The UN has come out with its annual fourth World Happiness Report that gauges happiness across the globe with an extensive survey of thousands of happy and unhappy people. The report released last week coincided with the UN World Happiness Day on March 20. The idea behind the 'happiness project' is unique. The traditional measures of economic well-being ike GDP, inflation and life expectancy, which deal with numbers, have their limitations and fail to capture many variables and intangible elements that go into making a person happy or unhappy. Many former World Bank economists have expressed their dissatisfaction with GDP and such like metrics in assessing the level of human happiness.
According to the authors of the Happiness Report, happiness provides a better indicator of human welfare than do income, poverty, education, health and good government measured separately. The research is based on Gallup International surveys conducted from 2015 to 2017, in which thousands of respondents were asked to imagine a ladder with steps numbered 0 to 10 and to say which step they felt they stood on, a ranking known as the Cantril Scale.
According to the latest UN survey, Finland is the world's happiest country while troubled Burundi in Africa is the most discontent. In addition to its joyful locals, Finland is also home to the happiest immigrants, the study found. The Nordic nation headed the 156country ranking, followed by last year's winner Norway, Denmark, Iceland which clinched the second, third and fourth position, respectively. The United States and the United Kingdom were in 18th and 19th place respectively.
The unhappiest nation was Burundi whose leader, President Pierre Nkurunziza, changed his title from "eternal supreme guide" to "visionary" last week. Neutral observers decry the cult of personality surrounding Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005 and triggered a political crisis in the tiny central African nation when he won a third term three years ago. Venezuela, also rattled by a political and economic crisis, tumbled 20 places to the 102nd spot from 2017. Surprisingly, Pakistanis are the happiest among all their bordering nations on the UN ranking table. Islamabad is 58 points ahead of its arch-rival India, 11 points ahead of its all-weather friend China, 31 of Iran, and 70 points ahead of Afghanistan.
Pakistan is 92 on the list of 156 countries; more joyous than Iran (105) and India (118), but lagging behind Saudi Arabia (34). Bangladesh was ranked 115, down 40 points compared to Pakistan; Sri Lanka was ranked 116; China 86; Iran 106; India 133; and Afghanistan was ranked 145 on the index.
The report concludes that there are large gaps in happiness between countries, and these will continue to create major pressures to migrate. Some of those who migrate between countries will benefit and others will lose. In general, those who move to happier countries than their own will gain in happiness, while those who move to unhappier countries will tend to lose.
One solution is to raise the happiness of people in the sending countries - perhaps by the traditional means of foreign aid and better access to rich-country markets, but more importantly by helping them to grow their own levels of trust, and institutions of the sort that make possible better lives in the happier countries.
Some critics have found fault with the structure of thequestions asked to measure happiness - a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for one and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life. The respondent was asked to answer on which step of the ladder he/she felt they stand. Thus, in essence, they were asked about personal accomplishments, not about happiness.