Happy Planet Index

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Map showing countries shaded by their position in the Happy Planet Index (2006). The highest-ranked countries are bright green; the lowest are brown.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an index of human well-being and environmental impact that was introduced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in July 2006. The index is weighted to give progressively higher scores to nations with lower ecological footprints.

The index is designed to challenge well-established indices of countries’ development, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI), which are seen as not taking sustainability into account. In particular, GDP is seen as inappropriate, as the usual ultimate aim of most people is not to be rich, but to be happy and healthy.[1] Furthermore, it is believed that the notion of sustainable development requires a measure of the environmental costs of pursuing those goals.[2]

Out of the 178 countries surveyed in 2006, the best scoring countries were Vanuatu, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, and Panama, although Vanuatu is absent from all later indices.[3] In 2009 Costa Rica was the best scoring country among the 143 analyzed, followed by the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guatemala and Vietnam. Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe were featured at the bottom of the list.[4]

For the 2012 ranking, 151 countries were compared, and the best scoring country for the second time in a row was Costa Rica, followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Belize and El Salvador. The lowest ranking countries in 2012 were Botswana, Chad and Qatar.[5][6]

Methodology[edit]

The HPI is based on general utilitarian principles — that most people want to live long and fulfilling lives, and the country which is doing the best is the one that allows its citizens to do so, whilst avoiding infringing on the opportunity of future people and people in other countries to do the same. In effect it operationalises the IUCN's (World Conservation Union) call for a metric capable of measuring 'the production of human well-being (not necessarily material goods) per unit of extraction of or imposition upon nature'.[7]

Human well-being is operationalised as Happy Life Years.[8] Extraction of or imposition upon nature is proxied for using the ecological footprint per capita, which attempts to estimate the amount of natural resources required to sustain a given country's lifestyle. A country with a large per capita ecological footprint uses more than its fair share of resources, both by drawing resources from other countries, and also by causing permanent damage to the planet which will impact future generations.[9]

As such, the HPI is not a measure of which are the happiest countries in the world. Countries with relatively high levels of life satisfaction, as measured in surveys, are found from the very top (Colombia in 6th place) to the very bottom (the USA in 114th place) of the rank order. The HPI is best conceived as a measure of the environmental efficiency of supporting well-being in a given country. Such efficiency could emerge in a country with a medium environmental impact (e.g. Costa Rica) and very high well-being, but it could also emerge in a country with only mediocre well-being, but very low environmental impact (e.g. Vietnam).

Each country’s HPI value is a function of its average subjective life satisfaction, life expectancy at birth, and ecological footprint per capita. The exact function is a little more complex, but conceptually it approximates multiplying life satisfaction and life expectancy, and dividing that by the ecological footprint. Most of the life satisfaction data is taken from the World Values Survey and World Database of Happiness, but some is drawn from other surveys, and some is estimated using statistical regression techniques.

Views[edit]

Much criticism of the index has been due to commentators falsely understanding it to be a measure of happiness, when it is in fact a measure of the ecological efficiency of supporting well-being (see, for example, the following blogs in Heavy Lifting[10] and Spiked).[11]

Aside from that, criticism has focused on the following:

  • That the HPI completely ignores issues like political freedom, human rights and labor rights.[12]
  • That the World Values Survey covers only a minority of the world's nations and is only done every five years. As a result, much of the data for the index must come from other sources, or is estimated using regressions.
  • General suspicion of subjective measures of well-being.[13]
  • That the Ecological Footprint is a controversial concept with many criticisms.[14]

The index was criticised for weighting carbon footprint too heavily: to the point that in the 2006 index Americans would have needed to have been universally happy, and have had a life expectancy of 439, to equal Vanuatu's score.[15]

Nevertheless, the HPI and its components have been considered in political circles. The Ecological Footprint, championed by the WWF, is widely used by both local and national governments, as well as supranational organisations such as the European Commission. The HPI itself was recently cited in the British Conservative Party as a possible substitute for GDP,.[16] A recent review of progress indicators produced by the European Parliament,[17] lists the following pros and cons to using the HPI as a measure of national progress:

Pros:

  • Considers the actual ‘ends’ of economic activity in the form of life satisfaction and longevity
  • Combines wellbeing and environmental aspects
  • Simple and easily understandable scheme for calculating the index
  • Comparability of results (‘EF’ and ‘life expectancy’ can be applied to different countries)
  • Data online available, although some data gaps remain
  • Mixture of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ criteria; takes into account people’s well-being and resource use of countries

Cons:

  • ‘Happiness’ or ‘life satisfaction’ are very subjective and personal: cultural influences and complex impact of policies on happiness
  • Confusion of name: index is not a measure of happiness but rather measure of environmental efficiency of supporting well-being in a given country

International rankings[edit]

2012 ranking[edit]

Nine out of the ten top countries are located in the Caribbean Basin, despite high levels of poverty. The ranking is led by Costa Rica for the second time in a row, and its lead is due to its very high life expectancy which is second highest in the Americas, and higher than the U.S., experienced well-being higher than many richer nations and a per capita footprint one third the size of the U.S. Among the top 40 countries by overall HPI score, only four countries have a GDP per capita of over US$15,000. The highest ranking OECD country is Israel in 15th place, and the top Western European nation is Norway in 29th place, just behind New Zealand in 28th.[6][18][19] Among the top five world's biggest economies in terms of GDP, Japan has the highest ranking in 45th place, followed by Germany in 46th, France is placed 50th, China 60, and the U.S. is ranked 105, mainly due to its environmental footprint of 7.2, the seventh highest of all countries rated for the 2012 index.[20]

2012 Happy Planet Index[5]
Rank Country HPI Experienced
well-being
Life
expectancy
Ecological
footprint
1  Costa Rica 64.0 7.3 79.3 2.5
2  Vietnam 60.4 5.8 75.2 1.4
3  Colombia 59.8 6.4 73.7 1.8
4  Belize 59.3 6.5 76.1 2.1
5  El Salvador 58.9 6.7 72.2 2.0
6  Jamaica 58.5 6.2 73.1 1.7
7  Panama 57.8 7.3 76.1 3.0
8  Nicaragua 57.1 5.7 74.0 1.6
9  Venezuela 56.9 7.5 74.4 3.0
10  Guatemala 56.9 6.3 71.2 1.8
11  Bangladesh 56.3 5.0 68.9 0.7
12  Cuba 56.2 5.4 79.1 1.9
13  Honduras 56.0 5.9 73.1 1.7
14  Indonesia 55.5 5.5 69.4 1.1
15  Israel 55.2 7.4 81.6 4.0
16  Pakistan 54.1 5.3 65.4 0.8
17  Argentina 54.1 6.4 75.9 2.7
18  Albania 54.1 5.3 76.9 1.8
19  Chile 53.9 6.6 79.1 3.2
20  Thailand 53.5 6.2 74.1 2.4
21  Mexico 52.9 6.8 77.0 3.3
22  Brazil 52.9 6.8 75.2 2.9
23  Ecuador 52.5 5.8 75.6 2.4
24  Philippines 52.4 4.9 68.7 1.0
25  Peru 52.4 5.6 74.0 2.0
26  Algeria 52.2 5.2 73.1 1.6
27  Jordan 51.7 5.7 73.4 2.1
28  New Zealand 51.6 7.2 80.7 4.3
29  Norway 51.4 7.6 81.1 4.8
30  Palestine 51.2 4.8 72.8 1.4
31  Guyana 51.2 6.0 69.9 2.1
32  India 50.9 5.0 65.4 0.9
33  Dominican Republic 50.7 4.7 73.4 1.4
34   Switzerland 50.3 7.5 82.3 5.0
35  Sri Lanka 49.4 4.2 74.9 1.2
36  Iraq 49.2 5.0 69.0 1.4
37  Laos 49.1 5.0 67.5 1.3
38  Kyrgyzstan 49.1 5.0 67.7 1.3
39  Tunisia 48.3 4.7 74.5 1.8
40  Moldova 48.0 5.6 69.3 2.1
41  United Kingdom 47.9 7.0 80.2 4.7
42  Morocco 47.9 4.4 72.2 1.3
43  Tajikistan 47.8 4.4 67.5 0.9
44  Turkey 47.6 5.5 74.0 2.6
45  Japan 47.5 6.1 83.4 4.2
46  Germany 47.2 6.7 80.4 4.6
47  Syria 47.1 4.1 75.9 1.5
48  Austria 47.1 7.3 80.9 5.3
49  Madagascar 46.8 4.6 66.7 1.2
50  France 46.5 6.8 81.5 4.9

