The Happiness Index (幸福指数) was introduced by Paul A. Samuelson (1915-2009), the first American Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences. According to the renowned economist, happiness equals consumption divided by desire and is influenced by the wealth, health, environment, social justice and individual dignity.
Samuelson’s theory was further developed by a number of psychologists, who specified the decisive factors and categorized the index into personal happiness and gross national happiness (GNH). Today, the happiness index has become a pivotal indicator in gauging the country’s comprehensive development, in addition to gross domestic product (GDP), the previous monotonous economic measurement. China is of no exception.
A mass of critical problems – such as the deteriorating environment (Beijing had for days been wrapped in thick smog in early December 2011), the expanding income gap between the rich and poor, high housing prices, expensive tuitions and subpar healthcare standards – are threatening the well-being of Chinese people.
Although the happiness index is not simply an economic figure, many experts believe the economy is a powerful drive behind it. Concrete data such as personal income levels and the allocation of resources have great impacts on the index figure more subjective in its measurement. China is now considering policies to transform the pattern of its economic growth. The adjustment of personal wealth and industrial innovation are underlined as important solutions to social and environmental hardships.