Happiness, as a concept, has been trivialized and dismissed as unattainably utopian. These have since been elaborated into an index of nine essential domains that are integrated, individually critical, mutually dependent and enriching. The GNH Index, as such, exemplifies integrated thinking not least for the reason that it connects performance national progress with purpose the pursuit of happiness - an end goal for humankind and the planet through a process of in-depth analysis and discovery.
The Bhutanese government uses integrated reporting as a way of stimulating integrated thinking and vice versa about how Bhutan can create value now and into the future. The nine indicators are described as follows [ 36 ]:. By gathering information on disposable income, the levels of material wealth or poverty experienced by different sectors of the population are determined and income inequalities are noted.
Economic security is ascertained by collecting data on, for example, land ownership, food security and employment. Health — measuring the physical health status of the population. In addition to life expectancy, mortality and morbidity rates, it incorporates individually reported health status and health risk behaviours. Other examples of GNH status indicators include the percentage of the population sampled reporting healthy levels of physical activity and the percentage reporting healthy weight.
Education — reporting on a number of factors, including participation, skills and educational support; informal, non-formal and monastic education; and the national, community and family resources that influence education.
Other examples include the percentage of the population sampled reporting strong skills and knowledge in at least five important areas, and the percentage reporting a high level of family, civic and cultural knowledge. Ecological diversity and resilience — assessing the state of natural resources, the pressures on ecosystems, and different management responses. In terms of supply, the surveys review the status of land, water, forest, air and biodiversity. In terms of consumption, the domain looks at factors such as production, waste, transportation, energy use and ecological footprint.
As Bhutan orients its natural resource use towards sustainability, status indicators include the percentage of the population sampled reporting sustainable natural resource practices in their communities. The prevalence of sustainable resource use at the local level is measured, assisting in registering the effectiveness of renewable resource use policies.
The impact of global warming and its threats are also being measured. Cultural diversity and resilience — informing on the diversity and strength of cultural traditions in Bhutan. This takes into account the nature and number of cultural facilities, language use patterns and diversity, as well as participation in community-based religious activities.
The surveys also review responses regarding core values, local customs and traditions, and changes in values. Thus, status indicators such as the percentage reporting good or excellent knowledge in a certain number of traditions reflect the degree to which members practice and maintain traditional skills and forms of knowledge. Community vitality — focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of relationships and interaction within communities.
Status indicators include the percentage reporting a high sense of trust in people, the percentage reporting a high level of vitality in the community, the percentage reporting voluntary activities, and the percentage reporting feelings of safety within their own home and community. These enable policymakers to track the changes in community vitality and help Bhutan to devise appropriate and timely strategies to prevent disintegration of community life and to strengthen social capital.
In this regard, the family network is considered to be vitally important social capital. Time use — analyzing the manner in which time is spent within a h period, and activities of longer duration. The data helps determine how the population spends its social, cultural, economic and human capital. From it, the percentage of time accorded to work, travel, food preparation, household chores and so on is calculated. Status indicators include the percentage reporting a satisfactory pace of life, time spent on community activities and time spent on social or family activities.
One important function of time use is recognizing the value of leisure time. Psychological wellbeing — encompassing contentment or satisfaction with various aspects of life, and health of the mind. As happiness is the main goal under a GNH society, psychological wellbeing is of primary importance to gauge the success of the state in providing appropriate policies and services. As psychological wellbeing of the population is an outcome of life circumstances related to societal conditions, it is also an indicator of wellbeing for the community and society as a whole.
A self-reported mean happiness score, based on a point scale for international comparison, is one of the primary means of evaluating the sense of psychological wellbeing of citizens. Good governance — evaluating five subdomains: participation in decision-making; effectiveness of government; just and equal law; freedom and quality of media; and transparency, accountability, honesty or corruption.
Each year, Parliament spends a full day discussing the results and determining where policies and actions are needed to resolve areas of deficit, or low happiness. It is important that the domains and indicators are understandable to everyday people so they can serve not only as a policy tool, but also a way for people to envisage the different ways they can be happy in their lives.
The full methodology and formulas of the GNH have been tabulated in an Appendix elsewhere [ 10 ] but can be understood in summary form as follows:. In respect to measurement, each of the domains are equally weighted, since each one is considered as important as the next.
Each domain has a set of indicators, as follows:. Psychological wellbeing : Life satisfaction, Positive emotions, Negative emotions and Spirituality;. Ecological Vitality and Resilience : Wildlife damage, Urban issues, Responsibility towards environment, Ecological issues;. Unlike the domains that are equally weighted, the indicators listed above do not have equal weighting. Concommitantly, the subjective self-reported indicators are weighted more lightly than the objective measures.
There are subjective, self-reported measures for each indicator. So, for example, in the Psychological wellbeing domain, the Life satisfaction indicator has four subjective measures: health, occupation, family standard of living and work—life balance. In order to determine where happiness lies, two thresholds have been developed. The first is the sufficiency threshold: who has enough.
