externalities such as pollution or environmental degradation. Nor does it measure the overall well-being of the population, nor aspects related to health, education or quality of life.

New approaches to measuring economic growth

The Human Development Index (HDI)

The HDI is an indicator that takes into account dimensions such as life expectancy, level of education and per capita income. Unlike GDP, the HDI aims to assess human well-being and sustainable development. It helps to better understand the quality of life of the citizens of a country.

Gross Inner Happiness (BIN)

The BIN is an approach that assesses the happiness and well-being of a country’s citizens. It takes into account factors such as life satisfaction, freedom, generosity and social trust. This measure seeks to go beyond traditional economic indicators to assess the true well-being of the population.

The ecological footprint

The ecological footprint measures the pressure exerted by human activity on the planet’s natural resources. It makes it possible to assess whether a country’s economic growth is environmentally sustainable in the long term.

The complexity of measuring economic growth

Statistical challenges

Accurately measuring economic growth involves overcoming many statistical challenges. It is sometimes difficult to obtain reliable data, especially in developing countries. In addition, calculation methods may vary from country to country, making international comparisons complex.

The inclusion of externalities

One of the major challenges is to be able to include positive and negative externalities in measures of economic growth. How to assess the environmental or social consequences of economic activities?

Consideration of social well-being

The measurement of economic growth should not be limited to purely financial aspects. It must also take into account the well-being and quality of life of the population. This involves considering dimensions such as access to health care, education and social security.

The debates surrounding the measurement of economic growth

Criticisms of GDP

GDP has been criticized for its narrow focus on material production, which does not necessarily reflect overall well-being. Many economists believe that it is time to rethink our indicators of prosperity to better take into account the well-being of individuals and environmental sustainability.

Benefits of new approaches

New approaches to measuring economic growth, such as the HDI and BIN, provide a more comprehensive view of human development and well-being. They make it possible to direct public policies towards objectives more centered on the well-being of the population and the preservation of the environment.

The importance of measuring economic growth

political decision-making

Measures of economic growth play a crucial role in policy making. They help governments identify areas requiring investment, assess the effectiveness of public policies and adjust their development strategies.

Impact on society

The measurement of economic growth can influence the perception of a country’s progress and success. It can also impact social policies and the distribution of resources.


Economic growth is an essential indicator for assessing a country’s performance, but traditional approaches, such as GDP, are no longer sufficient to capture the full complexity of human development and environmental sustainability.

New approaches, such as the HDI, BIN, and Ecological Footprint, provide more comprehensive and balanced insights.

For informed political decision-making and a more holistic view of the well-being of society, it is essential to consider these new measures.


  1. Why is GDP criticized as an indicator of prosperity?
  2. How does the HDI measure human development?
  3. How is BIN different from GDP?
  4. What are the main challenges in measuring economic growth?
  5. How could the new approaches influence public policies?


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