A Skewed View of Happiness

Forbes this week covered an important, often neglected topic – who’s happiest? Their article, based on a report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, notes that the happiest countries are the Northern European ones. The reasons Forbes gives for this achievement include a higher per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a shorter work-week (37 hours), and low unemployment (4% versus the U.S.’s 9%). Only in passing was a sense of community mentioned.

Unemployment rate for US states in 2004
Image via Wikipedia

Notably absent from this overview, however, was any mention of  social safety-nets, or that wealth is more evenly distributed within these countries, or the fact that Northern European countries are those with the most evenly-shared gender roles. The glaring lack of a social safety net [social safety net = uniform access to healthcare, welfare, retraining, education, optimum paternity+maternity leave] is THE single biggest difference between the top scoring countries and the much lower-scorers with similar industrialization, like the U.S.

Pointing out the obvious like that, however, might be too much of a downer for the “per capita” average Forbes readership…

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