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Background to the Happiness in Penang (HIP) Index
A country’s progress is more often than not determined through the pace of its economic development. The metrics of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Gross National Product (GNP) are important for indicating economic progress. However, these metrics are inadequate when it comes to measuring the country’s overall well-being and social development. Studies have found that an increase in income, GDP and GNP does not necessarily translate into an increase in happiness for that society.
As such, the measurement of life satisfaction and happiness as an indicator of development has in recent years gained prominence, with happiness economics being acknowledged as a branch of economics. As an overall objective, happiness economics endeavours to supplement and complement the financial and monetary measures of welfare with other factors that affect general well-being, giving particular attention to happiness and life satisfaction. The evaluation of happiness, well-being and life satisfaction highlights the pace of social progress and also complements and contributes to the pace of economic development and to a country’s overall well-being.
As it is, attempts at sustainable development require an inclusive approach that gives equal importance to multi-factored aspects of well-being.
In formulating the Happiness in Penang (HIP) Index, thorough research of existing happiness surveys and research studies were first undertaken, with careful consideration being given to the framework of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) as well as the structure of the World Happiness Report (WHR).
The HIP Index is multidimensional, and takes into consideration the life satisfaction and happiness levels of Penangites across different domains and various aspects of life. It aims to supplement policy-making by the state government by providing understanding of the intricacies of life satisfaction among Penangites. The domains are Freedom and Governance; Economic Well-being, Environmental Sustainability, and; Liveability and Social Well-being.
Two methods were used to conduct the Happiness Survey. First, an online survey was conducted between September 2020 and October 2020. This was then complemented with face-to-face interviews in April 2021. The study covered 3,011 respondents across the five districts of Penang, further stratified by gender, age and ethnicity, where the number is statistically representative of the total population in Penang. Given the limitations created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement restriction orders, extra efforts had to be taken to achieve the most equal representation.
The responses in the survey were then collated, analysed and used as the basis for the HIP Index.