Saturday, 16 January 2021

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Whistle While You Work: UN Focus on Happiness and Employment

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20 March 2015 - On 20 March the UN celebrates the International Day of Happiness. Every year the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) produces a Human Development Report (HDR) in an attempt to gauge human flourishing worldwide. This year’s theme is ‘Rethinking Work for Human Development’ which will explore how the work that people do enhances or impedes their human flourishing in recognition of the estimated 75 million young people unemployed worldwide.

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal but the means of achieving it are manifold and can sometimes seem fairly subjective which is why the UN has adopted the framework of human development in pursuit of a systematic way of making the world a happier place.

The human development approach, developed by the economist Mahbub Ul Haq, is anchored in Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities, often framed in terms of whether people are able to "be" and "do" desirable things in life. It was developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s in response to increasingly loud calls to "dethrone" GDP as an indicator of national progress.

Human development

2015 marks 25 years since the first Human Development Report introduced this new approach. The guiding, uniting premise of this year’s report is that a person’s ability to choose whether to seek a paid job, and what type of work to do, is an important expression of agency, and therefore fundamental to human development.

The report will spotlight several aspects of work affecting human development, including "youth employment, gender aspects of work, agriculture and rural development, the informal sector, and work during crisis and in post-crisis situations", wrote HDR Director Selim Jahan.

Jahan is keen to point out that work means more than just employment or jobs; also including unpaid care work, volunteer work and creative work.

More information about the Human development approach can be found here and here.

If you think you could help create new and innovative ways of visualising human development data gathered by the UN take a look at this competition. The closing date has been extended by four days. Good luck!


"I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness! The pursuit of happiness is serious business. Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations."

-- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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