The Happy Planet Index does away with GDP in favor of a formula that includes happiness and personal well-being.
It upends what you think of as successful countries.
What is economic success? For years, the answer has been growth–as much of it as possible. And the yardstick has been Gross Domestic Product, or the sum total of a country’s transactions. Countries are successful when their economic activity increases–even if that activity isn’t strictly desirable. GDP doesn’t discriminate between sales of semi-automatic handguns, say, or haircuts–making it a crude guide.
Equally, critics of GDP say it fails to account for environmental performance, or the sustainability of progress. Countries can appear rich, while at the same time depleting their resources, and polluting themselves. Moreover, countries can grow fast without actually making their citizens happy, which is surely the point of all the striving.
Laura Stoll, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation, a U.K. think tank, says we need new ways of assessing what success is, with more emphasis on sustainability and people’s lived experience. GDP doesn’t tell us how people actually feel about their lives, she argues, or how confident they are in the future.
“GDP is a good measure of transactions. But increasingly GDP and life satisfaction are grown apart in many places. Rising GDP doesn’t, in a lot of cases, translate to rises in well-being.”
NEF’s alternative is the Happy Planet Index, which recently appeared in its sixth edition. The HPI takes three sets of data: the life satisfaction, as measured by the Gallup World Poll, which asks people to rate their lives from 0 to 10; life expectancy, from the UN Human Development report; and ecological footprint (the per capita amount of land needed to maintain a country’s consumption levels).
The Latest Streaming News: Happy Planet Index updated minute-by-minute