March 21, 2019

2019's happiest country

2019's happiest country

The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be and in 2019, for the second year in a row, Finland has come out on top as the world’s happiest country. Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the Netherlands follow closely behind. The report focuses specifically on technology, social norms, conflicts, and the government policies that have driven those changes.

IZA World of Labor author Robert MacCulloch has also looked at how data on happiness may help assess the welfare effects of new labor market policies. In his article, he writes: ‘“Happiness data’ can be used to measure the overall welfare effect of a change in benefits directly, considering whole populations as well as relevant sub-groups. This provides additional, comprehensive data that can be used when evaluating potential policy options.”

The World Happiness Report ranks countries on six variables related to well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support, and generosity. Report co-editor John Helliwell, professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, highlights that the stats are true for both native-born residents of those countries as well as immigrants. According to him: “It’s true that last year all Finns were happier than rest of the countries’ residents, but their immigrants were also the happiest immigrants in the world. It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s the way life is lived in those countries.”

Ranking high in happiness doesn’t mean that countries and their people don’t face violence and trauma, but people’s response to those matters. “What stands out about the happiest and most well connected societies is their resilience and ability to deal with bad things,” says Helliwell. The 2019 World Happiness Report has seen Austria pushing Australia out of the top 10 list and the US has dropped down a total of five spots since 2017.

Read more articles on the role of happiness in labor market policy.