Greens call for free time to be made measure of wellbeing

Green Party co-leaders Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley are set to call for a new Free Time Index to replace GDP as a measure of wellbeing in the UK at the party’s Autumn Conference in Bristol.

Free time
Free time
Green World

The Green Party will today (5 October) call for a new economic indicator to measure people’s leisure time.

In what will be the first major policy announcement since the election of Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley as the party’s new co-leaders, Berry and Bartley are set to commit the Green Party to supporting the creation of a Free Time Index in their inaugural speech to the party’s Autumn Conference in Bristol today.

The new indicator would count the number of hours people spend outside of work and commuting, and would be published annually by the government as part of the Autumn Budget. It is hoped that the Index would supplant GDP as a measure for wellbeing in the UK, with the aim of increasing free time every year placed at the heart of the government’s economic policy.

The policy announcement follows the party’s commitment to a four-day working week at Spring Conference in 2017 as the Greens seek to advance an ambitious policy direction addressing the changing nature of work. Advances in technology and automation have changed people’s expectations from employment, with more emphasis being placed on a better work-life balance.

Research from UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania in the US has found that that focusing on free time rather than money makes people happier, while studies carried out by academics in the US and the Netherlands suggest that people who choose to spend money on things that free up leisure time are happier than those who spend it on material goods.

At the first day of Autumn Conference today, Berry is expected to say: “It’s time to shift away from the culture which sees us work harder and harder for longer and longer, often without reward or satisfaction, and to recognise that true freedom will only be found when people have more control of their time and how it is spent.

“That is why Greens want the next Budget, and every future Budget, to include a new economic indicator that measures people’s leisure time.”

Bartley is expected to add: “The Free Time Index would count the hours people are not at work – or doing work on a long commute. The time to have a family life, relax, and pursue the things they care about.

“It should be an aim of the government to see a yearly increase in this Free Time Index, so that the quality of time which is truly our own becomes the real measure of wellbeing.”

Berry, a London Assembly member and a Camden councillor, and Bartley, leader of the Green opposition on Lambeth council, have pledged to turn the Greens into a ‘bigger, bolder party’ after their election in September, and the party’s three-day Autumn Conference will seek to lay out a radical policy agenda to regain ground on the two main UK parties.