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27 Jan, 2012

More Than Half of “Happiness Country” Bhutanese Are Not Happy

Gyalsten K Dorji, Kuensel / Asia News Network

26-01-2012, The Gross National Happiness index based on results of the GNH 2010 survey shows that 41 per cent of Bhutanese can be classified as happy, while 59 per cent are “not-yet happy”, according to an analytical presentation available on the GNH website.

The categorising was determined by a sufficiency threshold and a happiness threshold. For a person to be considered happy, sufficiency in at least six of the nine domains of GNH needed to be met.

The sufficiency threshold is how much a person needs to enjoy sufficiency in a particular domain and to create a happiness condition. The sufficiency thresholds were set using international (i.e. millennium development goals, international labour organisation) and national standards. Normative judgments and participatory meetings with local communities were also used to set sufficiency thresholds.

Next the happiness threshold is determined by looking at whether a person enjoys sufficiency in more than 66 per cent, or six GNH domains. A person who enjoys sufficiency in six or more domains is considered happy. About 41 per cent of Bhutanese enjoy sufficiency in six or more domains, so according to the GNH index, are considered happy.

Bhutanese have the most sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological wellbeing, and community vitality, it was found. In urban areas, 50 per cent of people are happy, while in rural it is 37 per cent. The unmarried, and the young are among the happiest people in Bhutan.

Around 59 per cent of Bhutanese did not fulfill the thresholds of being sufficient in six or more domains and were classified at “not-yet happy”. Of this, 67 per cent are women and 51 per cent are men.

The findings show that on average, the “not-yet happy” have insufficiency in four domains, with education being the highest contributor to unhappiness.

Within the education domain there are four indicators: knowledge, schooling, literacy, and value. More than 50 per cent of Bhutanese are insufficient in three of four indicators. Bhutanese experience low levels of knowledge in cultural and historical aspects of the country, and in health and politics, irrespective of demographic characters. Insufficiency in literacy and schooling came next, although the presentation points out that policies are in line for its advancement.

More than 40 per cent of Bhutanese were found insufficient in two of four indicators of good governance. By region, in urban areas, the highest insufficiency is in governance, time use, and culture, while in rural areas, it is living standards and education.

The findings also shows that even among those considered happy, there are insufficiencies in knowledge, participation in festivals, donations, having more than six years of schooling, enjoying government services, political participation, and believing in the practice of driglam namzha.

By gender, men are happier than women, and the highest per centage of happy and “not-yet happy” people are found in the dzongkhags of Thimphu and Chukha.

Besides measuring and categorising people into the happy or “not-yet happy” groups, the GNH index, using a formula, also calculates the real GNH index for 2010, which comes to 0.743. The GNH index is measured on a scale of 0-1, a higher number being better.

The GNH index is used to understand happiness by finding how many people are happy and how they are happy. It seeks to increase happiness by also finding those who are “not-yet happy” and where there are insufficiencies.

The nine domains of GNH: Living Standard; Health; Education; Time Use; Good Governance; Ecological Diversity and Resilience; Psychological Well-being; Community Vitality; Cultural Diversity and Resilience