Happy Down Under?

3 Jun


The results of yet another happiness survey were announced last week. The Better Life Index produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development measures wellbeing among 36 industrialised nations. For the third year running Australia has come top. The UK was placed 10th (up two places from last year), the US 6th, Germany 17th and France 18th.

Italy, the European country where I’ve always thought I might be happy to settle if forced to leave Britain, was a lowly 23rd. Greece, unsurprisingly, was way down, at number 30.

The rankings are based on material factors such as life expectancy and employment rates, but also take into account considerations  like life satisfaction and civic engagement.

Here in Britain we scored below average on work-life balance, with 12% of us working very long hours. There’s also a widening gap between the richest and the poorest, with the top 20% earning nearly six times as much as the bottom 20%. But we come out well on income and employment levels. Reassuringly, our best scores are for the environment and safety on the streets. Apparently our murder rates are almost half the OECD average.  Our educational attainment is lower than in other comparable countries though, so we could do much better there.

One economist, David Blanchflower, has questioned the award of first place to Australia, criticising the weight which the survey accords to different measures. “Australia ranks 12th in the ‘life satisfaction’ category, which you would think was quite important,”  he says. Yes indeed. 

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