For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Measuring Progress in the Degrowth Transition to a Steady State Economy"

by O'Neill, Daniel W (2012)


In order to determine whether degrowth is occurring, or how close national economies are to the concept of a steady state economy, clear indicators are required. Within this paper I analyse four indicator approaches that could be used: (1) Gross Domestic Product, (2) the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, (3) biophysical and social indicators, and (4) a composite indicator. I conclude that separate biophysical and social indicators represent the best approach, but a unifying conceptual framework is required to choose appropriate indicators and interpret the relationships between them. I propose a framework based on ends and means, and a set of biophysical and social indicators within this framework. The biophysical indicators are derived from Herman Daly's definition of a steady state economy, and measure the major stocks and flows in the economy–environment system. The social indicators are based on the stated goals of the degrowth movement, and measure the functioning of the socio-economic system, and how effectively it delivers well-being. I discuss some potential applications of the indicators, including a method that allows national economies to be placed into one of five categories: desirable growth, undesirable growth, desirable degrowth, undesirable degrowth, and a steady state economy.


Indicators, Degrowth, Steady State Economy, Conceptual Framework, Sustainable Development, Sustainability


Degrowth, Green Jobs

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