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EDITORIAL - Happy places

Incomes aren’t rising for the majority and inclusive growth is a work in progress, but other indicators may account for the improvement of the Philippines in its ranking in the World Happiness Report 2017.

From last year’s 82nd place, the Philippines rose to 72nd among 155 countries and economies in the report released yesterday by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations. The release coincided with the observance of International Day of Happiness – with happiness measured in terms of per capita GDP, healthy life expectancy at birth, social support, freedom to make life choices, people’s generosity and perceptions of corruption.

Advanced economies with free societies again topped this year’s list, with Norway ranked the world’s happiest place, dislodging Denmark, which slipped to second spot. Iceland, Switzerland and Finland rounded out the top five, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The United States slid to 14th place from the previous 13th. The least happy are Burundi, Tanzania, Syria, Rwanda and bottom dweller Central African Republic.

In Asia, affluent Singapore was rated the happiest at 26th place, followed by Thailand at 32nd, Taiwan (33rd), Malaysia (42nd), Japan (51st), South Korea (56th), Hong Kong (71st), Indonesia (81st), Vietnam (94th), Myanmar (114th) and Cambodia (129th). The size of the economy is no gauge of happiness: China placed 79th. Bhutan, which measures “gross domestic happiness,” ranked 97th.

In the indicators, the Philippines rated lowest in perceptions of corruption in society and in terms of generosity. The country ranked highest in social support networks – one of the traditional strengths of Filipinos. In the middle ranks were per capita GDP, freedom to make life choices and healthy life expectancy at birth.

The Philippines has been among the top gainers in the happiness index from 2005 to 2007 and from 2014 to 2016. With more effort, the country can still improve from the middle ranks of the report and be at par with Asia’s better performers. This year’s improvement in ranking must be sustained through more reforms.

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