The happiness index

6 June 2012
David Noble, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Purchasing & SupplyDo we need to re-think how we measure the health of an economy? Is there more to it than balancing the books? Following the UK’s return to recession and the mounting crisis in the Eurozone, numerous column inches have been written by economists on what the financial statistics actually mean and what fiscal policies are needed to stimulate growth and turn the numbers around. We all rely on economic indicators to make sense of what is going on so we can make good decisions for our organisations. It can be a challenge to pick out the data that really matters from the deluge of sometimes conflicting information we are bombarded with every day. I know from the media coverage given to the Purchasing Managers’ Indices that this kind of data can and does influence policy-making, and there is a constant search for the most reliable, solid information to base our policies on. It is curious then, that during these difficult times we are seeing a shift away from the hard facts of GDP, interest rates and employment figures, towards that most elusive of intangible attributes, ‘happiness’. When prime minister David Cameron announced his ‘happiness agenda’ last year it was met with a fair degree 
of cynicism, but the idea is now becoming part 
of a serious debate on the development of economic policy. Oxfam hopes to influence that debate with its launch of the Humankind Index, a new methodology for measuring the quality of life 
in Britain. It claims the index is a more sophisticated approach than the government’s agenda and challenges the effectiveness of policy decisions taken on the basis of economic measurements alone. Oxfam believes the failure to give enough weight to more qualitative measures is inhibiting the drive for economic growth. The Index survey uses 18 metrics, including work, transport, health and access to amenities. So far it has been piloted in Scotland, where the results show a significant fall in people’s sense of financial wellbeing and job security. In particular, Oxfam highlights the data for part-time and casual working which, it says, challenges the often-stated view that a flexible labour market supports growth. The idea itself isn’t new, of course. Forty years ago the kingdom of Bhutan replaced GDP as its indicator of economic progress with the Gross National Happiness Index. This measures the Bhutanese people’s sense of being well-governed and their satisfaction with the pace of economic development. It would be easy to dismiss the happiness factor as some sort of new-age push back against materialism, but it raises serious questions about how we measure success. Global Congress Elections for the new global congress are about to get under way, so if you’re interested in becoming a representative, 
look out for the election notice that is due out at the end of 
this month. There are 19 seats up for election: 12 to represent the UK, three for Africa, one each for Australasia and Asia, and two seats to represent studying members in the UK and Africa.  The successful candidates will join the new Congress from 
1 November 2012, with the inaugural meeting scheduled for 29 November. The term of office is three years. FCIPS, MCIPS and Associate Members are eligible to stand for the main regional seats, with Student, Certificate and Diploma Members eligible for the student seats. Unlike the Council, members who provide paid services to CIPS, such as examiners or course book authors, can be elected 
to Congress. Information about the role of Congress and the nomination process will be sent out with 
the election notice and also posted on the CIPS website. Nominations will only be accepted online and the 
closing date for submission 
is 31 July. Enquiries to 
elections@cips.org
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