The Economist, a British current affairs weekly, compared the national ‘happiness index’ of 170 countries around the world. Korea ranked 20th, ranking second in Asia after Japan (16th).
On the 24th (local time), the British Economist published Social Progress Index data from 1990 to 2020 published by the Social Progress Imperative, a US-based non-profit organization, in 170 countries around the world. The relationship between the size of the economy and the happiness of the people was analyzed and the ‘happiness index’ was ranked.
Korea ranked 20th overall with 90 points in 2020, up 17 places from 1990. North Korea ranked 149th, down 37 places from 1990.
The Social Development Index published by the Social Development Research Institute does not simply evaluate the country’s development based on economic growth. There are three major categories: ‘basic human needs’ such as basic sanitation from infectious diseases and the population using electricity; ‘bases of well-being’ such as illiteracy, life expectancy, and Internet access; and ‘opportunities’ such as political freedom, suffrage, and age at marriage. Scores are given by comprehensively evaluating 52 items divided into fields.
Based on the index, the economist’s analysis showed that there was still a significant correlation between the size of a country’s wealth and the level of happiness of its citizens. Wealthy countries, such as Europe, have the highest rates of citizen happiness, while poor countries, such as many sub-Saharan African countries, rank the worst.
Looking at the trend of change in the social development index between 1990 and 2020, the improvement of human welfare gradually slowed down after the rapid growth from the 1980s to the 1990s.
As a result of the analysis, the regions with the greatest increase in the happiness index were East Asia and the Pacific, with countries in these regions rising by an average of 18 points between 1990 and 2020. In particular, in the case of Bhutan, where the concept of ‘gross national happiness’ was invented, the government made efforts to meet basic human needs, and it rose by about 30 points in 30 years, jumping 38 steps to 86th.
When the gross domestic product (GDP), an economic indicator of representative countries, and the social development index were analyzed in relation to each other, it was revealed that economic growth is a factor that has a significant impact on social development, but is not the ‘sole’ determinant. Ranked 107th in 2020, China’s GDP per capita increased 11-fold between 1990 and 2010, while the Social Development Index increased by 45% over the same period.
In the case of the United States, it ranked 31st with a happiness index of 87.6 points in 2020, and was the lowest in the G7. Ranking 31 is a drop of 23 places from 1990. Since 2016, the happiness index has been steadily declining, even though the US economy has grown faster than other rich countries. The Economist pointed to consecutively low scores in the ‘opportunity’ section, which measures social discrimination and access to higher education, as the cause of the decline in the happiness index in the United States.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.