Case Studies

Bhutan – Gross National Happiness Index

Tags: Wellbeing Policy Design

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The pioneer of the Wellbeing Economy movement was the country of Bhutan, which in seeing the failures of GDP as the sole indicator of development, created a Gross National Happiness index to gauge the wellbeing of its citizens. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is inspired by the Buddhist concept of “The Middle Path” and seeks to balance multiple goals. The term is defined as “a multidimensional development approach seeking to achieve a harmonious balance between material wellbeing and the spiritual, emotional and cultural needs of society.”

As a development philosophy, GNH was fleshed out in 1998, in a document outlining the government’s vision for the next twenty years of development. They envisioned an alternative approach to development which:

“…achieves a balance between the spiritual and material aspects of life, between peljor gomphel (economic development) and gakid (happiness and peace). When tensions were observed between them, we have deliberately chosen to give preference to happiness and peace, even at the expense of economic growth, which we have regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve improvements in the well-being and welfare of the people.”

Bhutan proposes GNH as an alternative indicator for GDP to measure progress or development. Bhutan introduced their concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) in 2008 to track domains such as health, education, good governance, ecological diversity and community vitality.

The Bhutanese government uses a policy screening tool to help the GNH Commission assess policy proposals against its Gross National Happiness framework and set conditions for businesses to add value to society and the environment.Bhutan’s GNH survey assesses attainment across the nine domains of GNH and uses this information for five year development plans and reporting on budgets that speak to the five year plans.

The level of GNH for an individual and for Bhutan as a country are determined through measures in nine domainsviewed as vital for happiness and wellbeing: Living Standards, Psychological Wellbeing, Health, Time Use, Education, Cultural Diversity & Resilience, Good Governance, Community Vitality & Ecological Diversity and Resilience. Each domain was chosen based on wellbeing research which demonstrates its link to wellbeing and happiness. These 9 domains are regularly measured through 33 indicators.

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