Bhutanese in general are happy people. However, a closer look at economic and social factors, which affect a person’s happiness, Bhutan as a country is not one of the happiest in the world.

Coinciding with the International Day of Happiness on March 20, the UN released the World Happiness Report 2017, which ranked Bhutan 97 among 155 countries. This is a slide of 13 notches from last year’s 84th ranking.

A survey conducted by the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research in 2014 showed that 91.2 percent of Bhutanese are happy. On a broader concept of happiness, however, Bhutan scored only 5.011 out of 10 on the happiness ladder.

The respondents of the survey were asked to evaluate their “current lives” on a ladder, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible. In each of the 155 countries including Bhutan, roughly 3,000 people were surveyed.

According to the report, key economic factors include income and employment. Social factors such family life, education and health of the respondents were also taken into consideration.

The importance of having “a job for happiness” is evident throughout the analysis of the data from across the globe, the report stated. “People with a job evaluate the quality of their lives much more favorably than those who are unemployed,” it stated.

Bhutan’s overall unemployment stands at 2.1 percent of the workforce. The latest unemployment results for youth indicate that 13.2 percent of young people are unemployed.

What surprised many Bhutanese is that Pakistan is ranked ahead of Bhutan at the 80th position and is the top ranked country in the SAARC region. Bhutan ranks as the second happiest country.

Bhutan outperformed Pakistan in all six key variables – GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom to make choices in life, perceptions of corruption and generosity. However, it was “dystopia”, which the report uses as a benchmark against which to compare each country’s performance in terms of each of the six factors, that pushed Pakistan’s ranking above Bhutan’s.

Among the six factors, the best scorer for Bhutan was “social support” as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble followed by “GDP per capita”. The lowest points were scored in “perception of corruption”.

Today, 12.7 percent of the population is below the threshold for education, health and living standards defined by the multidimensional poverty index.

Among the SAARC countries, Bhutan is followed by Nepal (99), Bangladesh (110), Sri Lanka (120), India (122) and Afghanistan (141). The Maldives does not feature in the report.

Norway has jumped into the first position of being the happiest country on the planet, followed closely by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. The top ten countries rank highly on all the six factors.

The report has suggested policy makers to study the causes of happiness and misery of the people.

People who live in the happiest countries have longer life expectancies, more social support and more freedom to make life choices.  They have lower corruption incidences and experience more generosity and have a higher gross domestic product per capita.

The first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012, in support of the High Level Meeting at the United Nations on happiness and well-being.

MB Subba