Introduction to Wellbeing Economics


This course is intended to give participants an introduction to the concepts and evidence from wellbeing economics most useful in a policy context. Wellbeing economics supports better public policy to improve human lives. It explicitly recognises the canvas of human concerns beyond income and material consumption, and draws on knowledge from other disciplines such as psychology and philosophy. Yet it also applies and builds on well-established tools in welfare economics, such as constrained dynamic optimisation and comparative institutional analysis. These tools help explain why people make the choices they do, and the role policy can play to promote broad and sustainable wellbeing in liberal democracies such as Aotearoa New Zealand.

Payment is possible by invoice, purchase order and credit card.  To register click on the button below and you will be directed to our secure online form.

SKU: Wellbeing-2023 Category: Tag:


With Tim Ng, Strategic Economic Advisor, NZ Treasury

Cost: This course is provided by the Government Economics Network (GEN) at a cost of $750 plus GST per person.

Date/Time: Dates coming soon

Location: Room 3.31, Treasury, 1 The Terrace

Target audience and assumed background

This course will be most helpful to policy analysts who want to strengthen their policy analysis by understanding the basic intent and terminology used in wellbeing economics, including in applied tools such as the Living Standards Framework. For example, policy problem statements and intervention options may best be described in terms of wellbeing impacts. Or, issues of human capabilities, agency and fairness and their nexus with wellbeing may be relevant for the design and delivery of public services programmes. Policy analysts may want to navigate better the tensions inherent in different approaches to understanding, measuring and intervening to promote wellbeing.

This course assumes familiarity with basic microeconomic concepts and analysis, such as that covered in the GEN course Introductory Microeconomics, or beginning undergraduate level microeconomics.


This course provides participants with a basic understanding of the origins and applications of wellbeing economics. Participants will discuss how wellbeing economics has both drawn on traditional tools of welfare microeconomics  and strengthened the connection from economics to related disciplines such as psychology and philosophy. The growth of wellbeing economics will be discussed as a response to the increasing complexity of contemporary policy problems and the perceived limitations of “traditional” economic analysis centred on market-mediated income and consumption.

It covers two broad areas of the literature relevant to policymakers: subjective wellbeing, and the capabilities approach most closely associated with Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. To varying degrees and in different forms, these approaches are being applied in policy contexts in New Zealand and a growing number of other countries. The course will include discussion of the methodological gaps and weaknesses that remain to be filled.

Course objectives

On completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Link wellbeing economics concepts to frameworks and tools used to support the measurement and assessment of wellbeing and their application in policy, such as the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework (LSF), social cost-benefit analysis and sustainability analysis.
  • Understand the positive and normative issues that wellbeing economics seeks to address.
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the subjective wellbeing and capabilities approaches to wellbeing analysis.
  • Orient themselves to the academic and practitioner literature in wellbeing economics.

Session outline and delivery

The course will be delivered over five 3-hour sessions on the same day of the week, one week apart. Content is provisional – to be discussed with participants on Day 1. Emphasis subsequently may shift depending on participants’ expressed interests.

Day 1 (half day)

  • Key concepts from welfare economics, and critiques: “wellbeing” perspectives.
  • The subjective wellbeing approach.
  • The capabilities approach.

Day 2 (half day)

  • Wellbeing economics tools: social cost-benefit analysis and its limitations.
  • Adding apples and oranges: the problem of commensurability.

Day 3 (half day)

  • Who defines wellbeing? Wellbeing inequalities and the problem of agency.
  • Intergenerational wellbeing, comprehensive wealth and sustainability.

Day 4 (half day)

  • Applications of wellbeing economics in New Zealand and overseas policy contexts: the LSF and other examples.
  • Unresolved issues and future directions.

Day 5 (half day)

  • Participant-led debate and discussion: topic(s) to be agreed in class.

Much of the course is lecture based. There will be also class discussion on contemporary New Zealand topics in most sessions; participants will be encouraged to contribute to these discussions. Participants will be asked to participate in a final structured moot where they debate in teams topics of contemporary interest selected by the class.

Cancellation policy

By submitting this Registration Form, you are confirming your availability to attend the GEN Training Course.

  1. Cancellation will not be accepted. The booking will be charged and invoiced with the full fee.
  2. If a registrant is unable to attend the course, the registration may be transferred to another suitable person to attend 2 days before start. All transfer requests must include the new attendee’s name, email address and telephone number and received in a written format and can be emailed to
  3. No refunds will be given by GEN for no-shows.

DECLARATION: I hereby certify that I am duly authorised to complete this registration form and have read and understand the terms and conditions as stipulated above.