Singapore ranked 2nd-happiest Asian nation in World Happiness Report

FILE PHOTO: Reuters/Edgar Su
FILE PHOTO: Reuters/Edgar Su

Its residents may be notorious for their incessant complaining, but Singapore still ranks as the 34th happiest country in the world – and second happiest in the Asian region behind 25th-ranked Taiwan – in an annual survey issued on Wednesday (March 20).

According to the 2019 World Happiness Report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Finland is ranked the world’s happiest country for the second year in a row, and is followed by Denmark and Norway.

Meanwhile, South Sudan – which gained independence only in 2011 – is ranked least happiest among the 156 nations surveyed, followed by Central African Republic and Afghanistan.

The report ranked the countries according to happiness-inducing factors such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, perception of freedom, generosity and absence of corruption.

Tops in healthy life expectancy, absence of corruption

Singapore came out No. 1 among all nations in the healthy life expectancy and absence of corruption categories. However, it fared less well in categories such as social support (36th), perception of freedom (20th) and generosity (21st).

By comparison, Finland’s happiness is derived mainly from its strong social support (second among all nations), absence of corruption (fourth) and high perception of freedom (fifth).

According to the report, the Scandinavian 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 school-aged children than mothers.

The top 10 happiest countries were once again dominated by European nations, with Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Netherlands taking the other spots in the top five, followed by Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria.

Economic growth doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness growth

The United States dropped one place to 19th, while China is ranked 93rd. India, despite its huge GDP growth in the last decade, is still mired in 140th spot.

The report’s co-editor John F. Helliwell, a senior fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, said in a statement on the report, “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.”

Co-editor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, cautions that addiction in many forms – from substance abuse to gambling and digital media – are causing considerable unhappiness and depression in many countries.

He added, “We keep chasing economic growth as the holy grail, but it’s not bringing well-being for our country. We should… stop our addiction to GDP growth as our sole or primary indicator of how we’re doing.”

Top 10 happiest countries: 1. Finland 2. Denmark 3. Norway 4. Iceland 5. Netherlands 6. Switzerland 7. Sweden 8. New Zealand 9. Canada 10. Austria.

Top 10 happiest Asian territories: 25. Taiwan 34. Singapore 52. Thailand 67. Pakistan 69. Philippines 76. Hong Kong 80. Malaysia 83. Mongolia 92. Indonesia 93. China.

Top 10 least happiest countries: 1. South Sudan 2. Central African Republic 3. Afghanistan 4. Tanzania 5. Rwanda 6. Yemen 7. Malawi 8. Syria 9. Botswana 10. Haiti.

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