Sin­ga­pore ranked as the hap­pi­est coun­try in Asia

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY RACHEL TAN

It is a topic that has oc­ca­sion­ally raised eye­brows in Sin­ga­pore, but now the frowns are giv­ing way to smiles.

Sin­ga­pore has just been named one of the 25 hap­pi­est na­tions in the world, and the hap­pi­est in Asia, in the 2015 World Hap­pi­ness Re­port.

This is a far cry from the glum pic­ture painted by some past sur­veys. A poll con­ducted in 2011 by re­search firm Gallup showed that Sin­ga­pore­ans were the least likely to ex­pe­ri­ence pos­i­tive emo­tions out of peo­ple in 148 coun­tries.

But as far as the wide-rang­ing study by the United Na­tions is con­cerned, Sin­ga­pore has con­tin­ued to be­come a hap­pier place. In 2012, when the first in the se­ries of U. N. sur­veys was re­leased, Sin­ga­pore was ranked 36th out of nearly 130 na­tions. In 2013, it rose to 30th place and is now No. 24 out of 158 na­tions.

The largest con­tribut­ing fac­tor to Sin­ga­pore’s high rank­ing in the re­port is its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct per capita, which was SG$71,318 (US$53,502) last year.

Other in­di­ca­tors used to de­ter­mine hap­pi­ness lev­els are life ex­pectancy, free­dom to make choices and avail­able so­cial sup­port.

Not all sur­veys tell the same story. In 2012, the Happy Planet In­dex placed Sin­ga­pore 90th out of 151 coun­tries, be­hind coun­tries such as Syria and Libya.

Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore so­ci­ol­o­gist Paulin Straughan said mea­sur­ing Sin­ga­pore’s hap­pi­ness is a sub­jec­tive mat­ter.

“If you look at the progress of the state, it has moved to a bet­ter place. We don’t have tur­bu­lence like other coun­tries, and there is strong trust in the gov­ern­ment.”

But she said Sin­ga­pore­ans could be frus­trated about living in a place with high pop­u­la­tion den­sity and work stress.

“When we are crammed to­gether in a bus, for ex­am­ple, it in­vokes a very neg­a­tive re­ac­tion,” she added.

Trader Lek Lee Yong, 52, said she was not sur­prised by the re­sults as the study looked at ar­eas such as eco­nomic per­for­mance and lev­els of cor­rup­tion, where Sin­ga­pore does well.

She said: “We have good trans­port and ed­u­ca­tion, thus we are ranked high in the hap­pi­ness re­port — be­cause they looked at ma­te­rial fac­tors.”

Stu­dent Ch­eryl Tham, 19, could not be­lieve that Sin­ga­pore­ans were that happy.

“Sin­ga­pore­ans gen­er­ally are too caught up over aca­demic grades, out­comes and ma­te­ri­al­ism. Prag­ma­tism still weighs heav­ily on peo­ple’s minds de­spite af­flu­ence and the city’s trans­for­ma­tion,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port by the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment So­lu­tions Net­work, a U.N. ini­tia­tive, Switzer­land is tops when it comes to hap­pi­ness, while Togo in West Africa is ranked bot­tom.

Thai­land was the next hap­pi­est in Asia af­ter Sin­ga­pore. Other coun­tries in the top 25 in­clude Nor­way, Australia and Brazil.

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