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Published: 2024-02-20 Updated: 2024-02-21, 08:31

New quality of life tool for municipalities

NEWS A dissertation at Umeå University is based on the development of a new tool, called CALY-SWE, to measure how the quality of life is affected by investments in welfare. It is based on the definition of quality of life as the extent of the opportunities that people have to freely shape their lives.

CALY-SWE is a questionnaire that can measure and compare broad effects in different welfare areas, for example in municipal care and education. The aim is to inform decisions on the allocation of resources and to increase the cost-effectiveness of public spending. Measuring quality of life impacts is crucial to assess the value of investment in welfare, especially in the face of costly critical challenges such as socio-economic inequality, climate change, demographic change and a tense security situation.

Useful for policy

An example is cost-effectiveness in the municipal sector. Should an expensive effort to prevent early school leaving be funded? Or should priority be given to a program to support people with disabilities? The current practice of looking at costs in relation to savings, such as social investment, does not consider quality of life and risks being overly financially oriented. Adding quality of life using measurement with CALY-SWE could improve decisions on resource allocation.

"Of course, such decisions should also rely on factors other than cost-effectiveness such as the local context and political priorities. But CALY-SWE gives us the possibility to to transparently compare costs with quality of life" says thesis author Kaspar Meili, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.

Inspiration from healthcare

Such analyses have successfully been used for a long time in healthcare, as part of a response to manage ever increasing costs. Kaspar Meili’s thesis argues that the time is ripe to adopt the concept to broader social welfare beyond healthcare. Social welfare includes areas such as education and social care make up for a big part of the public budget, and the benefits of improved cost-effectiveness could be large.

Shaping one's life

The development of CALY-SWE began with a Delphi process, where actors from Swedish civil society selected six factors that are relevant to Sweden: health, social relations, economic situation and housing, occupation, security, and political and civil rights. CALY-SWE is based on Amartya Sen’s capability approach, which sees quality of life as the extent of the opportunities that people have to freely shape their lives. Numerical values that indicate the quality of life were then calculated by comparing shortfalls in quality of life with full quality of life.

"With the help of these ‘weights’, we measured the quality of life in the Swedish population with the help of a large representative sample," says Kaspar Meili.

Employer tax reduction

The thesis also covers the use of CALY-SWE in an evaluation of the reduction of social security contributions for young workers during the Great Recession/Financial Crisis of 2007. Preliminary results show that the tax reduction was effective when it included economic consequences for society as a whole.

"When limiting the economic impacts to the governmental sector, it is unclear whether the benefits outweigh the costs," says Kaspar Meili.

However, a definitive answer requires further research on the economic value of capability-related quality of life.

Kaspar Meili's thesis