This is developed using international and national standards, and where not available, it relies upon normative judgements devised through a participatory process. The second is the happiness threshold. This allows for variations in the measurement of happiness.
In reporting, the results are stratified by gender, region, age and occupation. Profiles are also collected to provide qualitative understanding of different groups. Each of the above features is taken into account to determine what action to take. This process has six steps: 1 select the indicators; 2 apply the sufficiency threshold; 3 apply weights to each indicator; 4 apply the happiness threshold; 5 identify those who are happy and those who are not happy; and 6 apply a policy priority for those not yet happy.
Every annual State of the Nation Report is submitted to the Parliament to inform, raise questions and concerns on how the nation is progressing on the ground. The government also developed a GNH policy-screening tool which mandates that every new policy, plan or project has to be evaluated against the nine domains and their indicators. To obtain government approval, a proposal must be GNH positive. Accordingly, Bhutan has welcomed the assistance given from around the globe in developing and refining the Index.
The GNH is not without detractors, however. Key critiques are summarized below, together with responses to these claims. However, the Bhutanese reject this, pointing out that the GNH incorporates the GDP, using it to measure the state of development in the economic domain and its many variables. GNH measurement is strongly dependent on subjective data, often understood to be less scientifically rigorous than quantitative data.
Aligned is the critique that the nature of happiness itself is a personal concept and hence is inevitably subjective, and as such is it not appropriate to guide the governance of any nation. Disregarding subjective information frees governments from taking into account what should constitute their primary obligation of enabling the pursuit of wellbeing and happiness by their citizens. The GNH paradigm assumes that variability of happiness among people is critical in evaluating various aspects of governance.
Where deep unhappiness exists, surely something is wrong. Daga [ 38 ] notes additional critiques, including methodological critiques of the feasibility of GNH surveying in large, highly populated countries, especially considering the highly variable demographics of such countries, as well as the time and resource costs, including the lengthy completion time for each survey and around 9 months to complete the national survey in Bhutan.
This feasibility critique certainly holds true for cities in developing countries with large numbers of informal residents, housing and employment, and lack of ready data to enable random sampling. Carrying out a rigorous survey methodology under such conditions is highly problematic.
While other measures could achieve this more easily, the intent and aligned process of the GNH make it inherently valuable. On the positive side, the GNH exemplifies a holistic, all-encompassing index that serves to inform policy and decision-making for sustainable development in Bhutan.
The GNH enables action at local, regional and national levels, as well as the ability to target specific disadvantaged groups and particular aspects of unhappiness needing attention. It provides Bhutan with a values-based method of focusing policies and budgetary allocation on those who need it most. The GNH has influenced global politics, notably playing a role in the thinking and deliberations that led to the framing of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the year period ending Ban Ki-moon made note of countries and regions that have implemented human wellbeing metrics beyond income: France, Italy, Japan, Qatar, the UK and the European Union as well as Bhutan.
Other countries in Asia, South America and the Middle East have also embraced the goal of human wellbeing, with the United Arab Emirates appointing a happiness minister. It exemplifies a reporting framework with integrated measurement that can inform and drive effective, cohesive policies, investments and decisions on the part of government, industry and commerce, as well as civil society and the community.
The GNH Index is cyclical, with surveys administered annually, analysed and then deliberated by Parliament annually at a one-day session specifically dedicated to examining the results of the GNH. Accordingly, policies and budgets are set to address for the forthcoming year the key areas of concern. This is an effective way of institutionalizing the SDGs as an integral component of governance and a critical concern for the country. Having an overarching driver — gross national happiness — is a key to the success of the GNH, and similarly can integrate and highlight the SDGs in ways that are locally and nationally meaningful.
Each SDG is not simply something that gets scored at the national and international level to meet international obligations, but instead each target has local meaning, just as each domain of the GNH is either integral to the way of life of the Bhutanese or seen as a desirable goal.
It exemplifies integrated thinking for sustainability. Research is integrated with policy development and decision-making in a process that encourages reflexivity at every step. The GNH offers a different paradigm of how to aim towards a more livable world. It is uncertain whether the Bhutanese are happier now than before the adoption of GNH.
Yet research has shown that the Bhutanese people are happy with the direction and the strategy it has given the country [ 40 ]. Thus far, Bhutan has managed to balance modernity with tradition and the material with mental, and it has made cautious steps towards growth that is sustainable. This success inspired Bhutan to make the daring pledge before the international community that Bhutan will forever remain carbon neutral.
Its many manifestations are not in museums and tourist-attracting events but in the way Bhutanese live every day and the way they remain proud of their distinct identity. With the introduction of democracy, and the precedent of good governance under benevolent kings, responsive, efficient and accountable governance is a commitment of those in power and is a constant demand of the electorate. As Bhutan has now undergone its third general elections since the introduction of democracy, the Bhutanese people have experienced yet another peaceful transition of power.
