Social capital in the context of GNH

The second stage social capital data analysis workshop was hosted by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB)
The second stage social capital data analysis workshop was hosted by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB)

Social capital is defined as the network between the individuals, such that you help an individual with reciprocity effect – creating common benefits. For example, the help you render during a funeral arrangement of a person results in gaining the social capital.

Social capital is important in Bhutan because such a concept is used for decentralization and democratization, therefore, creating a GNH social economy. It is about balancing economic growth with social development, and follows in line with the Article 9, Principles of State Policy, “The State shall endeavor to promote those conditions that are conducive to cooperation in community life and the integrity of the extended family structure.”

A researcher at the National Statistical Bureau (NSB) Lham Dorji said, “Social capital concept is very new concept not only in Bhutan, but elsewhere in developing and even developed countries in the world. This concept was introduced in 1990.”

Human contact and networking generates social capital, and the rise of information and technology have complicated things a bit in the study of social capital.

“Our social capital has assumed new dimensions. Now interactions between individuals are very fast and complicated.  Social capital in rural community is all about interaction between individual personally or physically, and in case of urbanites, it is through Facebook and mobile,” Lham Dorji added.

According to the first report analysis, 8.45% of the total household population are members of at least one local or community level groups or associations. The most active members from the households in different groups are usually the heads of the households.

About 92% of these members actively participate in the groups’ decision-making indicating the democratic patterns of decision-making. The higher proportions of the households without group memberships are represented in the poorest total household expenditure quintile.

Some 70% of respondents in rural areas have over five people to rely upon to seek help when needed. More than half of the respondents ‘strongly agree’ that most people in their areas can be trusted.

Over 22% of the rural people believe that group membership helps them improve their current livelihood and access to services. The percentage of the respondents from those households without any group membership increases along the line of the self-rated unhappiness. In the poor and very poor category, more households without group memberships are represented. The trust level is higher in rural areas than in urban localities.

Central monastic body representative Lam Gembo Dorji said, “We all know about ‘tha damtshig (boundary of sacred path) lay jumdey (cause and effect)’. It is not working within people because base foundation is not understood by people.”

He also said ‘choe sae nye dhen’ was also not working because it is not understood, for instance, each individuals have two responsibilities- a primary and a secondary ones. For example, the monks’ primary responsibility is to practice dharma and secondary responsibility is to look after the parents.

NSB’s Lham Dorji said, “Problems with first survey was with social capital since it was the first survey, we borrowed questions from World Bank, and there were 38 questions.”

He added saying, “When we train enumerators, we asked them to asked communities about formal and informal social capital, but when we analyze the results we found out most of memberships are in formal organizations, and that is why, I am not so happy with the survey data, but next Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS), we will try to capture informal social capital. For example, you belong to any group.”

The two aspects of social capital analysis are social capital related to poverty and happiness and there are tree forms of social capital. First is structural social capital which includes types of group household head membership, second is cognitive social capital which includes feeling of closeness or togetherness in the neighborhood, and third is output measures and collective action which includes the presence of help in the neighborhoods.

The second stage social capital data analysis based on contribution of social capital to household welfare and well-being and there are significant relationships between structural and cognitive social capital with household per capita expenditure.

Households’ stock of structural social capital (coefficient =0. 47) has greater effects on poverty than human capital (coefficient=0.035).

Membership to local groups contributes to increased per capita household expenditure (so it can be effective tool for policy alleviation). While increase in the memberships in groups contribute to increase in household poverty outcomes (consumption), the effect is the most to those in lower 25th quintile; there is no effect at all to the lowest/poorest 10th quintile (issue of poor being deprived social capital or that are they socially excluded).

Being members to community-initiated groups has stronger correlation with the increase in household per capita expenditure. Structural social capital contributes more to poverty reduction than cognitive social capital.

Cognitive social capital contributes to the increase in self-reported happiness; there are no significant relationships between structural social capital and self-reported happiness. Households rich in social capital receive greater share of remittances and households poor in social capital (first and second quintiles of SC) face food security threat.

NSB has completed the second stage analysis on social capital (in draft form). The social capital module was included in the BLSS Report 2012 to generate information that reflected social capital and its role in poverty alleviation, community well-being, and happiness.

The first-stage descriptive analysis is published in the BLSS Report 2012. NSB initiated this study in view of the fact that this concept is least explored field of development discourse in our country, through our Constitution has a provision that mandates the State to preserve and promote the institution of extended family system and community vitality. The 2nd stage analysis on social capital report will be published in mid July.

The representatives of various ministries, private agencies, monastic body, and corporations attended a one-day consultative workshop on the second stage analysis of social capital, which was organized by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) in Thimphu on Wednesday.

Tshering Dorji / Thimphu


Check Also

Bhutan signs MoU on carbon collaboration with Singapore

Bhutan and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on carbon collaboration on 18 May. …


  1. We need to give serious thought about how to promote social capital in our country. Our grandparents claim they were self-sufficient, except the salt they have to trade in from Tibet. Today, we are dependent on others beyond our borders. Does this mean our self-sustaining communities are no longer the same? Is it the sign of delcine in our social capital? We are rapidly urbanizing through rural-urban migration, disintegrating our rural societies. If the trend continue, I feel we will have difficult times in future. Good that such research is now being done in the country. I hope many more studies will continue and our policy makers will attach importance to promoting social capital and community life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *