Japan to help Bhutan brush up 'happiness' census

TOKYO - Japan is to dispatch experts to Bhutan to help the tiny Himalayan kingdom boost the accuracy of the way it measures happiness, an official said Thursday.

Unlike other countries' focus on gross domestic product, Bhutan determines how well it is working by plotting "Gross National Happiness", or GNH.

The measure is designed to protect the environment and culture, promote good governance and pursue sustainable socio-economic development.

But the government in Thimphu is concerned that the census it carries out to determine GNH is a little lacking, and has asked Japan for help improve its accuracy.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the nation's foreign aid body, will send three researchers who specialise in social metrics to the country later this year to carry out a sample survey, an official from the agency said.

"And the researchers will analyse the poll and give the Bhutan side advice so that it can improve its survey technique," the official added.

The alternative vision of balancing spiritual and material wealth represented by the GNH has won global attention and praise, drawing a stream of academics and well-being gurus to happiness conferences in the country.

Bhutan, which is about the size of Switzerland, was never colonised and for centuries it relished its independence and isolation from the outside world, maintaining a barter economy and allowing few foreigners to visit.