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Measuring GNH

While much recognition has been accorded to GNH, there has also been much criticism, and most of which is directed on the difficulty of measuring GNH in quantitative terms. Bhutan’s determination to develop the GNH vision in concrete terms took a big step forward with the preliminary findings of rare GNH indicators.

The Centre for Bhutan Studies [CBS] had identified nine provisional GNH indicators that were used in the pilot survey to measure GNH in Bhutan. To avoid an isolated implementation of the study, and to arrive at a realistic measurement of GNH, the CBS had done extensive researching and assimilated lessons from “like-minded” organisations from as far as Canada and the UK.

The 9 provisional indicators which were used in the survey are:

  1. Standard of living,

2. Health of the population,

3. Education,

4. Ecosystem vitality and diversity,

5. Cultural vitality and diversity,

6. Time use and balance,

7. Good governance,

8. Community vitality, and

9. Emotional well being

This was a very encouraging sign as it came at a time when Bhutan was facing a most difficult challenge on the GNH policy, which is its measurement. Bhutan's GNH indicators were developed to reflect GNH values, determine GNH policies, and track GNH progress , and can reveal the conflicts of interests and the tradeoffs. Therefore, the indicators would specifically guide GNH-oriented allocation of public resources, maintain GNH as a public discourse, provide baselines and yardsticks of performance of local and national bodies, and encourage pro wellbeing behaviour among citizens.

 

These GNH indicators will be useful to measure changes and approximate the movements in the collective happiness of the Bhutanese population, which would then be a useful planning tool to drive, guide and evaluate the policies, decisions and performance of the government. In light of the political transition to a parliamentary democracy and the rapid economic growth, it was felt specially important that the danger would be that economic indicators could take over.

The first GNH pilot survey was conducted by the CBS between October 2006 and January 2007. The importance of the survey was that the GNH indicators would be able to support Bhutan in its pursuit of the GNH policy and whether certain things are going in the right direction because of interventions.

According to this pilot survey, more than 68 % of the Bhutanese are very happy with their lives. The survey showed that Bhutanese people rate income, family, health, spirituality, and good governance as their most urgent requirements to be happy.