A Wellbeing Framework towards the SDGs

Posted on Wednesday, 23 February 2022
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On Friday, 18th February, Social Justice Ireland published Measuring Success: Sustainable Progress Index 2022, analysing Ireland's progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and comparing Ireland to our EU peers. Not for the first time in this series, Ireland ranked towards the bottom. This year, in 10th place.

The SDGs are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future. This report is the latest in our contribution to the debate on the shape of Ireland, Europe and our world in 2030 and beyond. The aim is to inform interested parties, including Irish and European citizens, policy makers and business people, to adopt sustainable development actions. Our central goal is to show how Ireland compares relative to our EU peers. We believe that knowing where we stand, identifying the most pressing sustainability challenges, and critically examining our performance is essential if we are to ensure a sustainable future for our country.


In the past year, the Government has worked to deliver a Well-being Framework to “to better measure Ireland’s progress as a country and better align policy decisions with people’s experiences.” Aligning that Framework with the SDGs would also ensure policy coherence between our national targets and our international commitments.

The First Report on a Well-being Framework for Ireland was published in July 2021, setting out the work undertaken across stakeholders to that point. The overarching Vision set out in that First Report was:

enabling all our people to live fulfilled lives now and into the future. It is ingrained in well-being across person, place and society. (p.14).

This Vision had two elements, firstly to provide an overarching framework for policy making and deliver greater policy coherence across Government Departments; and secondly to improve the impact of policy on people’s lives. Determining the second element, of course, requires the ability to measure that impact. It is said that what is counted is what counts, and so the indicators used to measure the impact of the Well-being Framework are critical.

In developing the dimensions, the Department drew primarily from the OECD Well-being Framework, consisting of 11 domains. The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) also established a Subgroup of Stakeholders and Experts, of which Social Justice Ireland was part. This Subgroup provided consultation supports throughout the development of the Well-being Framework with a focus on equality and inclusion. The NESC Report on Ireland’s Well-being Framework Consultation (NESC, 2021) identified three overarching and inter-linked priorities – Equity, Agency and Sustainability, ensuring that all voices are heard, particularly those who may be furthest away from the policy space (but likely to be among the most impacted by policy changes).

Ireland’s Well-being Framework consists of 11 dimensions:

  1. Subjective Well-being
  2. Mental and Physical Health
  3. Income and Wealth
  4. Knowledge and Skills
  5. Housing and Local Area
  6. Environment, Climate and Biodiversity
  7. Safety and Security
  8. Work and Job Quality
  9. Time Use
  10. Community, Social Connections, and Cultural Participation
  11. Civic Engagement and Cultural Expression

According to the First Report, each of the dimensions were explored in three ways: an overarching definition that reflects on the capability approach; several aspects to illustratre how the high-level definition will directly relate to people’s lived experiences; and some examples of how the dimensions link with each other. This linking together, or interconnectedness, is illustrated within the First Report as a series of concentric circles, placing the person at the centre, place around that, and society surrounding both (Fig.1).

Fig.1: Interconnections between Dimensions


Interconnections between Dimensions

Source: Government of Ireland (2021): First Report on a Well-being Framework for Ireland, Stationery Press: Dublin, p.17

But this is just one illustration of how these dimensions interconnect. Civic Engagement and Cultural Expression is as much a personal dimension as it is a societal one. Subjective Well-being can depend on the place as much as the person. Housing and Local Area certainly spans all three. In aligning the Well-being Framework with the SDGs, the interconnectedness, and need for policy coherence, is again apparent, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Fig.2: Well-being Framework and SDG Alignment

Crossover Wellbeing and SDGs

There is significant cross-over across dimensions when it comes to implementing the SDGs. Proper implementation of the Well-being Framework could help bring Ireland closer to meeting its Goals.

