World Happiness Report 2017

Current Affairs

Why in the news?

Recently, India was ranked poorly at 122th position out of 154 nations on World Happiness Index published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Even countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were well ahead than India on this index. The fact that notwithstanding rapidly growing economy and ballooning soft power across the globe, this poor ranking has generated a debate on quality of governance that is desired to achieve the ultimate objective of a state- happiness.

The top ten countries featured in the World Happiness Index are as following:

  1. Norway
  2.  Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6.  Netherlands
  7.  Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

     122. India


What is World Happiness Index Report?

The World Happiness Report is a measure of happiness published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It uses six parameters to measure happiness in a country.

These six parameters are:

  • GDP per capita
  • Healthy years of life expectancy
  • Social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble),
  • Trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business)
  • Perceived freedom to make life decisions, and
  • Generosity (as measured by recent donations).

The first World Happiness Report was released on April 1, 2012 as a foundational text for the meeting. It drew international attention as the world's first global happiness survey.


Why it matters?

The poor ranking of India on World Happiness Index has severe implications for governance in the country. As the country rapidly surged in terms of economic growth and overall development level, various other factors like corruption in government, shrinking job opportunities, atrocities against vulnerable and marginalized group of people and dismal health figures have done greater damage on India’s performance on the index.

Moreover, at this time when the entire world is unanimously of the view of searching alternative of GDP as the measurement of well-being, the facts highlighted in the World Happiness Report assumes significant importance among policy circles. The case of India’s poor ranking is certainly a case of further debate and discussion.

Why India lagged behind despite significant economic growth?

India’s rank on WHI is worse than countries with aging population and declining economic growth like Japan and Sri Lanka. Also, even the poorest of nations such as Somalia (93) and Ethiopia (119) are ranked better than India — considered a nation with great history and an equally bright future.

According to the UN definition of happy countries, a happy country must have "a healthy balance of prosperity, as conventionally measured, and social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in government".

While over the years, India’s economic growth has roared, the state of re-distribution of national income has been pretty dismal. The inequality and exclusion of poor and marginalized has been on the rise. Even in economy, the share of direct taxes has been decreasing steadily and has been hovering around 50-51% which is one of the main reasons behind rising inequity in the society.

The prominent health indicators like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Maternity Rate (MMR), and average life expectancy has also not been up to the mark. India failed miserably on achieving expected milestones in health sectors listed under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The budgetary allocation to the health sector has also been stagnant.

Notwithstanding government’s increased efforts to bring transparency and accountability in governance, the trust between government and governed is not strong enough.  Recently published Transparency International’s report on corruption level has also depicted India in poor light and ranked 78thposition out of 168 countries.

The last but not the least, the societal norms in Indian society has changed considerably in this age of neo-liberalization. Universal human values like love, compassion, empathy, generosity, etc. now have become very scarce in inter-personal relationships. People have become attached to materialistic things to greater extent and losing the humanism texture.


The concept of measuring happiness though could be not quantified in absolute manner, it certainly makes a strong case for moving away from status quo of measuring growth and development solely on GDP and other economic factors. The concept of ‘happiness’ also may have different meaning for different countries (as in the case of Bhutan; they perceive ‘happiness’ as ‘self-sufficiency’), yet the idea of measuring well-being of a country on basis of ‘happiness’ is certainly a welcome step for entire world community.


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