(Current Affairs) World Happiness Report - 2019 : An Overview : Perfect - 7 Weekly Magazine (April 2019 : Issue - 2)

(Current Affairs) World Happiness Report - 2019 : An Overview : Perfect - 7 Weekly Magazine (April 2019 : Issue - 2)

Why in News?

In 2018, India came in 133rd place and has fallen to the 140th of the 156 nations on UN’s 2019 World Happiness Report. It is an annual publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) that classifies countries based on variables like income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.


Humanity has been thinking about happiness for a long time and in several different ways. The Buddha and Aristotle were among the early happiness philosophers. The Buddha’s thinking on achieving happiness (which he thought about in terms of escaping suffering) is summarized in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. Aristotle had a different viewpoint, and argued that man is a social animal, with individual happiness secured only within a political community, or polis. The polis should organize itself to promote virtuous behavior. In addition to it, different cultures and languages ascribe different meaning to happiness too.

Amartya Sen recently drew on linguistic philosophy to make a key distinction between two quite different ways of using the word ‘happiness’. One is happiness as an emotion, e.g. ‘Are you happy now?’, which elicits someone’s mood. The other involves a judgmental use of the word, e.g. ‘Are you happy with your life as a whole these days?’ which asks someone to make a cognitive evaluation of the quality of something.

Though, dictionary definition of happiness is the state of feeling or showing pleasure or contentment, however, this definition is not the endall, be-all definition of happiness. In fact, the definition of happiness is not a “settled” debate.

World Happiness Report - 2019

The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The 2019 report is the 7th World Happiness Report. The first was released in April 2012 in support of a UN High level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. That report presented the available global data on national happiness and reviewed related evidence from the emerging science of happiness, showing that the quality of people’s lives can be coherently, reliably and validly assessed by a variety of subjective well-being measures, collectively referred to then and in subsequent reports as “happiness.” This year’s World Happiness Report focuses on happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes.

The happiness index is a composite index which composed by the level of satisfaction towards 10 essential life aspects. The ten aspects of life substantially and simultaneously reflect the level of happiness which includes satisfaction on health, education, employment, household income, family harmony, leisure time, social relations, housing condition and assets, environmental conditions and security conditions.

Key Highlights

  • Finland has been ranked as the world's happiest country for the second year. The other Nordic countries, as well as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand and Austria also made the top ten.
  • Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, the United States holds the 19th rank on the list, clearly suggesting that money is not the strongest key to happiness.
  • According to the report, Pakistan holds 67th rank, Bangladesh 125th and China 93rd. The most unhappy are the people in war-torn South Sudan, which is followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152).
  • Between countries, large gaps in happiness will continue to create pressure for migration.
  • Among the 20 top gainers since the 2005-2008 average ranking were 10 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, five in sub-Saharan Africa and three in Latin America, while the five that fell the most were Yemen, India, Syria, Botswana and Venezuela.

Finland Experience

For the second year in a row, Finland has been named the happiest country in the world by the World Happiness Report. Thus, it is important to understand that why Finland is doing so well.

The Northern European country has a strong social safety net, including a progressive, successful approach to ending homelessness. It also has a high-quality education system and its commitment to closing the gender gap is paying off. With a population of just over 5.5 million people, it’s the only country in the developed world where fathers spend more time with schoolaged children than mothers.

Taking their achievement to the next level, Finland is now inviting people from around the world to come and learn to live like them, with the help of a local Finn. A new tourism campaign was launched on March 18 with the tagline: “Rent your very own Finn. Find your calm.”

India and Happiness

India is one of the five countries which have been declining in average life evaluations since 2005-2008, typically due to a poor combination of economics, political and social stresses. It is an unflattering statement that despite India’s status as the fastest growing economy with an everexpanding GDP, its happiness quotient is almost on par with countries that have been battered by war for years or are in financial doldrums.

A sustained drop in India’s wellbeing (now ranked 140th) is responsible for driving the region’s well-being decline. In fact, India performed so poorly and its population is so significant that it dragged down the entire global happiness levels.

Economic policies like demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax, which hit the trading community, especially small traders and the rising unemployment levels, have added to the level of unhappiness and found expression in the sinking levels in this year's World Happiness ranking data.