Policy Proposals

Putting this interconnectedness into practice, while also supporting Ireland’s progress to achieve the targets set as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will require real action across a range of policy areas. In this regard, we make the following policy proposals set out both within the framework of the 11 Well-being Dimensions and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Wellbeing Indicator 1: Subjective Well-being

SDG Number

National Level

Local Level

SDGs Grid
  • Introduce a new Social Contract to underpin the Wellbeing of all in Ireland
  •  Introduce local social dialogue mechanisms to ensure that all communities have a say in their own Wellbeing

Wellbeing Indicator 2: Mental and Physical Health

SDG 2 No Hunger
  • Fund research on food poverty through stakeholder groups such as the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, St. Vincent de Paul and MABS.
  • Expand the ‘hot school meals’ programme, particularly for schools and pre-schools in disadvantaged areas and those with a high concentration of homeless children / children living in Direct Provision who do not have own cooking facilities.
  • Provide funding for research on local initiatives on sustainable food production.
  • Support ‘farm to fork’ and short supply chains in food production.
SDG 3 Good Health
  • Fully resource the implementation of Sláintecare, including the €500 million commitment to infrastructure over the next 6 years.
  • Increase the number of community beds.
  • Increase supports to carers.
  • Increase home care package provision and introduce legislation for a right to homecare.
  • Recruit and upskill healthcare workers to meet demand. 
  • Invest in Community Health Networks and step-down facilities. 
  • Properly resource mental health services.
  • Create additional respite care and long-stay facilities for older people and people with disabilities. 
  • Ensure medical card coverage for all who are vulnerable. 
  • Support the integration of primary care networks and GP led community healthcare services.
  • Support the roll-out of ‘Smile agus Sláinte’ as part of primary care provision.


Wellbeing Indicator 3: Income and Wealth

SDG 1 No Poverty
  • Set an ambitious national poverty reduction target.
  • Make persistent poverty the primary indicator of poverty measurement.
  • Introduce a Basic Income, Refundable Tax Credits and a Living Wage.
  • Benchmark all social welfare payments to at least 27.5 per cent of Average Wages as a move towards a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
  • Implement a programme to reduce overall poverty rate to 4per cent within five years.
  • Ensure adequate income through the lifecycle, including adequate payments for children, women, and a Universal State Social Welfare Pension.
  • Support the development of social and affordable housing on State lands.
  • Seek to replace the Local Property Tax with a Site Value Tax and increase the tax-take, while including hardship measures for those who cannot afford to pay it in full.
SDG 4 Quality Education
  • Adopt and implement a national financial literacy strategy. 
SDG 5 Gender Equality
  • Introduce a Universal State Social Welfare Pension.
  • Support high-quality community childcare, particularly in disadvantaged areas.


Wellbeing Indicator 4: Knowledge and Skills

SDG 4 Quality Education
  • Deliver a long-term, sustainable, appropriately funded education strategy that takes a whole-person, life-cycle approach to learning.
  • Make combatting educational disadvantage a priority.
  • Commit to increasing investment in Early Childhood Care and Education by 0.1 per cent of GDP annually to meet the OECD average by 2025.
  • Develop a framework to deliver sustainable funding revenues for higher education over the next five years with a roadmap to 2028.
  • Invest in Lifelong Learning as part of a human capital investment strategy. 
  • Invest in education, literacy and retraining programmes to address NEETs. 


  • Enhance community education programmes and life-long learning through the library network.
  • Ensure full implementation of the ‘Our Public Libraries 2022’ strategy and ensure that its implementation is inclusive and supportive of smaller branch libraries as a hub for local communities.


Wellbeing Indicator 5: Housing and Local Area

SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Invest in initiatives that strengthen social infrastructure – schools, primary care centres, social housing and so on.
  • Support a minimum corporation tax rate of 6 per cent so that large corporations and MNCs contribute to the sustainability of the community in which they are situated.
  • Commit to increasing the total tax take by between €2.5 to €3bn annually. 
  • Review the use of tax expenditures to promote investment in areas that support society. 
  • Expedite the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan, commencing with those with the largest proportion of premises dependent on it.
  • Improve the primary road network across the country to support the increased provision of public transport.


SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Aim to make 20 per cent of all housing social housing, in line with other European countries, within the next 10 years.
  • Shift investment from Family Hubs to Housing First as a long-term strategy to eliminating homelessness.
  • Support community programmes such as sports initiatives, playgrounds, recreational centres, and libraries, to sustain communities.
  • Off-balance-sheet investment in affordable housing and rental. 
  • Ensure that investment is balanced between the regions, with due regard to sub-regional areas. 
  • Ensure rural development policy is underpinned by social, economic and environmental wellbeing and develop an Integrated Rural Development Policy Structure. 
  • Appeal the Eurostat decision in respect of Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies. 
  • Close tax loopholes for property investment vehicles.
  • Invest in integrated, accessible, sustainable and environmentally friendly public transport networks. 
  • Invest in hard infrastructure for cycle lanes.
  • Develop passive housing construction processes to ensure environmental sustainability in housing.   
  • Invest in a deep retrofitting programme for community spaces.
  • Ringfence continued funding to encourage sports participation and active lifestyle programmes.
  • Invest in the provision and maintenance of community spaces, playgrounds, and youth centres.


Wellbeing Indicator 6: Environment, Climate and Biodiversity

SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Continue to provide support and advice to farmers to improve water quality under the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme.
  • Invest in Ireland’s wastewater system.
  • Develop a Drinking Water Safety Plan, following EPA Guidelines, for each public water supply, identifying all potential risks and detailing mitigation and control measures.


SDG 7 Renewable Energy
  • Upgrade the national grid and invest in infrastructure necessary to support a transition to renewable energy.
  • Invest in research and development for the use of renewable energy in our public transport systems.
  • Invest in renewable energy transition programmes for Local Authority offices and community spaces.


SDG 12 Responsible Consumption
  • Introduce a circular economy package for Ireland across all areas of economic activity.
  • Research cradle-to-cradle development.
  • Place a levy on single-use plastics.
  • Invest in the development of short supply chains.
  • Clarify and enforce the Vacant Site Levy legislation to ensure it achieves its original purpose. 
  • Introduce an aviation fuel tax. 
  • Reintroduce the Windfall Gains Tax at 80per cent. 
  • Explore new initiatives to promote behavioural change through the tax system. 
  • Eliminate all single-use plastics from Local Authority buildings and public spaces.
  • Develop open consultation on ambitious waste management plans beyond 2021.
  • Adopt the principles of a circular economy, particularly for construction and demolition waste.
SDG 13 Climate Action
  • Establish a Just Transition and Adaptation Dialogue to ensure rural areas are not disproportionately impacted by low carbon policies and are supported to meet the challenges posed by the future of work. 
  • Develop a comprehensive mitigation and transition programme to transition to a low carbon economy.
  • Increase carbon taxes in line with IPCC recommendations. 
  • Ensure that all people are treated fairly in the creation of policies and projects that address climate change as well as in the systems that create climate change.
  • Develop a comprehensive mitigation and transition programme to support communities and people in the transition to a low carbon society. 
  • Set ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030 and ensure sufficient resources to support implementation of these targets. 
  • Develop Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in each Local Authority area, with the collaborative input of local communities and Public Participation Networks, supported by dedicated sustainable funding in the medium to long-term.
SDG 14 Life Below Water
  • Fully implement the National Integrated Maritime Plan.
  • Regulate harvesting and end over-fishing.
  • Implement policies to restore fishing stocks to sustainable levels.
  • Put a plan in place to tackle pesticides in drinking water.
  • Implement the ‘Nature’ programmes set out in the Climate Action Plan published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.
SDG 15 Life on Land
  • Increase afforestation of native trees and reduce planting of Sitka spruce.
  • Ensure that sustainable agriculture policy, sustainable land management, and short supply chains for farmers and consumers form the basis of future agricultural policy. 
  • Invest in programmes to rewet the boglands.
  • Implement the ‘Nature’ programmes set out in the Climate Action Plan published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Wellbeing Indicator 7: Safety and Security

SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • Fully implement the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 and review the targets set out annually.
  • Fully implement the recommendations of the UN CERD.
  • Expedite legislation on hate crime and hate speech.
  • Reform the High-Income Individuals’ Restriction to include all tax expenditures.
  • Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax.   
  • Utilise the full allocation for Traveller specific accommodation and support the development of sites for this purpose.
  • Fully implement the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy.


