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Prelims Capsule


Is Bhutan the Happiest Country in the World GNH Philosophy

Is Bhutan the Happiest Country in the World GNH Philosophy


  • GS 3 || Economy || Structure of the Indian Economy || National Income & its measures


  • The term Gross National Happiness is a term coined by the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the
  • In 1972, Sicco Mansholt, one of the Founding Fathers of the European Union also gave emphasis on GNH.
  • Jigme Singye Wangchuck during the 1990s popularized the concept of GNH.
  • 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.

Gross national happiness

  • Gross national happiness (GNH) is a measure of economic and moral progress that the king of the Himalayan country of Bhutan introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to gross domestic product. Rather than focusing strictly on quantitative economic measures, gross national happiness takes into account an evolving mix of quality-of-life factors.
  • It includes an index that is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population.
  • The Bhutanese government takes the four pillars of GNH into account when deciding to pass laws.
  • The “four pillars” of GNH are
    • Good governance
    • Sustainable development
    • Preservation
    • Promotion of culture and environmental conservation. 

Bhutan – the happiest country in the world

  • Bhutan, a small, landlocked mountainous least developed country (LDC) in South Asia is next in line to graduate from the LDC category in 2023. It is best known for its philosophy of promoting Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Bhutan and the UN Resolution on Happiness and Development

  • In 2011, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, introduced by Bhutan with support from 68 member states, calling for a “holistic approach to development” aimed at promoting sustainable happiness and wellbeing.
  • The Gross National Happiness Index is a single number index developed from the 33 indicators categorized under nine domains. The Centre for Bhutan Studies constructed the GNH Index using a robust multidimensional methodology known as the Alkire-Foster method.

World Happiness Report 2021

  • The World Happiness Report 2021 has been released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
  • Finland was once again crowned as the world’s happiest country, for the fourth consecutive year.
    • Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Norway followed Finland.
  • The annual report ranks nations based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy, and the opinions of residents.
  • People in war-torn Afghanistan are the most unhappy with their lives, followed by Zimbabwe (148), Rwanda (147), Botswana (146), and Lesotho (145).
  • India and GHP
    • India has been ranked 139 out of 149 countries on the list of UN World Happiness Report 2021.
    • In 2020, India was ranked at 144 out of 156 nations
    • In 2019, India was ranked 140th.

Issues with GDP as a measure for growth and development of a nation

  • As per Robert F. Kennedy – The gross national product includes for the health of our children, the quality of their education, and the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
  • Furthermore, GDP makes no distinction between economic activities that raise a country’s wealth and externalities like natural disasters and pollution, which consume a significant portion of GDP. Many aspects of life’s worth cannot be entirely represented by GDP, but they can be measured by indicators like health, education, political freedom, and so on.
  • Amartya Sen distinguished between “commodities,” which are measured in GDP, and “capabilities,” which are not.
  • Sen’s and Mahbub Ul Haq’s efforts contributed to the HDI (“Human Development Index”) replacing GDP. Making a lot of choices while calculating GDP can lead to skewed findings, even if the choices are legitimate. Unpaid homework, for example, is omitted from the calculations despite its obvious economic relevance.
  • Furthermore, the importance of government initiatives, such as health-care provision, is sometimes overlooked.

Significance of GHP as a measure of development in a nation

  • GNH is a unique and very significant approach to national and global development, in which a country’s progress is not only dependent on economic development but also on the non-economic factors of well-being.
  • These factors are
    • GDP per capita,
    • good health and healthy life expectancy,
    • someone in the family to count on,
    • freedom to make choices in life,
    • freedom from corruption, and
    • generosity
  • GNH aims at improving the conditions of all people in the society, irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion and economic background, which in turn can improve the entire economy.
  • Peace and happiness are the two essences of GNH. Gross Happiness measures socio-economic development by emphasizing Economic Wellness, Environmental Wellness, Physical Wellness, Mental Wellness, Workplace Wellness, and Political Wellness.

Scenario across the world

  • Since the 1970s, Bhutan has been using an index of Gross National Happiness instead of GDP to measure success.
  • Many other countries have been trying to replicate the Bhutan model of happiness maximization.
  • In the US, for instance, the state of Maryland officially reports a measure called Genuine Progress Indicator which accounts for inequality, environmental degradation, health, and leisure.
  • In 2016, Madhya Pradesh became the first Indian state to set up a “Department of Happiness”.
  • Many nations, including economically developed nations (e.g., Japan, South Korea), are now looking up to Denmark and other happy societies, just as many underdeveloped nations used to look up to the United States and other economic powerhouses.

Challenges with replacing GDP with Happiness Index

  • According to several expert opinions, quantifying happiness is difficult since happiness implies different things to different people.
  • Take, for example,
    • The 2016 World Happiness Report –The study is based on replies to questions like “how people see their lives,” in which people are asked to rate their current life on a scale of 0 to 10.
    • Gallup’s survey asks individuals about their sentiments and experiences “smiling, stress, pain, enjoyment “and then combines the replies to form an index.
  • The issue with such techniques is that the data, or the responses to the questions, are not spatially or temporally independent. People in some nations may be hesitant to reply favorably even when they are “glad.”
  • On the other hand, due to societal and political influences, some people may feel obligated to say that they are content with their lives.
  • This makes happiness comparisons between countries extremely difficult.
  • The accuracy of surveys in measuring happiness over time is dubious at best. As a result, the effort to replace GDP with a happiness index is what courtiers are apprehensive about.
  • GDP: The more reliable measure
    • Despite its fair share of problems, the measurement of GDP is a fairly robust exercise.
    • The GDP measures the total output of all goods and services produced using prices as a common metric of value.
    • Although it often excludes the informal economy or unpaid labor, the fixity of its definition across countries and over time makes it a reliable yardstick.

Way forward

  • Ministry of Happiness
    • Today’s deeply divided society has to be patched up with peaceful, reconciliatory, and diplomatic means like education, awareness, and social safety net. India needs a Ministry of Happiness with academicians, economists, psychologists, and social thinkers to map the road to happiness forever.
    • The quest of humanity for another habitable planet must begin with making our own planet happy and liveable.
  • GDP and GNP can’t be overlooked- According to various World Happiness Reports, economic variables such as GDP explain a large portion of the variation in happiness as measured by happiness indices.
    • Happiness is found in the quest for riches and material well-being, at least in the developing world.
    • As a result, developing countries have always looked up to economically prosperous nations. These countries’ main objectives were to increase their GNP and GDP.
    • However, developing countries like Bhutan are increasingly looking for a model of the nation that promotes residents’ subjective well-being.

Mains model Question

  • What do you understand by Gross National Happiness (GNH) index? Examine why India’s rank in the GNH index is low compared to some of its neighbors.