Hap­pi­ness in­dex

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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