Wellbeing Indicator 8: Work and Job Quality

SDG 5 Gender Equality
  • Introduce legislation to support flexible and remote working.
  • Make all sanitary products exempt from VAT.
  • Introduce State-led childcare. 
  • Individualise and equalise social welfare payments.


  • Actively promote gender equality in Local Authority elections and on Boards and Committees of strategic importance.
  • Introduce family-friendly working hours and conditions for councilors and Local Authority staff.


SDG 8 Good Jobs
  • Move Ireland’s total tax-take towards the EU-average by widening the tax base in a fair and just manner. 
  • Make savings on expenditure, but not through cuts in services or infrastructure budgets. 
  • Adjust the EU’s fiscal rules to cope with the post-COVID reality. 
  • Reintroduce the Non-Principal Private Residence Tax at a rate of €500 per annum.
  • Provide an Annual Review of Tax Expenditures. 
  • Simplify the tax system. 
  • Integrate a Sustainable Development Framework into economic policy. 
  • Recognise that, while most additional investment should be on once-off infrastructure, there is also a need to invest in recurring expenditure to generate the structural change and reform required. 
  • Resource the up-skilling of those who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment. 
  • Increase the minimum wage to the level of the Living Wage. 
  • Invest in ancillary community services to remove barriers to employment. 
  • Review the sustainability of jobs created through LEOs and develop plans to ensure the security of decent work.


Wellbeing Indicator 9: Time Use

SDG 3 Good Health
  • Increase supports to carers, including respite hours and home help.


SDG 8 Good Jobs
  • Strengthen and enforce legislation to tackle job precarity and low pay.
  • Develop flexible working initiatives to support remote working and increased participation for people with disabilities.



SDG 17 Partnership for the Goals
  • Implement the Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities Strategy.



Wellbeing Indicator 10: Community, Social Connections and Cultural Participation

SDG16 Peace and Justice
  • National Economic and Social Dialogue / Partnership to include all five pillars.
  • Ensure that all voices are heard and include all stakeholders. 
  • Restore funding to the Community and Voluntary Pillar.
  • Broaden discussion beyond pay and taxation
  • Review planning legislation to ensure that its terms are consistent with the objectives of the Goals and democratic engagement.
  • Introduce impact assessment and poverty proofing on all Government initiatives. 
  • Ensure that Budgetary allocations are valid, realistic and transparent, and take account of existing levels of service. 
  • Legislate for enforcement mechanisms where Local Authorities do not use their full allocation for Traveller Specific Accommodation. 
  • Ensure adequate funding for civil legal aid. 
  • Greater transparency of lobbying activities.
  • Establish a Dialogue Forum in every Local Authority involving Local Authorities and the Public Participation Networks (PPNs).  Fully implement recommendations of the Commission for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Introduce an ex-ante social impact assessment of all policy proposals to be discussed at Oireachtas Committees. 
  • Review building regulations to ensure good ventilation, heating and fire safety standards across all building.
  • Develop a sustainable strategy for public participation, to include medium and long-term objectives and associated budget commitments.
  • Move from an annual funding model for PPNs to a 3 to 5-year renewable commitment.


Wellbeing Indicator 11: Civic Engagement and Cultural Expression

SDG 17 Partnership for the Goals
  • Increase ODA as percentage of GNI, with a move towards the UN Target of 0.7 per cent of GNI by 2025.
  • Adopt targets and a reporting system for the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Tag all Government policies and policy proposals with the relevant Goal(s).
  • Adopt targets and a reporting system for each of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Develop a new National Index of Progress, ensuring social and environmental issues are incorporated into our national accounts. 
  • Develop strategic partnerships with Local Authorities and local government organisations, in Europe and Internationally, to support the implementation of the Goals.
  • Ensure coherence between national and local government policies.