2006 and 2009 rankings[edit]

2006 Happy Planet Index[3] 2009 Happy Planet Index[4]
Rank Country HPI
1  Vanuatu 68.21
2  Colombia 67.24
3  Costa Rica 66.00
4  Dominica 64.55
5  Panama 63.54
6  Cuba 61.86
7  Honduras 61.75
8  Guatemala 61.69
9  El Salvador 61.66
10  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 61.37
11  Saint Lucia 61.31
12  Vietnam 61.23
13  Bhutan 61.08
14  Samoa 60.98
15  Sri Lanka 60.31
16  Antigua and Barbuda 59.23
17  Philippines 59.17
18  Nicaragua 59.09
19  Kyrgyzstan 59.05
20  Solomon Islands 58.93
21  Tunisia 58.92
22  São Tomé and Príncipe 57.92
23  Indonesia 57.90
24  Tonga 57.90
25  Tajikistan 57.66
26  Venezuela 57.55
27  Dominican Republic 57.14
28  Guyana 56.65
29  Saint Kitts and Nevis 56.14
30  Seychelles 56.07
31  China 55.99
32  Thailand 55.39
33  Peru 55.14
34  Suriname 55.03
35  Yemen 55.00
36  Fiji 54.47
37  Morocco 54.43
38  Mexico 54.39
39  Maldives 53.52
40  Malta 53.26
41  Bangladesh 53.20
42  Comoros 52.92
43  Barbados 52.73
44  Malaysia 52.69
45  Palestinian Authority 52.64
46  Cape Verde 52.41
47  Chile 52.20
48  Timor-Leste 52.04
49  Argentina 51.96
50  Trinidad and Tobago 51.87
51  Belize 51.32
52  Paraguay 51.13
53  Jamaica 51.01
54    Nepal 49.95
55  Mauritius 49.65
56  Mongolia 49.59
57  Uruguay 49.31
58  Ecuador 49.29
59  Uzbekistan 49.22
60  Grenada 48.96
61  Austria 48.77
62  The Gambia 48.67
63  Brazil 48.59
64  Iceland 48.35
65   Switzerland 48.30
66  Italy 48.26
67  Iran 47.23
68  Ghana 46.98
69  Bolivia 46.17
70  Netherlands 46.00
71  Madagascar 45.99
72  Cyprus 45.99
73  Algeria 45.89
74  Luxembourg 45.62
75  Bahamas 44.90
76  Papua New Guinea 44.75
77  Myanmar 44.55
78  Belgium 44.04
79  Slovenia 44.03
80  Oman 43.94
81  Germany 43.83
82  Croatia 43.71
83  Lebanon 43.64
84  Taiwan 43.41
85  Haiti 43.34
86  Syria 43.23
87  Spain 43.04
88  Hong Kong 42.88
89  Saudi Arabia 42.65
90  India 42.46
91  Cambodia 42.15
92  Albania 42.13
93  Jordan 42.05
94  New Zealand 41.92
95  Japan 41.70
96  Republic of the Congo 41.59
97  Egypt 41.58
98  Turkey 41.40
99  Denmark 41.40
100  Brunei 41.16
101  Georgia 41.15
102  South Korea 41.11
103  Bosnia and Herzegovina 40.96
104  Senegal 40.81
105  Azerbaijan 40.69
106  Gabon 40.52
107  Libya 40.33
108  United Kingdom 40.29
109  Laos 40.26
110  Benin 40.10
111  Canada 39.76
112  Pakistan 39.40
113  Ireland 39.38
114  Poland 39.29
115  Norway 39.18
116  Macedonia 39.14
117  Israel 39.07
118  Namibia 38.41
119  Sweden 38.17
120  Romania 37.72
121  Hungary 37.64
122  Guinea 37.42
123  Finland 37.36
124  Mauritania 37.30
125  Kazakhstan 36.92
126  Togo 36.86
127  Kenya 36.70
128  Czech Republic 36.5
129  France 36.42
130  Armenia 36.15
131  Singapore 36.14
132  Slovakia 35.81
133  Greece 35.71
134  Tanzania 35.08
135  Guinea-Bissau 35.08
136  Portugal 34.83
137  Eritrea 34.49
138  Bahrain 34.35
139  Australia 34.06
140  Mali 33.68
141  Mozambique 33.01
142  Cameroon 32.76
143  Djibouti 32.72
144  Ethiopia 32.53
145  Bulgaria 31.59
146  Nigeria 31.14
147  Moldova 31.12
148  Burkina Faso 30.08
149  Lithuania 29.29
150  United States 28.83
151  Côte d'Ivoire 28.80
152  Rwanda 28.35
153  Sierra Leone 28.24
154  United Arab Emirates 28.20
155  Angola 27.88
156  South Africa 27.80
157  Sudan 27.74
158  Uganda 27.68
159  Kuwait 27.67
160  Latvia 27.27
161  Niger 26.80
162  Malawi 26.66
163  Zambia 25.91
164  Central African Republic 25.90
165  Belarus 25.78
166  Qatar 25.50
167  Botswana 25.42
168  Chad 25.37
169  Turkmenistan 23.96
170  Equatorial Guinea 23.77
171  Lesotho 23.05
172  Russia 22.76
173  Estonia 22.68
174  Ukraine 22.21
175  Democratic Republic of the Congo 20.69
176  Burundi 19.02
177  Swaziland 18.38
178  Zimbabwe 16.64
Rank Country HPI
1  Costa Rica 76.1
2  Dominican Republic 71.8
3  Jamaica 70.1
4  Guatemala 68.4
5  Vietnam 66.5
6  Colombia 66.1
7  Cuba 65.7
8  El Salvador 61.5
9  Brazil 61.0
10  Honduras 61.0
11  Nicaragua 60.5
12  Egypt 60.3
13  Saudi Arabia 59.7
14  Philippines 59.0
15  Argentina 59.0
16  Indonesia 58.9
17  Bhutan 58.5
18  Panama 57.4
19  Laos 57.3
20  China 57.1
21  Morocco 56.8
22  Sri Lanka 56.5
23  Mexico 55.6
24  Pakistan 55.6
25  Ecuador 55.5
26  Jordan 54.6
27  Belize 54.5
28  Peru 54.4
29  Tunisia 54.3
30  Trinidad and Tobago 54.2
31  Bangladesh 54.1
32  Moldova 54.1
33  Malaysia 54.0
34  Tajikistan 53.5
35  India 53.0
36  Venezuela 52.5
37    Nepal 51.9
38  Syria 51.3
39  Burma 51.2
40  Algeria 51.2
41  Thailand 50.9
42  Haiti 50.8
43  Netherlands 50.6
44  Malta 50.4
45  Uzbekistan 50.1
46  Chile 49.7
47  Bolivia 49.3
48  Armenia 48.3
49  Singapore 48.2
50  Yemen 48.1
51  Germany 48.1
52   Switzerland 48.1
53  Sweden 48.0
54  Albania 47.9
55  Paraguay 47.8
56  Palestinian Authority 47.7
57  Austria 47.7
58  Serbia 47.6
59  Finland 47.2
60  Croatia 47.2
61  Kyrgyzstan 47.1
62  Cyprus 46.2
63  Guyana 45.6
64  Belgium 45.4
65  Bosnia and Herzegovina 45.0
66  Slovenia 44.5
67  Israel 44.5
68  South Korea 44.4
69  Italy 44.0
70  Romania 43.9
71  France 43.9
72  Georgia 43.6
73  Slovakia 43.5
74  United Kingdom 43.3
75  Japan 43.3
76  Spain 43.2
77  Poland 42.8
78  Ireland 42.6
79  Iraq 42.6
80  Cambodia 42.3
81  Iran 42.1
82  Bulgaria 42.0
83  Turkey 41.7
84  Hong Kong 41.6
85  Azerbaijan 41.2
86  Lithuania 40.9
87  Djibouti 40.4
88  Norway 40.4
89  Canada 39.4
90  Hungary 38.9
91  Kazakhstan 38.5
92  Czech Republic 38.3
93  Mauritania 38.2
94  Iceland 38.1
95  Ukraine 38.1
96  Senegal 38.0
97  Greece 37.6
98  Portugal 37.5
99  Uruguay 37.2
100  Ghana 37.1
101  Latvia 36.7
102  Australia 36.6
103  New Zealand 36.2
104  Belarus 35.7
105  Denmark 35.5
106  Mongolia 35.0
107  Malawi 34.5
108  Russia 34.5
109  Chad 34.3
110  Lebanon 33.6
111  Macedonia 32.7
112  Republic of the Congo 32.4
113  Madagascar 31.5
114  United States 30.7
115  Nigeria 30.3
116  Guinea 30.3
117  Uganda 30.2
118  South Africa 29.7
119  Rwanda 29.6
120  Democratic Republic of the Congo 29.0
121  Sudan 28.5
122  Luxembourg 28.5
123  United Arab Emirates 28.2
124  Ethiopia 28.1
125  Kenya 27.8
126  Cameroon 27.2
127  Zambia 27.2
128  Kuwait 27.0
129  Niger 26.9
130  Angola 26.8
131  Estonia 26.4
132  Mali 25.8
133  Mozambique 24.6
134  Benin 24.6
135  Togo 23.3
136  Sierra Leone 23.1
137  Central African Republic 22.9
138  Burkina Faso 22.4
139  Burundi 21.8
140  Namibia 21.1
141  Botswana 20.9
142  Tanzania 17.8
143  Zimbabwe 16.6

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sen, Amartya (1999). Development as Freedom. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-289330-0. 
  2. ^ Hawken, Paul; Lovins, Amory, and Hovins, L. Hunter (1999). Natural Capitalism. New York, New York: Little Brown & Co. ISBN 0-316-35300-0. 
  3. ^ a b Marks, N., Abdallah, S., Simms, A., Thompson, S. et al. (2006). The Happy Planet Index 1.0. New Economics Foundation.
  4. ^ a b Abdallah, S., Thompson, S., Michaelson, J., Marks, N., Steuer, N. et al. (2009). The Happy Planet Index 2.0. New Economics Foundation.
  5. ^ a b New Economics Foundation (2012-06-14). "Happy Planet Index 2012". New Economics Foundation. Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  6. ^ a b Fiona Harvey (2012-06-14). "UK citizens better off than EU counterparts, says happiness index". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  7. ^ Adams WM (2006). The future of sustainability: Re-thinking environment and development in the twenty-first century. Report of the IUCN Renowned Thinkers Meeting. Also, Paehlke R (2005). Sustainability as a bridging concept. Conservation Biology 19:36-8.
  8. ^ Veenhoven R (1996). Happy life expectancy: a comprehensive measure of quality-of-life in nations. Social Indicators Research 39:1-58.
  9. ^ Ecological Footprint - Ecological Sustainability. Global Footprint Network.
  10. ^ Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist. Heavy Lifting. July 12, 2006
  11. ^ Who’s happiest: Denmark or Vanuatu?. Spiked. August 7, 2006
  12. ^ Steffan, Alex. Happy Planet Index. World Changing. July 12, 2006
  13. ^ Johns H & Ormerod P (2007). Happiness, Economics and Public Policy. London: The Institute of Economic Affairs
  14. ^ The Economist. September 19, 2002. "Treading Lightly".
  15. ^ "Energy use and growth: An optimistic view". The Economist. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Cameron to offer green tax cuts. The Sunday Times. September 9, 2007.
  17. ^ Goossens Y, et al. (2007). Alternative progress indicators to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a means towards sustainable development. IP/A/ENVI/ST/2007-10. Study provided for the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. [1]
  18. ^ Nic Marks (2012-06-14). "Measuring what matters: the Happy Planet Index 2012". New Economics Foundation . Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  19. ^ . 2012-06-10.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ Thando Mgaga (2012-06-18). "Zimbabwe is happier than SA". Times Live Zimbabwe. Retrieved 2012-06-17. 

External links[edit]