In April 2012, a UN High-Level Meeting on "Happiness and Wellbeing" brought world leaders, experts, and civil society together to develop a new economic model. The meeting built on Bhutan’s innovative approach, which aims not for economic growth, but for gains in happiness. Bhutan’s holistic perspective includes traditional areas of socioeconomic concern such as living standards, health, and education, as well as less-traditional aspects of culture and psychological wellbeing. In 2010, the Government of Bhutan funded the first-ever representative sample of Bhutanese households to measure happiness. The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS), the prime Bhutanese think tank, requested support from IDRC to train their staff and to tap into international technical advice to prepare a happiness index based on this new data.
CBS wanted to build on an IDRC-funded methodology. Sabina Alkire and her staff helped CBS adapt the Alkire-Foster methodology of multidimensional measurement developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. The resulting index sets thresholds for each of the more than 100 variables. The index then identifies four groups of people: unhappy (10%), narrowly happy (49%), extensively happy (33%), and deeply happy (8%). The Bhutanese government plans to focus policies on how it can increase happiness and sufficiency among the unhappy and narrowly happy people.
CBS has benefitted from Canadian expertise by involving Prof. John Helliwell from the Department of Economics at University of British Columbia. Helliwell, together with well-known economists Richard Layard from the London School of Economics and Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University, edited the first-ever World Happiness Report
. In April 2012, the United Nations launched the report, which describes in detail how happiness is measured in Bhutan and the United Kingdom. It also lays out plans to promote standard data collection on happiness in different countries. In October 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will organize a conference in New Delhi
to build on the report.
After the conference, CBS is planning to host a meeting of happiness experts in Bhutan as part of the IDRC project.
Read recent articles on Kuensel On Line, Bhutan’s daily news site, by Dasho Karma Ura, President of the Center for Bhutan Studies: