A city of happy women

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai

xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily. com.cn

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, age and re­la­tion­ship sta­tus do not ac­tu­ally have much bear­ing on a woman’s hap­pi­ness. Or at least that seems to be the case in Shang­hai.

In the lat­est sur­vey con­ducted by the Shang­hai Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, 85.7 per­cent of re­spon­dents said that they felt “very happy” or “quite happy”. Sin­gle women and those who have been mar­ried for more than 20 years rank among the hap­pi­est. Women who were mar­ried for less than three years were the un­hap­pi­est.

The re­sults of the sur­vey, which polled 1,004 women who re­side per­ma­nently in Shang­hai, was pub­lished by the gov­ern­ment body on Oct 27. The level of con­tent­ment and sat­is­fac­tion was based on five fac­tors: phys­i­cal and men­tal health, fam­ily re­la­tion­ship, pro­fes­sional and aca­demic de­vel­op­ment, ma­te­rial wealth and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment.

Yu Yuhua, so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at East China Nor­mal Univer­sity and the lead­ing con­duc­tor of the sur­vey, noted that while in­come and ma­te­rial wealth don’t play a de­ci­sive role in de­ter­min­ing one’s hap­pi­ness, be­ing fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered the fun­da­men­tal fac­tor.

The sur­vey also showed that ed­u­ca­tion lev­els have lit­tle ef­fect on one’s hap­pi­ness. In fact, there is an in­verse re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two. Ex­perts ex­plained this phe­nom­e­non, say­ing that higher lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion lead to in­flated ex­pec­ta­tions which of­ten end up un­ful­filled.

Na­tion­wide, Shang­hai and Bei­jing were jointly ranked sev­enth among 29 prov­inces and ci­ties in terms of res­i­dents’ hap­pi­ness lev­els, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hap­pi­ness Re­port 2014, con­ducted by the re­search in­sti­tu­tion of South­west­ern Univer­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics.

The find­ings took many by sur­prise as it was widely be­lieved that the hec­tic life­styles and high cost of liv­ing at the two most pop­u­lated me­trop­o­lises in China should equate to un­hap­pi­ness.

One of the key tar­gets in the Shang­hai mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment’s 12th five-year plan (2011-15) was to “ef­fec­tively im­prove the hap­pi­ness in­dex of fe­male res­i­dents in Shang­hai”. It was the first time that women’s wel­fare was taken into con­sid­er­a­tion by the gov­ern­ment. The author­i­ties had aimed to do so via leg­is­la­tions stat­ing that men and women must share fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties such as the up­bring­ing of their chil­dren.

This new ap­proach was likely a re­sult of the find­ings from an ear­lier re­port re­leased by the Fed­er­a­tion in 2012, which showed that house­work had been a ma­jor fac­tor in caus­ing a mar­ried ca­reer woman to ex­pe­ri­ence burnout. Over 53 per­cent of the mar­ried women polled said they had shoul­dered “the ma­jor­ity” or “all” of house­work du­ties.

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