There are many measures used to rate the health of countries, but they tend to look in a purely macroeconomic way that doesn't relate to the economic reality of most people.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the sum of all economic output of a country, but its use as a benchmark promotes possible unnecessary outputs and hides economic disparities.
GDP is often used to rate the economic strength of a country, so those that have lower GDPs have tended to be considered less important than the major players in global economic circles like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This leads smaller economies to seek trading treaties with major players, who often exact excessively favourable economic terms in return, but also may require certain political compromises.
Of course, besides possibly penalising their citizens economically due to higher domestic prices for imported goods, such deals favour those who have influence over their respective governments, while also undermining domestic efforts at achieving more equitable societal outcomes, just because the obligations under international treaties often override national regulations.
Those smaller economies will then use the treaties to justify pushing for greater economic outputs from their citizens, and those corporations pushing the treaties will have expanded preferential opportunities to exploit those countries' resources and peoples. This fuels a cycle of exploitation that creates more inequality.
A related figure used to compare the individual value of peoples' output across countries is GDP per capita, which is simply the GDP for a country divided by the number of its people. This has a couple of consequences. Firstly, it reduces people to being rated on how much money they make for their employers, and secondly, it devalues those in poorer countries with low wages, even if their actual output in goods or effort is the same as those in richer countries.
Like any aggregated value or those derived from it, GDP hides disparities that are only apparent once the figures are classified by subgroups, so if there are huge disparities between peoples, making blanket judgements and decisions based upon such single figures are likely to disadvantage the great majority, while favouring those who are able to weather any adverse effects.
This tokenisation of peoples' value gives those in positions of power an excuse to treat those with lower outputs with contempt, and countries with lower GDP per capita as of lesser importance, though useful for labour force exploitation.
The performance of the stock market is held up as an important measure of economic health, but it one that is only directly relevant to the small minority of society that can afford to invest.
The stock market is devoted to trading shares in publicly listed companies. This makes it largely irrelevant to small business which employs most people, and only affects those who work for such public companies because those in charge make decisions based on their market value. And while many more are engaged in small stock market speculation, they are the few that have enough disposable income to gamble with. For most, the day-to-day stock market values do not affect them, other than what those who do have some influence over society choose to do in response to them.
Unfortunately, those who do get to pull society's levers place a lot of value on the stock market, probably because they and their friends and associates have significant investments. Now, while major corporations may have significant effects upon how we live our lives, they pale in comparison to how much governments can do so, so when privileged investors or their lackeys put pressure on governments, we all get affected, and mostly adversely due to an inordinate amount of policies that favour those corporations, making them significantly richer while the rest of us foot the bill.
While many may have superannuation, which solely relies upon investments in public corporations, they are more geared to long-term investment and so are not generally involved in pressuring governments to do them short-term favours. However, their board members and executives are likely to have similar circles of friends to other large investors, and so are likely to share similar political outlooks, which tend to be less worried about everyday people and their concerns, and sometimes even hostile to even considering such concerns.
This means that they will still be privately funding pressure groups that favour the privileged and want government policies that do that. With so many huge vested monetary interests making decisions based upon the stock markets and their index values, societies are subject to a lot more influence by those values than they otherwise should be.
The other problem with stock markets is shareholders, and while businesses need money to grow and produce, by getting investment money, they are tied into having to provide ongoing returns to their shareholders, which saps funds that would otherwise be put back into the business and their employees' hands. So, while a business might have a level of operation that may work for all concerned, they have to keep providing shareholder value, often leading to having to ramp up operations to cover those overheads. This can lead to a lot of stress for their workers who have to keep up.
A country with a low unemployment rate is supposed to indicate that its citizens are well off, but it can be used to hide the true levels of economic disparity.
A country with a low unemployment rate supposedly means that everybody who wants a job is able to get one. But that is totally at the mercy of the term
wants as the reason for wanting can vary from being economically forced to to a desire that is unreachable for the many who are not able to work due to physical or mental health issues.
In general, societies penalise those who don't work, regardless of the reason. This is based on the rationale that society cannot function if people are not producing goods or providing services because they are not doing their fair share of the work in maintaining the operation of society. Basically, they are considered parasites. The problem with this whole scenario is that a few are reaping a severely disparate share of the rewards for not much more effort than anyone else.
What remains after that huge chunk is taken out is then left to be scrabbled over by the rest. The more healthy of those have to work full-time to survive, leaving the less skilled to have to resort to multiple gig jobs to stay above water, and the less healthy to wallow in poverty. This is where privilege breeds economic advantage that saps the ability of the rest to catch up, leading to deeper cycles of wealth inequality.
With such a system skewing the fortunes of a society, instead of everyone being able to have to work less, most are forced to work long hours in what a huge minority feel are not worthwhile efforts, let alone that vast majority who dislike their jobs. This has artificially kept the number of hours people need to work well beyond what society would otherwise have needed to sustain itself.
So, the baseline for what is considered full-time employment is over-inflated, presenting a high bar for what being fully employed is considered, while making it more difficult for many to be fully employed. Vilifying people who don't meet this high mark further serves to force the rest to make sure they work full-time no matter what, of course persuaded by many of those in privileged positions using advertising to make sure those who do have any disposable income to part with it at the earliest opportunity, and preferably going into debt to do so.
Into this forced scenario, we then have the unemployment statistics, which can be another weapon in the fake culture war of full-time employment. In Australia, a person is considered employed if they work only one hour per week. This means that there are many who would be below the poverty line that would never show up in the statistics.
This significantly hides the actual number who are unemployed or underemployed, further giving a sense of shame to those who don't seem to be able to live up to society's economic expectations of them, and who would otherwise rightly ask why the economic system is so deliberately stacked against them if they knew how many others were similarly disadvantaged by it. Many more who are not so disadvantaged would also rightly question why the system needs to hide such downsides if it is supposed to give us all prosperity.
All these numbers hide economic inequities, and so are used to stave off serious examination of the damage caused by rampant economic exploitation.
Aggregate figures are used to gain macroeconomic insights into a country's economic health, but lose usefulness if they are used as the principal drivers of the political choices driving economic policies. This is because making decisions that ignore economic disparities will worsen those disparities because those decisions will ignore the lesser ability of the majority to adjust to the ensuing changes, while the few that can weather the changes will have more opportunities to exploit those in weakened positions.
It just seems that too many times, irrelevant or misleading numbers are being used as the basis of much more than they should really be applied to, leading to bad economic outcomes for the majority, while protecting those that have the ability to exploit those bad outcomes. We need more education directed towards informing people of what those numbers really mean and how to avoid falling for the propaganda that accompanies their promotion and use.