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GDP along with GNH would be the right indices

Question attempted: GDP along with GNH (Gross National Happiness) would be the right indices for judging the well-being of a country


– Why indices are needed to assess and express well being of countries?

: To allow for comparison among countries

: To serve as indicators for success/failure of national policies

: To guide national priorities and

: To create space for improvement in different sectors

– No index is perfect, but most popular one being used is GDP. (Define what GDP is)

– Alternative argument of using Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) as an indicator of well being, which is already being used by countries like Bhutan.

: Define what GDH is. (Since there is no standard definition of GDH, one can use subjective criteria. For instance, a survey that asks people about their general level of satisfaction in life.)

– Main argument of the essay: GDH should compliment GDP as an indicator of well being of a country, but happiness is a subjective concept and thus should be crafted carefully to include aspects that reveal true well being of individuals.



* Why GDP is being used as a criteria world over currently?

– Widely available data about incomes

– Comparisons are easy at PPP (Purchasing Power Parity)

– Traditionally, income being considered a main (and sometimes the only) indicator of well being

– Easy to understand indicator and also easy to manipulate/process for analysis


* Why GDP is not enough?

– Focus on GDP results in national policies that just focus on economic growth and not on holistic development

– Income is not best indicator of well being as other aspects that lead to good life such as sanitation, education, equality, empowerment etc. are not considered by this index

– Example of countries such as Costa Rica, Cuba and Bangladesh that have performed well on human development indicator (HDI) despite low incomes shows that income criteria cannot be enough to judge well being


* Why should GDH be considered as a complementary index to GDP?

– It can address concerns that are not limited to economic situation of a country

– Allows for a more creative space for policymaking and setting priorities as a society

– Income may not necessarily lead to happiness and there have been studies to prove that

– World’s richest country (Qatar) is not world’s happiest country (Denmark)

– It will lead to policies that not only focus on economic growth, but also on reducing gender/race/caste inequality, illiteracy, malnutrition etc. because all these can contribute to leading a happy life


* What are the problems in using GDH?

– Happiness is subjective and thus can have multiple inferences.

– Criteria for happiness can differ according to culture, geography and time

– It is difficult to enumerate and measure happiness

– State of happiness can vary for individuals depending on their life situations and thus it is a dynamic concept


* What is the solution?

– A philosophical discussion can ensue regarding the concept of happiness, but there is a need to reduce it to measurable indicators

– Amartya Sen’s approach of development of freedoms and capabilities is a good example of assessing happiness among people

– There is universal agreement about certain aspects of life that lead to happiness, for example having basic freedoms, having choices in life and being able to make those choices, having basic skills to lead a productive life, having equal access to opportunities etc.



– Experience shows that income criteria is not enough to assess well being of people

– There is a need to incorporate other criteria for well being and GDH is a good option as happiness is an indicator of good life

– However, there are difficulties in formulating and using GDH index, but it should be improved with further research and analysis to make it feasible to use

– Ultimately, main concern of the governments world over should not be how rich their citizens are, but it should be how happy they are


  • Keywords here are GDP, GNH, and wellbeing. There should be sufficient focus on all the three instead of getting involved in a long philosophical discussion on what happiness means. There cannot be any conclusion to this debate over happiness, and one can leave it open-ended in the essay as well.
  • Solution should be optimistic and future oriented. However, the concept of GNH should also be scrutinized.
  • The scope of the essay should be clear and concise as one can get carried away in either economic or philosophical aspects of this debate
June 7, 2017

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