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What is the meaning of “Quality of Life”?

Posted on: September 15th, 2017
Posted by: Keith Griffiths
Categories: Northern Powerhouse


I am not sure anyone knows, yet it is increasingly cited as being as one of the critical points of difference which defines the North of England.

Has the quality of life which we as individuals enjoy, been created as a result of some far sighted central plan dreamed by Government years ago or just an accident of circumstance which we have all adjusted to?

What better place to test the arguments with a diverse set of luminaries than in the City of Hull, or Kingston upon Hull to be precise – officially the UK`s Capital of Culture in 2017.

Directors of the Northern Powerhouse Conference held a Chatham House discussion on the topic as a way of informing a much bigger debate on the subject scheduled for the third annual Northern Powerhouse Conference, taking place on 13 & 14 February in Manchester.

As observers of the developing Northern Powerhouse concept, we really wanted to get under the skin of the topic to understand why it is so fundamental to the future social and economic fortunes of the region.

Although this short account does not give me permission to quote the participants in our roundtable today, I was struck by the number of common themes the assembled company identified.

We began by setting our panel four challenging questions:

  • Is there or should there be a universally recognised definition for the Quality of Life?
  • Can you put a material value on Quality of Life?
  • Does Quality of Life mean something distinctive in the context of the Northern Powerhouse?
  • Can Quality of Life be harnessed as a tool for creating wealth for communities?

We have learned the following.

Firstly, the most universally accepted definition of the term has been set out by the OECD`s Better Life Index which is well worth looking up as it gives you the chance to rate your own situation. A word of warning here – this is not for the natural malcontents – but by most of its 11 indicators, life in the UK looks pretty good by international comparisons.

But before we start to get that warm glow of satisfaction we are forced to conclude we can`t put a value on it, because it is much more than a financial calculation – more a “feel good” factor.

As one of our learned group put it, “it is more of a story than a number”, a device for building cohesion, inclusion and ambition in a changing world, and perhaps even a source of identity for people in places not defined by their built environment.

This really seems to be the case in the Humber area, a locality historically with its own mini “north-south” divide which to some extent has been healed through cultural engagement, which has clearly resulted in a renewed sense of civic pride and opened up greater access to resources – income through the arrival of new quality jobs (Siemens and DONG perhaps the best examples), access to learning and new approaches to health and social care.

But the big test for the Quality of Life agenda is whether it can be harnessed effectively to create wealth for communities – a matter we will revisit in Manchester in February.

In the view of those who have observed Hull 2017 at first hand, on this point there is real cause for optimism – not just for Hull but the North in general. 

Forget 2017 – 2018 will see the dawn of the Hull Legacy Company which see a 20 year forward programme of social and economic renewal that will ensure the city and its environs remain places of opportunity, and perhaps personal fulfilment, as we embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution with the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.

The view of the future looks challenging but nonetheless positive from the Humber.