Measure of a Man (and his country)

How do we measure the health of a nation’s people?

The mainly monetary-based GDP per capita measure has hitherto been the norm but increasingly more researchers and policy-makers are turning to something seemingly intangible: happiness. This is because GDP only measures market or economic benefits (which includes huge government spending for instance) and does not really look at the the average individuals’ quality of life, or even the quality of environment.

Singapore presents an interesting case. We score fairly high on GDP per capita rankings (about 4th in the world on average), but our happiness rankings are comparatively lower. We’re 81st on the Gallup World Poll and 49th on the Happy Planet Index. The former looked at life satisfaction while the latter combined that with life expectancy and ecological footprint.

Looking forward, this TODAY article mentions how we should try to measure our country’s happiness as it will allow us to more effectively evaluate the effectiveness of our social programs and even attract businesses, given how such an index will lend statistical meat to any promotion efforts.

Why do you think there is a disparity in our GDP per capita and Happiness rankings? How can this be improved then?

Can we really depend on some kind of happiness index to chart a country’s social health? What problems might surface in trying to measure something like this?

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2 thoughts on “Measure of a Man (and his country)

  1. I think that there is a disparity in our GDP per capita and Happiness rankings because Singaporeans in general lead stressful and hectic lives. There is almost nothing novel to do in Singapore. Besides shopping at malls that have the same shops and watching movies at cinemas, Singapore does not offer therapeutic avenues for a person’s soul. However, some may say that there are many interesting places to visit. For example, Sentosa, the integrated resorts and the casino. Even though this may be true, these places only offer only fleeting happiness. Furthermore, everyday life could be considered a mundane existence for some. It still depends on how people want to lead their lives and how they want to make themselves happy. However, it would be difficult to find true happiness, given that time is very limited. For this to be improved, bosses should be more understanding and flexible. Singaporeans should try to be more caring and understanding such that interpersonal relationships can improve.
    We cannot entirely depend on some kind of happiness index to chart a country’s social health because it may not reflect the happiness level that everyone is at. In addition, possibly problems such as inaccuracy may occur. Since everyone has different expectations and satisfaction levels, it would be very difficult to measure how happy everyone is. How one makes himself happy could also be very different as compared to others.

  2. Because there’s been things that people had to give up in order to achieve such a high income rate. For example, many people sacrifice their weekends for working instead of spending more time with family and freiends. This may result in them earning more money but their lives would be more stressful since they have less time to enjoy and relax.

    One problem is that some people are reluctant to share their personal information and hence leading to false servey result.

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