Gross National Happiness

According to the GNH Centre Bhutan, Gross National Happiness is “a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all the facets of life that are essential; for our happiness.” His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan, in 1972 questioned whether the prevailing measurement system (Gross Domestic Product – GDP) alone could deliver happiness and well-being to society.

Four decades later, Bhutan’s 2008 constitution stated that “The State shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.”

The GNH Center further defines Gross National Happiness:

4 Pillars of GNH

Good Governance
Good Governance is a considered a pillar for happiness because it determines the conditions in which Bhutanese thrive. While policies and programs that are developed in Bhutan are generally in line with the values of GNH, there is also a number of tools and processes employed to ensure the values are indeed embedded in social policy.

Sustainable Socio-economic Development
A thriving GNH economy must value social and economic contributions of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in Happiness.

Preservation and Promotion of Culture
Happiness is believed to be contributed to by the preserving the Bhutanese culture. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.

Environmental Conservation
Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because in addition to providing critical services such as water and energy, the environment is believed to contribute to aesthetic and other stimulus that can be directly healing to people who enjoy vivid colours and light, untainted breeze and silence in nature’s sound.

9 Domains of GNH

The four pillars are further elaborated into nine domains, which articulate the different elements of GNH in detail and form the basis of GNH measurement, indices and screening tools.

  1. Living standards
  2. Education
  3. Health
  4. Environment
  5. Community Vitality
  6. Time-use
  7. Psychological well-being
  8. Good Governance
  9. Cultural resilience and promotion

These 9 domains, clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are important in creating the conditions for happiness…In accordance with these 9 domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyse the happiness of the Bhutanese people.

To measure GNH, the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH published survey reports based on its GNH Survey and index, most recently in 2015. This is then “used to clarify areas in which the conditions for happiness exist and those where public action is required to establish the conditions of happiness”. Internationally, additional related research has been performed, such as the UN’s World Happiness Report.

Democracy in Bhutan

The country has been a constitutional monarchy since 2008; the Druk Gyalpo (King of Bhutan) is the head of state. The secular government has executive, legislative and judicial branches, plus the religious Dratshang Lhentshog (Monastic Affairs Commission).

Elections take place at both national and local levels. Legislative bodies include the National Council (upper house) and National Assembly (lower house). Local governments include Dzongkhags (districts), Gewogs (village blocks), and Thromdes (municipalities). In the most recent 2018 elections, the previously unrepresented Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa – DNT (Bhutan United Party) received the most votes and its leader Lotay Tshering became Prime Minister.