Gross National Happiness – an indicator of the future?

Gross National Happiness – an indicator of the future?

While the whole world measures development by means of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Bhutan rejected this indicator in 1972 and introduced its own index ­­– Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Undoubtedly, the Kingdom of Bhutan is rich in what we, city dwellers, could only dream of. The tiny Himalayan country offers its citizens and visitors breathtaking mountain views, crystal clear water, fresh air and an outstanding biodiversity, which, combined with Bhutan’s culture and religion, mainly Buddhism, win it a reputation as a heaven on earth.

On the other hand, the living conditions of the nation, which is one of the poorest in the world, differ significantly from what we are used to consider as well-being tantamount to fully satisfying, joyful life. 70% of 800 thousand people have no electricity and one quarter of the Bhutanese are forced to survive on no more than $1.25 a day. What makes them so happy then?

According to Bhutan’s minister of education, Lyonpo Thakur S. Powdyel, the question reflects western people’s incomprehension of GNH idea. „GNH is an aspiration, a set of guiding principles through which we are navigating our path towards a sustainable and equitable society,” he says.

And, indeed, A short guide to GNH Index presents  happiness as a multidimensional concept that cannot be gauged only as a subjective personal well-being. The idea is based on four main pillars: long-lasting and fair socio-economic development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and promotion, as well as good governance, but indicators are actually estimated in, so called, nine domains: psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, as well as living standards. There are 33 cluster indicators which draw on 124 variables! Such a  complex notion may be happiness.

This holistic approach is to evaluate the situation in particular areas and to help in setting directions for government policies and programmes, which in fact realize the GNH concept in practice. Integrating GNH principles into the education system  makes it not only focus on maths, science or history, but also convey the philosophy of living in harmony with nature. Environmental protection has been placed in the centre of public policies as the Bhutanese, being dependent on agriculture and other activities in the traditional sector, discern and understand the imminent threat of irreversible climate change.

To turn the tendency around, the small nation needs support from the world. Other countries’ sins against the environment affect Bhutanese natural conditions severely. The changes include the lack of snow in winter, rains that come at the wrong times, violent storms and higher temperatures. All this ruins small-scale farms around the country.

No wonder that Bhutan sought international partners’ positive response to its GNH concept in Doha, holding UN climate talks. And after many years of indifference and disrespect from the rest of the world, trusting only in solid economic factors, Bhutan has the chance to arouse interest. Even the richest understand that the western well-being is ephemeral like a soap (or credit) bubble and the world needs to build something more sustainable to avoid serious consequences of economic crises.


(English-Polish translation)

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Produkt Krajowy Brutto (PKB)

Gross National Happiness (GNH)Szczęście Narodowe Brutto

breathtakingzapierający dech (w piersiach)

tantamount torównoznaczny z


sustainablezrównoważony, trwały

gaugedmierzony, liczony

draw onkorzystać z, wykorzystywać (the report draws on data from companiesw raporcie wykorzystano dane pochodzące z firm)

discerndostrzegać, rozpoznawać




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