Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a term coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who in 1972 stated that GNH is more important than GNP (Gross National Product).
The origins of GNP lie in the work of Simon Kuznets in the 1930s. GNP has since been used by countries as a measure of economic growth and progress despite Kuznet's view that 'the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income'.(1) Furthermore Robert F Kennedy in 1968 remarked that:
Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things....the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play... GNP measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.(2)
GNH marks an economic paradigm shift based on strong sustainability principles. This new paradigm implies that the continual pursuit of economic growth (with ever higher GNP/GDP) can lead to the collapse of ecosystems and social systems needed to sustain life on earth. The GNH concept also implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.
The concept of GNH can be explained by its four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation.
The four pillars have been further classified into nine domains in order to reflect a truly holistic range of GNH values. The nine domains are: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.
The domains represent each of the components of wellbeing of the Bhutanese people.