Bhutan GNH Index

GNH: Concept

Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s. The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The concept of GNH has often been explained by its four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. Lately the four pillars have been further classified into nine domains in order to create widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values. The nine domains are: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. The domains represents each of the components of wellbeing of the Bhutanese people, and the term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness.

The GNH Index: What is it?

The Gross National Happiness Index is a single number index developed from 33 indicators categorized under nine domains. The GNH Index is constructed based upon a robust multidimensional methodology known as the Alkire-Foster method (Click Here for More).

The GNH Index is decomposable by any demographic characteristic and so is designed to create policy incentives for the government, NGOs and businesses of Bhutan to increase GNH. The 33 indicators (Click Here for an Excel file with more details) under the nine domains aim to emphasize different aspects of wellbeing and different ways of meeting these underlying human needs. The 33 indicators are statistically reliable, normatively important, and easily understood by large audiences (Click Here for a detailed write-up on this). The domains are equally weighted (Click Here  to view a PDF file on Weighting).  Within each domain, the objective indicators are given higher weights while the subjective and self-reported indicators are assigned lower weights.

The 2010 GNH Survey:

The Gross National Happiness survey was carried out in 2010 with representative samples taken at district and regional levels. The survey was administered using the GNH questionnaire which gathered data on a comprehensive picture of the wellbeing of Bhutanese. The survey gathered data from 7142 respondents; 6476or 90.7% of the respondents had sufficient data to be included in the GNH Index.

The 2010 GNH Index: Highlights

The methodology basically provides three types of results: headcount, intensity and the overall GNH index. Headcount refers to the percentage of Bhutanese who are considered happy, and intensity is the average sufficiency enjoyed by the Bhutanese.

  • Headcount= 40.9% – This means that 41% of Bhutanese have sufficiency in six or more of the nine domains and are considered ‘happy’.
  • Intensity = 43.4% -The 59% of Bhutanese who are not considered ‘happy’ lack sufficiency in 43% of the domains. Nine domains times 0.43 = 3.87. Thus unhappy Bhutanese on average lack sufficiency in just under four domains and enjoy sufficiency in just over five domains.
  • GNH Index = 0.743 – the GNH Index ranges from 0 to 1. A higher number is better. It reflects the percentage of Bhutanese who are happy and the percentage of domains in which not-yet-happy people have achieved sufficiency (headcount and intensity).

What else did the GNH Index reveal about happy people?  Here are some highlights:

  • Men are happier than women on average.
  • Of the nine domains, Bhutanese have the most sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological wellbeing, and community vitality.
  • In urban areas, 50% of people are happy; in rural areas it is 37%.
  • Urban areas do better in health, living standards and education. Rural areas do better in community vitality, cultural resilience, and good governance.
  • Happiness is higher among people with a primary education or above than among those with no formal education, but higher education does not affect GNH very much.
  • The happiest people by occupation include civil servants, monks/anim, and GYT/DYT members.   Interestingly, the unemployed are happier than corporate employees, housewives, farmers or the national work force.[1]
  • Unmarried people and young people are among the happiest.
  • There is quite a lot of equality across Dzongkhags, so there is not a strict ranking among them. The happiest Dzongkhags include Paro, Sarpang, Dagana, Haa, Thimphu, Gasa, Tsirang, Punakha, Zhemgang, and Chukha.
  • The least happy Dzongkhag was SamdrupJonkhar.
  • The ranking of dzongkhags by GNH differs significantly from their ranking by income per capita. Sarpang, Dagana, and even Zhemgang for example, do far better in GNH than in income.
  • In terms of numbers, the highest number of happy people live in Thimphu and Chukha – as do the highest number of unhappy people!
  • Thimphu is better in education and living standards than other Dzongkhags, but worse in community vitality.

[1]The 2010 GNH Survey is not representative of all these groups, so these results are illustrative only.

GNH 2010 Index Part I

This PowerPoint includes introductory slides explaining the concept, indicators, domains, weighting structure, sufficiency thresholds, happiness threshold, and the overall GNH index and its components.

Download this PowerPoint [right-click – save-file-as]

GNH Index Part II

The PowerPoint analyses happiness. It looks at who is happy by scrutinizing important demographic characteristics of happy people, as well as how they are happy – what indicators contribute most. Analysing happiness is key to developing policies to sustain happiness – particularly in non-traditional domains like community vitality and psychological well-being.

Download this PowerPoint [right-click – save-file-as]

GNH Index Part III

The PowerPoint analyses shortfalls from happiness. Who is not happy? What do they lack? Analysing the shortfalls from happiness is essential to develop policies to increase GNH. These policies include developing special support for certain groups (the uneducated, women, farmers and national work force members), as well as focus on regions.