OECD aims to measure happiness

By Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-25 08:06
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BEIJING - A new approach is being taken to measure social progress with the launch of the OECD Better Life Initiative, which kicked off the OECD's 50th Anniversary Week on Tuesday.

Your Better Life Index, an online interactive tool, allows people to compare their lives across 34 of the world's most industrialized countries in a way that goes beyond GDP numbers, dealing with the question of how to define "happiness".

The index, available at starting on Tuesday, has 11 categories - housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance, according to the OECD website.

The launch of the index is part of the OECD's 50th anniversary forum and ministerial celebrations in Paris, known as "OECD Week", bringing together world leaders, policymakers and stakeholders from OECD countries and emerging economies from Tuesday to Thursday.

Issues to be discussed include new sources of economic growth and jobs, gender equality, rising food and energy prices and global development.

Late last year, the UK government started a plan to measure people's "happiness", following attempts including the United Nations' Human Development Index and the European Commission's Beyond GDP project.

Your Better Life Index follows this trend, but it is different in that it is fully interactive and reflects primarily the interests and concerns of the users. It's up to users in the OECD countries to rate their countries on the things they feel make for a better life.

People can share their findings with other users, and over time the index will build up a picture of the issues that people in OECD countries and, eventually further afield, believe are most important to their societies.

In research findings released earlier this year by the Legatum Institute, a London-based non-partisan think tank, Norway is the happiest country in the world, joined by Nordic neighbors Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Switzerland and the Netherlands are also in the top 10.

The United States scored 62nd, and China is the 58th happiest nation in the world despite its eye-catching GDP growth, according to the research.

Wang Zhou, a 26-year-old accountant at a State-owned enterprise in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, told China Daily that she sees many problems around her in the fast growing nation.

Citing the famous Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Wang said she only reaches the lowest level of "physiological" satisfaction.

"How can I find happiness with the continuous reports of unsafe food?"

Concern for people's happiness has been on the rise in China over the past years. Surveys of people's happiness have been held, and happiness has become an index of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Zhang Shengjun, deputy dean of the Institute of Political Science and International Studies at Beijing Normal University, said countries with better social welfare systems usually have more smiling faces.

China Daily

(China Daily 05/25/2011 page11)