Bhutan, the land of happiness, has witnessed a surge in overall well-being and happiness, as indicated by the recently released 2022 GNH Index report by the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies. The report highlights a significant increase of 3.3 percent in the GNH index compared to 2015, signifying positive progress in various areas such as housing, positive emotions, income, education, services, and literacy indicators over the past seven years. However, amidst the general happiness, the report also raises concerns about declining cultural participation, Driglam Namzha (Bhutanese etiquette), healthy days, and political engagement.
The GNH Index serves as a comprehensive measure of the population’s overall well-being and happiness. It encompasses 33 indicators that assess nine domains of GNH, including psychological well-being, health, education, and good governance.
Based on the report’s findings, the Bhutanese population was categorized into four groups: deeply happy, extensively happy, narrowly happy, and unhappy. The study revealed that approximately 10 percent of the population falls under the deeply happy category, while a significant 40 percent reported being extensively happy. Furthermore, nearly 45 percent expressed being narrowly happy, with only a small proportion of approximately six percent classified as unhappy.
Despite the overall improvements, the decline in good governance and political participation suggests an increasing number of individuals showing reluctance towards voting and attending meetings. Tshoki Zangmo, a researcher with the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies, advocated for expanding the accessibility of postal ballots beyond civil servants to include members of society from the private sector and civil society organizations. Such an inclusive approach would help ensure broader representation and participation in the electoral process.
The researchers also attributed the decline in cultural participation to the restrictions imposed during the pandemic. The limitations placed on gatherings and events had an impact on the ability of individuals to engage actively in cultural activities.
Addressing the report’s launch, Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering emphasized the importance of reconnecting with one of the core principles of GNH, Driglam Namzha, and called for policy revamps to bridge the existing gaps.
The completion of the fourth GNH survey was delayed by two years due to the pandemic. Conducted over a four-month period between April and August last year, the survey interviewed over 11,000 respondents across 198 gewogs (village blocks) and 53 towns throughout the country.