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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, income and wealth, education and skills, and subjective well-being. It is below average in work-life balance and housing. These rankings are based on available selected data.

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 28 408 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 30 563 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,  74% of people aged 15 to 64 in the United Kingdom have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 67%. Some 79% of men are in paid work, compared with 70% of women. In the United Kingdom, almost 13% of employees work very long hours, in line with the OECD average, with 18% 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, 81% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 74%. This is slightly truer of men than women, as 81% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 80% of women. In terms of the quality of the educational system, the average student scored 500 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), higher than the OECD average of 486. On average in the United Kingdom, girls outperformed boys by 4 points, more than the average OECD gap of 2 points.

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 11.3 micrograms per cubic meter, lower than the OECD average of 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. The United Kingdom also does well in terms of water quality, as 85% 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, more than the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 69% during recent elections, in line with the OECD averageSocial and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 77% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 52%, 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 6.7 grade on average,  slightly higher than the OECD average of 6.5. 

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

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OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: United Kingdom 2017

After a good performance until 2016, growth slowed in the first half of 2017. The unemployment rate has fallen to below 4.5%, but real wages are in a downward trend. Planned Brexit has raised uncertainty and dented business investment.

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United Kingdom in Detail