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JICA-RI Research Fellow Joined the Conference on New Survey of Happiness in Bhutan

November 22, 2012

The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) organized “the Meeting of Practitioners and Scholars of Happiness” in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan on October 30 and 31. Together with happiness experts from Asia and other parts of the world, JICA-RI research fellow Yoshiaki Takahashi attended this conference as one of advisors for the next survey on “Gross National Happiness (GNH)” that aims to measure happiness and wellbeing in Bhutan.


In view of the findings of the previous survey in 2008, participants examined in detail the design of the next survey, which is scheduled for next year. In this conference, Takahashi made comments based on the outcomes of previous research on happiness in Japan and developing countries including: (1) With the conventional method for measuring happiness in Bhutan, the majority of people choose the mid-point on a 0-10 scale. The mean value of Bhutan is, therefore, lower than that of Japan. However, it is likely that their culture, which is similar to other Asian countries, may have some effect on taking a middle course. To verify this, it is imperative to research the “ideal happiness”; (2) Though surveying time use is important for measuring happiness, those respondents in the previous survey were asked how they spent their time on the day prior to the survey date. It resulted in no distinction between days of the week (weekday or weekend), seasons or months (busy or quiet period for farmers). Days of the week and seasons need to be appropriately apportioned.
At the end of the meeting, Dasho Karma Ura, President of CBS, requested the participants: “This meeting marks just the beginning of the next survey of GNH. I would like to ask for your continued cooperation.”


During his stay in Bhutan, Takahashi visited villages around Paro, where he exchanged views on happiness with local people. On his visit to one of the local primary schools, he was invited to a class to ask students when they feel happy. The majority of the students responded in relation with those people close to them: “When I spend time with my family,” “When I can help my friends or parents in times of trouble,” “When I make new friends,” and “When my community is going well.” Such responses prove that Bhutan society values people. On the other hand, a rush to build  vulnerable condominiums against earthquake on the outskirts of Thimphu, as well as a shift to a motorized society where cars career at breakneck speed alongside children playing in the street on their way to and from school has brought a troubled mind to Bhutan society that have been searching balance between development and happiness.


Takahashi Gave Presentation with a Title of “Does other person’s happiness make you happy?” at ISQOLS Conference in Venice, Italy


Takahashi moved to Venice where he had a presentation at the 11th conference organized by the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) in Venice, Italy from November 1 to 4. At this conference, Takahashi spoke of his studies on how relationships with others play a pivotal role in happiness, developing his presentation at the 4th OECD World Forum in October. Ruut Veenhoven, professor emeritus of Erasmus University Rotterdam, a recognized authority on happiness studies, chaired the session. He commented that Takahashi’s presentation contributed to this field of study with an expectation for further research and analysis. Takahashi also had an opportunity to discuss the semantic difference between the meaning of happiness and that of satisfaction with Prof. Richard A. Easterlin, ‘the father of economics of happiness,’ of the University of Southern California, who gave a keynote lecture at the conference.

DayOctober 30, 2012(Tue) - October 31, 2012(Wed)
PlaceThimphu, Bhutan
Related LinkJICA-RI Shared Research Result on the Significance of Subjective Well-Being for Public Policy at OECD Meeting

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