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indicator value unit
Population 62.2 mil.
Visitors per year 29.8 mil.
Renewable energy 3.33 %

How’s Life?

The United Kingdom performs very well in overall well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in several topics in the Better Life Index.

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 is 26 904 USD a year, more than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But 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 70% of people aged 15 to 64 in the United Kingdom have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 76% of men are in paid work, compared with 65% of women. People in the United Kingdom work 1 625 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. About 12% of employees work very long hours, more than the OECD average of 9%, with 18% of men working very long hours compared with just 6% for women.

Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In the United Kingdom, 75% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, close to the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of men than women, as 78% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 72% of women. This difference is larger than the OECD average gap and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. 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), slightly higher than the OECD average of 497. On average in the United Kingdom, girls outperformed boys by 2 points, less than the average OECD gap of 9 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 PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 13 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably lower than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. The United Kingdom also does well in terms of water quality, as 97% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, more than the OECD average of 84%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and a moderate level of civic participation in the United Kingdom, where 95% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 66% during recent elections. This figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is 73% and for the bottom 20% it is 50%, a broader difference than the OECD average gap of 12 percentage points, suggesting there is room for broader social inclusion in the United Kingdom’s democratic institutions.

In general, people in the United Kingdom are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 85% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80%.


OECD in Action

Mental Health and Work: United Kingdom

This report on the United Kingdom looks at how the broader education, health, social and labour market policy challenges are being tackled.

Read this report

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United Kingdom in Detail