Mental health: the new frontier for labour economics

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 29.05.2012, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Richard Layard (London School of Economics)


I want to argue that mental health is a key dimension of all our lives and at every age. Yet when the present welfare state was being designed this was far from people’s minds. In his famous report, LSE director William Beveridge identified 5 problems of society as the 5 great giants which needed to be slain. They were poverty, unemployment, poor education, bad housing and disease – by which he meant of course physical disease. Over the 70 years since his report we have made huge strides on all of these fronts, except at times unemployment. But there is still widespread misery in our society – and what surveys we have of happiness and misery suggest it has changed little since then. So what did Beveridge miss? Like so many of his contemporaries, he overlooked the human factor – the problems that come from inside ourselves (and not mainly from externals). It is because of the human factor that, despite unparalleled prosperity and mostly high employment, we can now observe more family conflict, less trust and more crime, than when Beveridge wrote. And this in turn helps to explain the need which so many people feel for a new metric to measure the progress of society.

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