India is unique in its composition, unusual in its character, incomparable in its diversity and peerless in its ethos. So much so, this report does not reflect correctly the happiness or unhappiness of our people, which is purely a state of mind based on several social factors that do not get captured into the survey.
The World Happiness Report 2015 is published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which is a global initiative started in 2012 for United Nations (UN). This contains the world happiness index of 158 countries based on a survey conducted by an American research-based company called Gallup over 2012-2014.
Happiness score or subjective well-being (SWB):
As per the report, the survey measures happiness or subjective well-being of an individual as per the Gallup World Poll, which is arrived based on zero score at the bottom and 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life and the bottom represents the worst possible life. Here is a list of top ten and top bottom countries in the list.
Top 10 – world’s happiest countries with their score in brackets
1. Switzerland (7.587)
2. Iceland (7.561)
3. Denmark (7.527)
4. Norway (7.522)
5. Canada (7.427)
6. Finland (7.406)
7. Netherlands (7.378)
8. Sweden (7.364)
9. New Zealand (7.286)
10. Australia (7.284)
Bottom 10 - world’s least happy countries with their score in brackets:
158. Togo (2.839)
157. Burundi (2.905)
156. Syria (3.006)
155. Benin (3.340)
154. Rwanda (3.465)
153. Afghanistan (3.575)
152. Burkina Faso (3.587)
151. Ivory Coast (3.655)
150. Guinea (3.656)
149. Chad (3.667)
What is India’s ranking in this index?
India’s ranking is way below the BRICS countries and stands at 117 as under:
16. Brazil (6.983)
64. Russia (5.716)
84. China (5.140)
113. South Africa (4.642)
117. India (4.565)
The US is ranked 15, followed by UK (21), Singapore (24), Saudi Arabia (35), Japan (46) and China (84). Pakistan is at 81st position with a score of 5.194.
What are the Components of the World Happiness Index?
As per the report, happiness or subjective well-being is assessed on the basis of following six parameters considered in the survey: it is the national average response to the question of life evaluations.
GDP per capita: The statistics of GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) at constant 2011 international dollar prices are from the 6 November 2014 release of the World Development Indicators (WDI).
1. Healthy Life Expectancy: The time series of healthy life expectancy at birth are calculated by the authors based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Development Indicators (WDI), and statistics published in journal articles.
2. Social support: This is having someone to count on in times of trouble and is the national average of the binary responses (either 0 or 1) to the question “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”
3. Perceived freedom to make life choices: Freedom to make life choices is the national average of responses to the question “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life”
4. Corruption Perception: The measure is the national average of the survey responses to two questions in the Gallup World Poll: “Is corruption widespread throughout the government or not” and “Is corruption widespread within businesses or not?” The overall perception is just the average of the two responses. The corruption perception at the national level is just the average response of the overall perception at the individual level.
5. Generosity: This is the residual of regressing national average of response to the question “Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?” on GDP per capita.
Why India is at the lower end of the index?
The reasons are not far to seek. India is a complex country with diverse faiths, multitude of castes and sub-castes, variety of cultures, innumerable languages, low level of literacy and a large number of people living below the poverty line. The demography of our country is so complex, any survey on parameters mentioned above will not only be grossly inadequate, but also simply inequitable and cannot be a fair comparison with the developed and the less populous nations of the world. Our Country is unique in its composition, unusual in its character, incomparable in its diversity and peerless in its ethos. So much so, this report does not reflect correctly the happiness or unhappiness of our people which is purely a state of mind based on several social factors which do not get captured into the survey.
Therefore, though the index of happiness cannot be taken at face value so far as India is concerned, it does not mean that everything is hunky-dory in our country. It is a fact of life that there is considerable unhappiness across the country, as evidenced by media reports, which hit the headlines daily reflecting considerable upheaval in everyday life of our people throughout the length and the breadth of our country.
For instance, recently, there was a shocking revelation that when the Uttar Pradesh government advertised for posts of 368 peons on 11 August 2015, they received more than 23 lakh applications, i.e. over 6,250 applications per post. And the most surprising part is that among the applicants, there were more than 2 lakh graduates with degrees like B. Tech, MSc, and M.Com, and 255 with PhDs. The minimum qualification for the post was Class V pass but only 53,000 applicants had not studied beyond Class V. This is a classic example of the existence of widespread unemployment among the educated class in the most populous state of our country. And in such a society how do you expect people to be happy?
Another media report highlighted the rampant corruption existing in every walk of life in our country, despite all the talk of eradicating corruption though enactments, which have not touched the fringe of the problem. As per the website, ‘Ipaidabribe.com’ (IPAB), an online initiative set up in 2010 by Bengaluru-based NGO to crowd-source corruption reports in India, it recorded over 47,000 reports amounting to Rs280 crore of bribe paid from more than 600 cities in India. This is only a fraction of the bribes paid in India simply because, these relate to petty bribes paid by common people for getting small jobs done through government departments. Besides, very few people are bold enough or even bother to report such payment of bribes either due to fear of backlash or sheer indifference once their job is done. The level of corruption existing both in the public and the private sector cannot be even imagined.
Nonetheless, the World Happiness Report says that the well-being and happiness are critical indicators of a nation’s economic and social development and should be a key aim of government policy. It is said that the report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It is not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust and good health that happiness of people could be judged. “Increasingly happiness is considered a proper measure of social progress and goal of public policy,” the report said, adding the happiness index describes how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations.
However, judging the happiness of people based on the amount of money donated to charity during the previous month is not only myopic, but is also an uncharitable way of judging the happiness of people, especially in a country with diverse population like India. Instead, I would venture to suggest to the authors of the World Happiness Report that a society should be judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them, namely the deprived and the disabled. This is because it brings out the test of humanity and its humane approach to life, and this can make all the difference in the life of people.
(The author is a financial analyst, and writes for Moneylife under the pen-name ‘Gurpur’.)