Since 1971 Bhutan has been measuring the prosperity of its people based on how happy they are, rather than on their gross domestic product. The Guardian have a nice piece on it here. For the last 40 years, this tiny Buddhist state has been measuring its citizen’s Gross National Happiness based on a range of 33 measures across 9 different domains. These measures range from health and education through to use of time, cultural diversity and community vitality. Read the complete explanation here.
In addition to the actual measures, there are some important aspects of the way those measures are taken, summarised below:
- Sufficiency: there is not ‘poverty line’ below which people are unhappy. Instead, each domain has its own achievement target. Achieve that level and you have a score which is deemed ‘sufficient’ for being happy. Here is the important part … Over achievement is not captured! Here is what they have to say on this.
The Gross National Happiness Index takes the position that beyond a certain point, we don’t need to keep adding in higher achievements to the quality of life mechanically; we confine our attention somewhat to a middle band of achievements that contribute significantly to human wellbeing for most people.
- Diversity: The happiness measure is shown as a single number based on the target for each household to achieve 66% happiness, i.e. 6 out of 9 domains. It doesn’t matter which ones. This allows for diversity, and for the concept that not all measures will apply to the entire population.
- Aggregation: By aggregating results, the overall incentive is to bring as many people as possible into achieving happiness. This is very different from the western approach of rewarding the overachievement of a very few (the super rich) to the detriment of the whole.
- Trends: Looking at trends over time, the nation can focus on key domains in need of attention.