Are you happy with your personal income? Are you satisfied with your education? Do you trust politicians and your local council? These are some of the questions the British government wants answers to, in its quest to find out the state of the nation beyond just the economic data.
The Office for National Statistics published the list of 10 indicators of well-being on Monday, a year after the government announced plans to officially monitor the country’s happiness.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said his “happiness index” could help form the basis of his coalition government’s future policies. “We’ll continue to measure GDP as we’ve always done. But it is high time we admitted that, taken on its own, GDP is an incomplete way of measuring a country’s progress,” he said last year.
The list of national well-being indicators was drawn up following a five-month debate involving 34,000 people on the question “What matters to you?”
Top of the list of measures of the nation’s happiness will be individual happiness. Six other factors bearing on personal well-being – the state of relationships, health, education, occupation, income, neighbourhood – will be gauged. Governance, the economy and the environment will also be factored in.
Respondents would be asked about their job satisfaction and whether they feel they achieve a balance of work and leisure activities. They will also be asked about their financial situation and their relationship with their husband or wife.
On neighbourhoods, they would be asked about their involvement in their local area and sense of belonging, as well as feelings of personal safety.
Questions about education, the importance of learning new things and satisfaction with the standard of the national education system would also be included.
Official statistics on what percentage of the population voted, the state of the economy and the natural environment will be added to give context.
After a consultation exercise, which ends in January, statisticians will consider scrapping indicators from the shortlist or adding new ones. A summary of people’s views will be published next spring, between March and May.
The first happiness index, called the Gross National Happiness (GNH), was developed in Bhutan in the 1970s to replace GDP data.
The Centre for Bhutan Studies, the government’s think-tank, did an exhaustive sample survey and determined that a happy society involves the four pillars of economy, culture, environment and good governance. It conducts surveys once every two years based on the indicators and then screens all policy initiatives to ensure they enhance GNH.
In Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced in 2009 that he intended to include happiness and well-being in France’s measurement of economic progress.
Mr Sarkozy was responding to recommendations made by two Nobel economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, who called on world leaders to move away from a purely economic concept of gross domestic product, which measures economic production, to well-being and sustainability.
Statisticians in Canada also poll subjective well-being across the country though it is not part of their official data set.
For more information: http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC111103-0000089/Britain-asks-its-citizens–Are-you-happy