It turns out that we’re probably on the wrong side of the border when it comes to our collective search for happiness. According to the World Happiness Report, an international survey on the state of global happiness levels, which was released at the United Nations recently, India ranks 122nd in the world when it comes to individual happiness. To put that in perspective, Pakistan comes in at 80, Nepal checks in at 99 and Bangladesh finds a reason to smile at 110. There’s probably only a handful of situations when being ranked 122nd out of 155 participants is a good thing – such as if this were the World Unhappiness Report – but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case and we’re currently nestled between Armenia and Mauritania. At least they have good reason to be a bit grumpy – Armenia suffered a genocide at the hands of Ottomans just a few generations ago and Mauritania can’t get people to remember where or what it is. What about us, though? Weren’t we just laughing at all those demonetisation jokes? Instead of focusing on our own shortcomings (another sure-shot way to stay unhappy) maybe we should learn something from the countries at the top of this Happiness List. Norway, which is sitting pretty at pole position, has several happiness markers we can learn from.

Happiness is…

Great Social Support

Given the fact that Scandinavian countries are all comprehensive welfare states, it can be safely assumed that Norway’s government looks out (well!) for its citizens. Yes, they do have one of the highest tax rates in the world, but that’s acceptable when citizens get free medical treatment until the age of 16, five weeks of paid vacation annually, 12 months of paid parental leave (14 weeks of which can be taken by the father), free education through university level and a guaranteed pension for anyone older than 67, regardless of occupation.

An Excellent Health Care Programme

Norway has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. It has been ranked 11th by the World Health Organisation. Public healthcare is universally available for a nominal deduction of about $300 per year, while children below 16 are treated for free. So what do they get? Approximately $9,715-worth of health services per head per year, which is the highest in the world.

Supportive Family and Friends

One big factor in happiness is how much support you get from your community and Norway seems to have that in spades. One might wonder if the much-maligned ‘Law of Jante’ has something to do with this; Scandinavians would be quick to refute this, but they do seem to have some pretty strong ties within their community. It may have to do with the brutal weather there fostering a close-knit social structure, but for all we know it might even have to do with their love for death metal music – whatever it is, people in Norway have historically supported each other and brought communities closer.

Gender Equality

Women in Norway hold just as much power as men in every aspect of society. The country is dedicated to bringing women into the workplace and keeping them there. In fact, the country has a female workforce participation rate of 76 percent, easily the highest in the world. Furthermore, the same laws protect both men and women; they have equal access to education, health and social services. But they had to work to get here. In 2003, Norwegian legislated that at least 40 percent of a public company’s board members must be female. Here in India, we have only just got the ball rolling when it comes to the matter of maternity leave.


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