Known As The Kingdom Of Happiness, Why Is Bhutan Ranked 95th In The World Happiness Report 2019?

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The discrepancy in the results provided by the World Happiness Report and the GNH Survey lies in the criteria and methodology used to assess ‘Happiness’.

Happy girls dancing in Haa Valley, Bhutan. (Source: Hiveminer)

By Staff Writer | Daily Bhutan 

The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness in which 156 nations are ranked by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The 2019 report specifically focusses on happiness and the community and how happiness has evolved over the past 12 years.

The report also examines the way that social norms, technologies, conflicts and government policies have shaped happiness over the years. It is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, in partnership with the Ernesto Illy Foundation and written by a group of independent experts acting in their personal capacities.

Launch of the 2019 World Happiness Report on the International Day of Happiness

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognised happiness as a fundamental human goal. It called for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes happiness and well-being.

In 2012, the first-ever UN conference on Happiness took place and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. It was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

The World Happiness Report 2019 was released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations on 20 March. As one of the Bhutanese attending the high-powered event in the grand dining room of the UN Headquarters, one could not help but wonder why Bhutan was ranked 95th.

Graphic: World Happiness Report 2019

Where did we go wrong? And do we really deserve this ranking? On second thoughts, I figured out the reasons - we have our very own version of measuring happiness using the Gross National Happiness (GNH) survey which differs from the criteria used for the World Happiness Report.

According to the last GNH Survey conducted by the Centre for Bhutan Studies and Gross National Happiness in 2015, the 2015 GNH index showed that on the scale of zero to one, the happiness of the Bhutanese has increased from 0.743 in 2010 to 0.756 in 2015.

This translates into an overall increase of 1.8%. Moreover, 91.2% of people reported experiencing happiness while 43.4% of people said that they are deeply happy.

Therefore, the discrepancy in the results provided by the World Happiness Report and the GNH Survey lies in the criteria and methodology used to assess ‘Happiness’.

Criteria and methodology used by the World Happiness Report

The World Happiness Report (WHR) ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

The WHR happiness index is ranked through a Gallup survey based on a questionnaire of the variables, using a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the happiest.

The Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Denmark which took the top 5 positions, scored well above 7.00 while Bhutan scored 5.082.

Source: Youtube/TIME

However, based on the results given by our respondents of 2000 Bhutanese, the GNH survey done by the Center for Bhutan Studies in 2015 yielded a score of 6.88. This would have ranked Bhutan somewhere around the 20th position in the WHR 2019.

Criteria and methodology used by the GNH survey 2015

Since the foundation of Bhutan, spirituality and compassion have been integrated with governance. Moreover, this integration has occurred at both the personal and the institutional levels. The GNH Survey and the GNH Index are designed to guide actions to advance happiness all across Bhutan.

 

 

Graphic: Centre for Bhutan Studies and Gross National Happiness 

The criteria used by the GNH Index is holistic and explores each persons’ life in nine domains: (1) psychological wellbeing, (2) health, (3) education, (4) time use, (5) cultural diversity and resilience, (6) good governance, (7) community vitality, (8) ecological diversity and resilience, and lastly (9) living standards.

Another factor that could have caused Bhutan to be ranked 95th is its relatively low GDP per capita compared with Scandinavian countries that dominate the top 10 positions.

According to The Straits Times, 7 things to know about the 2017 World Happiness Report, this could also explain why Bhutan, “apocryphally regarded as the happiest nation in the world for inventing the Gross National Happiness metric, has somehow never performed well on the Happiness Report.”


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