Did you know?

indicator value unit
Population 62.6 mil.
Visitors per year 31.1 mil.
Renewable energy 4.5 %

How’s Life?

The United Kingdom performs well in most measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. The United Kingdom ranks above the average in personal security, environmental quality, civic engagement, social connections, health status, jobs and earnings, and housing. It is below average in income and wealth.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In the United Kingdom, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 26 687 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 29 016 a year. There is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn nearly six times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, over 73% of people aged 15 to 64 in the United Kingdom have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 78% of men are in paid work, compared with 68% of women. In the United Kingdom, about 13% of employees work very long hours, in line with the OECD average, with 19% of men working very long hours compared with just 7% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In the United Kingdom, 79% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 76%. This is truer of men than women, as 80% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 78% of women. In terms of the quality of the educational system, the average student scored 502 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), higher than the OECD average of 497. Although girls outperformed boys in many OECD countries, in the United Kingdom, boys outperformed girls by 1 point.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in the United Kingdom is 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 79 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 10.8 micrograms per cubic meter, lower than the OECD average of 14.05 micrograms per cubic meter. The United Kingdom also does well in terms of water quality, as 87% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, more than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and a moderate level of civic participation in the United Kingdom, where 93% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 66% during recent elections. This figure is lower than the OECD average of 68%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 73% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 50%, a broader difference than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points, and points to shortcomings in the political mobilisation of the worst-off.

In general, people in the United Kingdom are just as satisfied with their lives as the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, British people gave it a 6.5 grade, in line with the OECD average. 

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys United Kingdom 2015

This OECD Economic Survey of the United Kingdom examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover improving infrastructure and ensuring sustainable bank lending.

Read this report

Find Out More

United Kingdom in Detail