Effectiveness of the development strategy for happiness in post MDGs

Takahashi, Yoshiaki (2012). "Effectiveness of the development strategy for happiness in post MDGs" Paper presented at the 9th annual conference of the HDCA, 5-7 September 2012, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Happy people are not necessarily ones with economic success. Easterlin (1974) showed the “paradox of happiness", substantial increases in real per capita income do not correspond to increases of individual happiness, and the research on happiness has been developing interdisciplinary since then. As a result, these researches reveal that, in particular, socioeconomic condition such as unemployment, housing, physical and mental health, and connectedness with family and community are important factors for people’s happiness. However, it has examined mainly among developed countries. How about people for developing world? This paper discussed the meaning of happiness for developing countries by answering to two questions: 1) if happiness is meaningful for an indicator to evaluate development or social progress; and 2) if so, what kinds of factors happiness embodies. Exploring the meaning of happiness for people living in developing countries is a key area for post Millennium Development Goals starting from 2015. This paper used two dataset: the Gallup World Poll and World Database of Happiness. As a result, the correlation between the Human Development Index (HDI) and happiness was not extremely high. For instance, correlation coefficient between the HDI and the Gallup Suffering Index was 0.31 and 0.15 for all countries and developing countries, respectively. I also looked at differences of the ranks by the HDI and happiness. 52 countries are ranked by the HDI ten ranking lower than the one by the Gallup Thriving index. When I looked at the relationship between Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Indicators and happiness, most of MDG Indicators do not statistically explain about people who lives happily in the developing countries. Therefore, as for the first question, happiness is an important alternative measurement for development. As for the second question, I took up two measures to identify factors embodying happiness in the developing countries: suicide rates as a proxy of mental health and fragile states as a proxy of political and social instability. Statistical analysis shows that happiness captured aspect of mental health and social/political instability in the developing countries, which are not included in HDI or MDGs. This paper showed that happiness embodies other factors than traditional development indicators such as the HDI and MDGs. However, mental health and social instability is only a part of the components of happiness. The further questions may include analysis to evaluate the meaning of mass-consumption lifestyle and cultural differences. In this regard, it is particularly critical in capturing social goal and social design for the 21st century. In July 2011, under joint proposal from 68 countries led by Bhutan, the United Nations adapted the resolution on happiness towards holistic approach to development. I hope this paper encourages discussion about how happiness promotes proper and sustainable development for citizens, societies and also for universe.
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