Bhutan, India’s small, landlocked neighbour, has discarded the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as an indicator of its growth and development. Instead, the country has picked a rather unique concept to determine its growth. Bhutan believes in the GNH (Gross National Happiness), which is a count of the collective happiness of the nation. Bhutan’s government or rather the fourth dragon king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, coined this concept way back in 1972, believing that the GDP was a flawed concept that could not measure the resource depletion of the country or the overall health (life expectancy) and satisfaction of its citizens.
The first Gross National Happiness Survey was carried out in Bhutan in 2010, with Bhutanese participating from every administrative region. The survey was carried out using the GNH questionnaire, which focused on an individual’s holistic well-being. Over the years, the survey has been able to track the changes in economy and government policies as well as determine their effect on the people. For example, according to the surveys, the government was able to determine that GNH increased significantly from 2010-2015 by 1.8%.
Following this example, several other countries have begun to reflect on the well-being of their citizens. Even though they are not shifting away from GDP completely like Bhutan did, these countries have now established developing centers to measure the happiness, or rather well-being, of their citizens. Canada has developed a Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the United States of America is having The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index since 2012, UAE and Venezuela have special ministers dedicated to tracking the overall happiness of their citizens and even in India, Madhya Pradesh set up a department of happiness earlier this year. Even the UN has been releasing an index for happiness since 2012.
In fact, IIT Kharagpur in West Bengal launched a happiness course in September 2016 where students will research the science behind happiness. The courses will be offered at graduate and post graduate levels and will focus on teaching students about the science of happiness, stress management, coping with loss and the need for positive psychology. At higher levels, the course will change pattern and focus on positivity and inner peace.
As Robert Kennedy said in 1968, “Our Gross National Product…counts air pollution and cigarette advertising…special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder…It measures everything, in short….…except that which makes life worthwhile.” The development of these centers is a great start towards focusing on factors other than monetary values to determine the growth of a nation.
In this episode of the Intersection, Samanth Subramanian and Padmaparna Ghosh talk about how to measure this seeming immeasurable aspect. Listen to the podcast here to find out more.