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France Wants Happiness Included in Progress Measures


As countries begin emerging from the global financial crisis, France is proposing to measure progress in a new way - one that includes happiness and well being, as well as traditional economic benchmarks.

By standard measures, the world has certainly been going through some tough times. But do these indicators capture all facets of progress? According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the answer is 'no.'

Mr. Sarkozy announced France will begin including less tangible indicators, like happiness and well being, into its measurements of economic progress.

The French President said the current crisis does not just give the international community the freedom to imagine another economic model, it obliges the world to do so. We do not have the choice, he said.

Mr. Sarkozy's remarks coincided with the publication of a new report by two Nobel economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Armatya Sen, that looks at non-traditional ways at measuring social progress. The report was commissioned by the French government.

The report recommends shifting the ways policymakers look at progress from what economists call gross domestic product, or GDP, which is a general measure of goods and services produced in a country. The new indicators also would include non-material 'wealth', like access to education and health care.

France is not the first country to look at the non-material aspects of progress. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan emphasizes a concept it calls 'gross national happiness,' rather than GDP. Bhutan's main research center collects a wide variety of data to measure this, including things like psychological well being, good governance, ecological diversity and living standards.

In France, Mr. Sarkozy says focusing too much on gross domestic product as the main measure of prosperity contributed to the financial crisis. He wants other countries to follow France's example in looking at less materialistic indicators of progress.

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