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The economics of happiness

If you feel like happiness is the truth, you might be well poised to stop clapping along with Pharrell Williams, and start seeking out a new place to settle up north. While Switzerland topped the list of the happiest OECD countries in 2012, the high ranks were dominated by the Nordic circle of Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.

On a scale where 10 represents the best possible life, and 0 represents the worst, Anglophone countries all ranked in the top half of the list, with an average score of 7.1. Among emerging powers, Brazil topped the rankings with a score of 6.7, on par with Germany, and higher than
the combined average of all 34 OECD member countries. As one of the most unequal countries in the world, South Africa’s score of 4.5 fell just short of satisfaction levels in Hungary, a country which continues to suffer through a massive public deficit.

During the global crisis, satisfaction levels of many OECD countries dropped steeply. Greece experienced the sharpest decline of 1.5 points, followed by a 0.8, 0.7, and 0.6 point drop in Spain, Italy and Portugal, respectively. Following these Mediterranean countries, the US experienced the second largest decline  in the OECD area, with a half-point drop from 7.5.

See www.oecd.org/social/ and www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/

© OECD Observer No 299, Q2 2014