New OPHI working paper explores measuring wellbeing for public policy

A new working paper published by OPHI presents Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach as a framework for measuring well-being to inform public policy.

The paper, by OPHI director Sabina Alkire, highlights how the Capability Approach conceives of wellbeing as the freedom people have to enjoy valuable activities and states – their functionings and capabilities instead of resources or utility.

It outlines how the Alkire Foster (AF) method, used extensively for multidimensional poverty measurement and reduction, can be interpreted as a measure of capability poverty and used to identify the functionings or capabilities that a person might or might not have – such as being able to be well-nourished, literate, sheltered from bad weather, and safe from violence.

The paper explores how the Royal Government of Bhutan has extended this methodology to wellbeing measurement in their official Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. Released in 2008 and updated in 2012, Bhutan’s multidimensional GNH Index measures the population’s wellbeing in nine domains, including health, education, community vitality and time use. It is linked to a set of policy and programming tools and provides incentives for the government, NGOs and businesses of Bhutan to increase GNH.

Read the full paper

The Capability Approach and Well-Being Measurement for Public Policy’, by Sabina Alkire, was published in the OPHI working paper series in March 2015.

Find out more about the Alkire Foster method.

Further information on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index

The Royal Government’s website for the Index,, provides further information, including a short guide and an extensive analysis of GNH.  These same documents can also be found on the OPHI website (short and extensive).