Can economies carry on growing forever? What‘s the aim of constant growth? Avenir Suisse’s new Avenir Spezial report “Growth – why, how much and how?” (with a graphical supplement on “What it brings”) combines articles on a subject that affects us all, but remains somehow hard to grasp. Decades of steadily rising affluence have prompted indifference, even scepticism, towards the goal of more growth. Our new publication underlines how greatly economic growth has contributed to society – but also how to treat growth responsibly.

It takes a certain level of affluence to be able to “afford” doubts about the value of economic growth. That’s the only way to explain the growing uncertainties about growth in highly developed countries like Switzerland. But it’s often forgotten that the most important driver of growth is the basic human ambition to strive forwards and do better. Technological progress, from unnoticed innovations to pioneering breakthroughs, inevitably drive growth – as Avenir Suisse’s new publication Growth – why, how much and how” shows.

10 good reasons why we need growth:

  1. Health: Growth and technological progress have allowed us to treat illnesses that were incurable until recently. We’re not just living longer, but also more healthily.
  2. Happiness and wellbeing: Growth makes people happier. There is a positive correlation between per capital GDP and degrees of happiness – as shown in the “World Happiness Index.”
  3. Self determination: Whether related to lifestyle, job, hobbies or even choice of holiday destination, we today decide far more for ourselves, and enjoy far greater mobility, than our predecessors. Often, technological progress has opened the door to societal developments.
  4. Leisure: Greater economic growth provides higher incomes and more leisure time.
  5. Social Security: Rising per capita GDP and social spending are correlated. Rich countries in particular can afford comprehensive social welfare.
  6. Distribution: Income redistribution without growth means better incomes for some can only come at the expense of less for others. The result: wasteful battles over redistribution.
  7. Generational fairness: Most western societies have created and built up their social welfare systems on the back of future generations. Without growth, it would be even more difficult to finance old age care, with the burden falling on the young.
  8. Use of resources: Technological progress has led to a steady and continuous decline in per capita consumption of materials in Switzerland, falling from 46.1 tonnes a head in 1990 to 42.1 in 2013.
  9. Environmental protection and quality: Growth doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment: rich countries in particular show concern about environmental standards.
  10. The fight against poverty: The most efficient weapon in the fight against poverty is economic growth. Thanks to growth and globalisation, there has been more progress in combating poverty in the past 50 years than in the previous 500.

Growth is indispensible and makes life easier. Who would willingly do without washing machines, antibiotics or smartphones – let alone health care or old age cover? But growth shouldn’t be bought at the expense of future generations. It’s precisely because growth is indispensible that it has to be treated responsibly. Undesirable side effects should be avoided and negatives repercussions on the environment or resources minimised to raise the overall benefits. Avenir Suisse’s latest publication shows in detail just how important, and how difficult, this all is. A poster style supplement illustrates growth’s most important achievements through clear graphics.

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