The World Happiness Report 2021 by the United Nations says that in terms of happiness, India ranks 139 out of 149 countries. It means that India is the the eleventh worst country in the world in terms of happiness. It means that only a few war-torn countries are behind India in terms of happiness.
After all, what is this happiness report? On what basis is the happiness of a country calculated? Now, you might be thinking if it is possible to calculate happiness, especially at the level of a country? Does the surveyor go to people and ask “How happy are you?” to then prepare the report? Well, no. That is not the case.
Many experts and politicians believe that measuring the happiness of citizens of a country is much more imperative than measuring the GDP, because GDP is only an economic indicator that cannot tell you how happy the people of that particular country are. In fact, GDP is one thing that can increase due to several irrelevant reasons in a country. For example, if the road in front of your house gets damaged every year and is repaired every year, then the GDP will grow more than if a good road was built and did not need repair for the next 10 years.
Similarly, when a country goes to a war with another country, more weapons are created and more factories are set up to manufacture those weapons that will resultantly increase the GDP of the country. But going on a war is neither a good thing for the country nor its citizens. There is a term to explain this phenomenon, i.e. the Broken Window Fallacy. This fallacy is when you break a window and then ask a worker to repair it. In turn, the worker gets employment and there is circulation of currency. But it helps our country in no way. It may be the reason why our former Prime Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that happiness is no less than GDP.
Now, the question that arises is: how do we calculate happiness? For this reason, a report is published every year by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, known by the name ‘World Happiness Report’. Now, let’s see how we can measure happiness in this report and how the countries are compared.
This report has six criteria:
Among these, we have hard data available for the first two criteria. We all know that the GDP per capita of a country can be easily calculated. Clear data on the average life expectancy of citizens is also available with the World Health Organisation. So, the first two are measured simply on the basis of the data available, while the rest four are measured on the basis of surveys. A sample size of people is taken and they’re asked questions. So, what questions are asked in this survey? Let’s see it one by one:
A country is scored in each of these criteria and the average score of these is the final score of the country, which is somewhere between 0-8, where 8 is the highest and 0 is the lowest.
In the 2021 report, the happiest country was Finland, which scored 7.842 and the least happiest country was Afghanistan, whose score was calculated to be 2.523. India scored 3.819, which is indeed terrible. And if you go on comparing India’s score and rank, you’ll find that both have been deteriorating rapidly.
What’s noteworthy is that all the neighbouring countries, have started performing better. Pakistan ranked 105 in the report, Bangladesh 101, China 84 and Nepal 87. The report shows us some very shocking things. Why is India’s rank falling rapidly? In this report you’ll also get to see which countries topped each criterion and which were at the bottom. If you see India’s rank for each criterion, you’d see that India is terrible in social support. But, in freedom, corruption and generosity , India didn’t perform that bad.
But, do remember that these questions are based on one’s perception. What people feel and their opinion on that issue can be influenced by a lot of things — their environment, thinking and the conditions prevailing in the country. For the four categories in the survey, if you check the individual ranking of these, you’d understand what I mean to say.
For example, in generosity, Myanmar is at the top. Now, is Myanmar the only country where people donate the most? It sounds doubtful. But, is Myanmar a country where people believe that they donate the most? It is possible. Similarly, in the perception of corruption criterion, the worst countries are Bulgaria and Romania. I agree that corruption level in these European countries is high, but if you compare it with other countries around the world, then do Bulgaria and Romania really have the highest corruption? This is hard to believe, but if you ask the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, in their opinion, it would seem so.
Similarly, in the social support category, India got one of the worst ranks. Does that mean India is a country where people don’t take care of each other? We will not believe this. So, in my opinion, these are some of the limitations of this report. It is based on the subjective happiness of people. People are questioned and it is based on their perception.
But, this does not mean that this report is completely useless. I’d say that this report needs to be used in the correct sense. One of the best uses of this report may be that we can compare the score of the happiness of India to past years. Because when a country’s score is compared to its own, all these variable factors remain the same. And in it, it is clearly evident that India’s score has been falling in the past few years. This means that people have been feeling that corruption has increased. People aren’t as generous as they used to be, they do not have the freedom they used to have. These are the few things worth considering.