The economic unhappiness is also observed in the Oxfam Report on 'Rise in inequality' and data on unemployment which are some of the considerable yet worrisome examples, highlighting income disparity, rise in poverty and consequent rise in stress in the lives of Indians. As the elections approach, it would be the responsibility of the new government to ensure happiness to its citizens alongside policies and economic prosperity of the nation.

However, the survey found positive statistics related to India, as well. It said Indians reported higher happiness when they reflected on times they have spent money on others versus themselves. Over a quarter of the Indian population—25.9%—said they donated to charitable causes in the last month.

It also found that digital advancements in India are helping to curb corruption. For example, the use of fingerprint and iris recognition technology is allowing the government to directly pay Indians on welfare schemes and stop relying on dishonest middlemen.

Good governance is one of the core variables that this survey is based on. But it works in two ways: government determines public happiness by enacting good policy and citizens create happiness by electing effective governments.

But, more research needs to be done to understand what’s going on in India. Indian case is a stark reminder that high economic growth does not necessarily go along with improvements in happiness. Indeed, it can often come at the expense of people’s social connections and the happiness of their daily lives.

Human Development and Happiness

At present each and every country has an aim to develop economically whether the country is developed or developing. All countries try to increase the level of employment and income.  Generally increased level of per capita income and national income is the indicator of economic development.

Economic growth is measured by Gross National Product (GNP), Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Happiness (GNH). In the developed nation due to capital formation industrial sector is well settled and employment level, income level, living standard and infrastructure all are in good condition. On the other side in the developing nations due to lack of capital and dependency on agriculture, the level of employment, income and infrastructure is in very terrific condition.

Governments of all countries always try to improve its economic condition by making so many policies. But the question is that how to measure the economic development of a country. From a policy perspective, economic development can be defined as efforts that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community by creating and retaining jobs and supporting or growing incomes. On basis of economic development at global level many indices are given like human development, human poverty index etc.

Human Development is just the expansion of income and wealth. Human development finds the theories of human capital formation and human resource development inadequate as they view human beings primarily as means rather than ends. Happiness is the ultimate aspiration of human being so the nation needs that their population has happiness. A country with happy population can develop so fast because happy man contributes more than an unhappy man. So, it can be said that HDI and GNH both are the best indicators of economic development of a country.

Economic Growth and Happiness

Philosophers from Aristotle to the Beatles have argued that money does not buy happiness. Since 2005 Gallup, a pollster, has asked a representative sample of adults from countries across the world to rate their life satisfaction on a scale from zero to ten. The headline result is clear: the richer the country, on average, the higher the level of self-reported happiness. The simple correlation suggests that doubling GDP per person lifts life satisfaction by about 0.7 points.

Yet the prediction that as a country gets richer its mood will improve has a dubious record. In 1974 Richard Easterlin, an economist, discovered that average life satisfaction in America had stagnated between 1946 and 1970 even as GDP per person had grown by 65% over the same period. He went on to find a similar disconnect in other places, too. Although income is correlated with happiness when looking across countries—and although economic downturns are reliable sources of temporary misery— long-term GDP growth does not seem to be enough to turn the average frown upside-down.

The “Easterlin paradox” has been hotly disputed since, with some economists claiming to find a link between growth and rising happiness by using better quality data.

There are important examples of national income and happiness rising and falling together. The most significant—in terms of population— is China, where GDP per person has doubled over a decade, while average happiness has risen by 0.43 points. Among rich countries Germany enjoys higher incomes and greater cheer than ten years ago. Venezuela, once the fifth-happiest country in the world, has become miserable as its economy has collapsed.

Yet that correlation is very weak. Of the 125 countries for which good data exist, 43 have seen GDP per person and happiness move in opposite directions. Like China, India is a populous developing economy that is growing quickly. But happiness is down by about 1.2 points in the past decade. America, the subject of Easterlin’s initial study, has again seen happiness fall as the economy has grown. In total the world’s population looks roughly equally divided between places where happiness and incomes have moved in the same direction over the past ten years, and places where they have diverged.


Although we all experience happiness, we don’t share an understanding of what it means, especially on a global scale. What the 2019 World Happiness Report foregrounds is that a better grasp of happiness may help us to understand the changing dynamics of societies and political behavior around the world.

General Studies Paper- II

  • Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

General Studies Paper- III

  • Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

General Studies Paper- IV

  • Topic: Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

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