Another month, another survey …

1 Sep

I’ve had a busy summer, and a backlog of happiness surveys has been building up in my in-tray.

In April the UN’s third World Happiness Report, which surveyed 158 countries, put the UK one place higher than it had in its previous publication of 2013. Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark occupied the top three places, while Britain came in at number 21.

Then May saw the publication of the 2015 SEDA, the Sustainable Economic Development Assessment carried out by the Boston Consulting Group. This evaluates how effectively the 149 countries surveyed convert wealth into well-being. The facets it examines are wealth or GDP; employment/unemployment; income disparities; water, transport, sanitation and communication; quality of the environment; access to healthcare; educational quality; government institutions and civic freedoms; and social bonds and gender equality.

The report shows that Poland’s improvement in overall well-being between 2006 and 2013 was higher than that of any other country when adjusted for how much each economy grew. Poland’s overall well-being score of 71.6 was lower than the UK’s, at 81.1. But under the heading of educational quality Poland easily outperformed Britain, scoring 90 out of 100 as compared with our 74 (the European average is 82). Educationally Poland is ahead of the UK in terms of teacher/pupil ratio and levels of tertiary enrolment. In both measures in Britain we’re falling further and further behind the world average. Poland also outperformed Britain under the heading of healthcare, scoring 90 against our 87.

Overall Norway was at the top of the well-being list. As usual, Scandinavian countries dominated the top ten, with Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland all making it. They were joined by Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Singapore. The UK came 19th, just behind Japan and France.

In his foreword to the report Nobel prize-winning economist A. Michael Spence sums up the whole point of the survey: ‘To pursue well-being effectively, countries need to achieve economic growth that is both socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.’

These days the UK doesn’t do particularly well in either of these areas. And things get worse …

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