The Economist magazine ranked Bhutan as the fifth fastest growing economy in the world in and as the third best performing economy for with an estimated GDP growth of 7. The Sustainable Development Goals progress report shows that Bhutan is doing reasonably well on these indicators and is listed among the top performers on poverty eradication [ 27 ].
In essence, GNH is more about qualitative life improvement than quantitative economic expansion. While this creates some constancy to the concept of happiness, it does continue to evolve with increasing information about what is known intuitively or proven scientifically. Currently, the concept of personal happiness tends to be accepted as comprising two aspects: the affective the emotional and the evaluative life satisfaction.
Overall, however, the concept of happiness involves the balance of material and non-material values, of co-existence with other people, living creatures and the environment. The trivialization of happiness, we contend, has been one of the most damning mistakes society has made. When people dismiss happiness as a utopian fantasy, policy developers and decision-makers chase everything but what matters most to our wellbeing, fulfilment and happiness. Driven by the paradigm of happiness, Bhutan could demonstrate new ways of fostering human wellbeing while leaving behind a smaller ecological footprint.
The overriding goal of happiness supported by the GNH Index provides the government with a framework for exercising authority, devising plans, rules and processes that align with a clear sense of purpose and clear lines of accountability. Further, the Index not only integrates the SDGs, it also provides the government with the tools and philosophy to drive their pursuit in everyday life.
With the GNH Index as the national scorecard for progress, the government has the mechanism to measure, report and act upon policies needed to address inequality and unsustainability, and aim towards universal wellbeing. It is an exemplar of planetary stewardship, so critical for our cities and our people, not just to survive but to thrive within a more balanced world.
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The authors were supported during the writing of this manuscript by their respective institutions. Curtin Univeristy Bentley, Kent St. The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach and emphasizes the importance of ensuring the overall happiness of the people without being sidetracked with the statistics of Gross Domestic Product GDP.
The ultimate goal of GNH is happiness and to ensure a good quality life for the people through people centric development approach. The concept GNH, rather than GDP, as a development objective and philosophy is a unique approach to national and global development.
Four major thrust areas have been identified as the main pillars of GNH. These are: fair and sustainable socio-economic development; conservation and promotion of a vibrant culture; environmental protection; and good governance as the key to ensure the successful implementation of the other three pillars of GNH.
Rather than focusing strictly on quantitative economic measures, gross national happiness takes into account an evolving mix of quality-of-life factors. The GNH has evolved into a somewhat scientific measure of the once-isolated kingdom's economic and moral development. Bhutan could then share this framework with the outside world, with which the isolated Himalayan country was increasingly in contact.
These are good governance, sustainable development, preservation and promotion of culture, and environmental conservation. The constitution dictates that lawmakers must take each into account when considering new legislation. These pillars provide the foundation for the happiness, which is manifest in the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience.
The report draws upon data collected and refined in pre-surveys in and , then a formal survey in In this report, the center provides an overview of national performance across the nine domains described above. The research allows for so many components and domains of happiness because it operates on the assumption that happiness is a multidimensional concern. True contentment follows from the sense that others are happy, not just the self.
In Bhutan, the pursuit of happiness is a collective one, though a significant portion of the sentiment comes from within. The nine-domain structure of GNH attempts to capture that multidimensional pursuit. Mousumi Roy. Elsevier Science. The Financial Times. University of Oxford. Podcast Episodes. Portfolio Construction.
Your Money. Personal Finance. Your Practice. Popular Courses. Key Takeaways Gross national happiness GNH is a measure of economic and moral progress that the country of Bhutan introduced in the s as an alternative to gross domestic product. For this, we need leaders who can establish spaces for dialogue and development, and who can ensure that technical debates do not form a barrier to progress, that we take full advantage of the diversity of skills and experience already engaged, and that the big picture is always kept in mind.
I encourage you to take the opportunity to read the statement, to share it within your organisations, to sign on, and to join us as we move towards a better understanding and appreciation of the complex and beautiful world in which we live. Developed by the Capitals Coalition and UNEP-WCMC , the Navigation Tool compliments the Biodiversity Guidance by steering practitioners through a series of interactive questions to help them undertake a biodiversity-inclusive natural capital assessment.
The tool also offers supporting resources, tools, methodologies and advice to assist an assessment based on user responses. Biodiversity constitutes the living component of natural capital and underpins the success of businesses around the world. But the benefit that biodiversity provides to organizations can be hard to fully understand, and even harder to effectively measure and value. It is designed to help businesses and financial institutions to better understand the value they receive from biodiversity, and to apply this knowledge as they make decisions, through a biodiversity-inclusive natural capital assessment.
Two primers accompany the Biodiversity Guidance and Navigation Tool. They set out the value that organizations will receive from carrying out an assessment , and an overview of how to conduct the assessment. Capitals Approach Discover the Capitals Approach. Discover the Coalition. Discover All Projects. Discover Impact. November 10, Share. Join the Coalition You can join the Coalition as an individual or as an organization. Join as an organization.
Join as an individual. Natural Capital Protocol Translations Arabic. Simplified Chinese. Explore the Biodiversity Guidance.