The Centre for Bhutan Studies has released a short publication, “GNH and GNH Index: A Short Guide to the Gross National Happiness Index” providing background on the concept of Gross National Hapiness (GNH) and its measurement. The authors – Karma Ura, Sabina Alkire, Tshoki Zangmo – present information on the origins of GNH and focus especially on the 2010 GNH Survey, the first official national survey on GNH in Bhutan. They then go on with explaining the compounds of the GNH Index with its nine domains and 33 clustered indicators that are based on 124 variables. The domains include:
- psychological well-being
- time use
- community vitality
- cultural diversity
- ecological resilience
- living standard
- good governance
As can be seen from the selection of the domains, the GNH Index is truly multidimensional and the authors really highlight this feature. They point out that “in the GNH Index, unlike certain concepts of happiness, in current western literature, happiness is itself multidimensional – not measured only by subjective well-being, and not focused narrowly on happiness that begins and ends with oneself and is concerned for and with oneself.” In Bhutan say the authors ” the pursuit of happiness is collective though it can be experienced deeply personally.”
It is also stressed, on the other hand, that despite being a complex measure useful in the government policy settings, the GNH Index can also be decomposed into the ‘building blocks’ and used by other organizations and citizens.
The authors of the guide also inform that the outcomes of the GHN Survey can be used to identify where unhappiness is arising from and for whom. These findings can then be used to determine groups of “not-yet-happy people” and improve their conditions. In the GNH Index, people are considered “happy” when they have sufficiency in 66% of the (weighted) indicators or more, those below 66% are considered “not-yet-happy.”
The results of the 2010 GNH Survey in Bhutan have shown that the insufficiencies of not-yet-happy people differ in different parts of the country. In rural areas, not-yet-happy people tend to attain less education, living standards and balanced use of time, while in urban areas, not-yet-happy people are typically insufficient in non-material domains such as community vitality and culture, and psychological well-being.
Links: A Short Guide to GNH and GNH Index, Centre for Bhutan Studies, Gross National Happiness, Educating for GNH
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have produced a joint report on resource use trends and green growth strategies in the Asia-Pacific Region. The report, titled “Green Growth, Resources and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific” and released in February 2012, highlights the changes that have occurred in the policy landscape in the Asia-Pacific Region since 2005.
The authors of the report note that leaders in this region increasingly recognize that “to reduce poverty and increase resilience, a greater focus is needed on achieving a better quality of growth.” They propose that in order to achieve this aim, an “expanded range of economic, social and environmental considerations, must become as important as, or even more important than, expanding gross domestic product.” The report also acknowledges that “green growth strategies, on their own, cannot address the root causes of poverty” and suggests further policy research and analysis of the links between persistent poverty, inequality and resource use. The report concludes with a recommendation that the major green growth opportunity in the Asia-Pacific Region lies in the “ability of economies to reduce the quantity of resources used by the built environment.”
The Beijing-based China Economy Research Institute, a think-tank of China Economic Weekly under People’s Daily News Group, recently published the “2011 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Quality Rankings.” The rankings have been published annually since 2009, so the current 2011 report is the third of its kind. The 2011 rankings lists the Chinese mainland’s 31 provincial-level regions based on their per capita GDP quality, or residents’ income happiness index (the ratio between per capita disposable income and per capita GDP, calculated as of Feb 22, 2012).
The website China.org.cn, an authorized news portal site established by the Chinese government, reports on the fact that “statistics show that regions with a greater GDP aggregate were not necessarily ranked high in GDP quality. Instead, some of them even came in near the bottom. In 2011, the top five regions with the highest GDP were Guangdong at 5.3 trillion yuan (US$820.59 billion), Jiangsu at 4.86 trillion yuan (US$752.46 billion), Shandong at 4.54 trillion yuan (US$702.92 billion), Zhejiang at 3.2 trillion yuan (US$495.45 billion) and Henan at 2.7 trillion yuan (US$418.03 billion). However, in terms of GDP quality, Guangdong came in third, Jiangsu 21st, Shandong 25th, Zhejiang fourth, and Henan 24th. Most notably, Guizhou Province, a mountainous region in southwestern China, took the fifth spot in 2011 though its GDP of 0.56 trillion yuan (US$86.7 billion) was ranked only 26th near the bottom.”
These findings show that, in Chinese provinces, the quality of GDP does not correlate with GDP ‘quantity‘. This is an issue that China’s economic experts have started to highlight in recent years. As China.org.cn puts it: “In recent years, China’s economic experts have pointed out that GDP should not be worshipped blindly. It’s more vital to consider its contributions to the improvement to people’s income, livelihood and sense of happiness.”