That Meghan & Harry Thing!

I am a little late to the party but how could I miss writing about one of the most talked about interviews after the 1995 Princess Diana’s scandalous yet intriguing interview.

But, now that I have your attention (The Office viewers will get this), before getting into the invigorating details about Meghan and Harry, I wanted to discuss a lesser interesting topic that I read a couple of days ago and you might have missed it (maybe you didn’t) as it doesn’t hold much significance in our lives. I am talking about the World Happiness Report 2021.

The World Happiness Report is a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It contains articles and rankings of national happiness, based on respondent ratings of their own lives, which the report also correlates with various (quality of) life factors. The World Happiness Report 2021 focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared. It’s aim was two-fold, first to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the structure and quality of people’s lives, and second to describe and evaluate how governments all over the world have dealt with the pandemic. In particular, it tries to explain why some countries have done so much better than others.

A total of 149 countries are ranked by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be according to various parameters.

  • The rankings are based on polling (Gallup World Poll) which looks at six variables:
    • Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (Purchasing Power Parity).
    • Social Support.
    • Healthy life expectancy at birth.
    • Freedom to make life choices.
    • Generosity.
    • Perceptions of corruption.
  • Respondents are asked to rate their own current lives on a 0-10 scale.

Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the fourth consecutive year and it is followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Norway.

India was ranked at the 139th position in World Happiness Report 2021 and Afghanistan at the 149th place. India ranked 140th in 2019 and 144th in 2020. Let’s talk about this for a minute. I can’t say that we haven’t improved but this improvement is like, I was scoring 32 marks out of 100 and the next year I scored 33 because that was the passing score. The improvement of India, 6.88%, in this context is very slow and I don’t know whether we can afford this slow growth or not. For the fourth year running, Finland has come out on top in the annual list powered by data from the Gallup World Poll. Check here for ranking country wise and continent wise on Human Development Index.

Finland, a Nordic country located in Northern Europe with a current population of 5,546,856. This small country in relativity has been at the top of World’s Happiest countries for 4 years now. But how has Finland been able to sustain at that level for 4 years and the thing to ponder about is whether Finland is making some changes or whether countries like ours are making none in this regard. Talking about Finland, It has extensive welfare benefits, low levels of corruption, a well-functioning democracy, and an instilled sense of freedom and independence, which is a big part of what makes this country the happiest. In addition to that, progressive taxation and wealth distribution has allowed for a flourishing and world-leading universal healthcare system. Though, what strikes me as different and one of the most influencing factors of Finland being the leader of this report is its leadership. Sanna Marin, at 34 years-old, she is the youngest prime minister in the world. The prime minister’s coalition government was formed with all five party leaders being women. Finland’s cabinet features a significant number of women: twelve portfolios are represented by women, seven by men. Almost half (47%) of the country’s parliamentarians, are women. This might come across as different to a lot of us as we are used to seeing our leadership being dominated mostly by one gender. And I am not saying this is the only factor that makes Finland stand on the top of World Happiness Report 2021 but it has to be a major contributing factor.

Now, Lets talk about India.

India is a country in South Asia. India’s 2020 population is currently estimated at 1,380,004,385. The question of the hour is, Why is India or Indians so unhappy that we are in the bottom 10 countries of the Happiness Index?

India is a developing nation with an estimated nominal GDP of $2.8 trillion. It is the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). However, the per capita GDP has been comparatively low. Similarly, the distribution of capital has also been unequal to substantial amounts within the country. Thus, spending is lot less than it it should be. Now, GDP is one of the factors of the WHR 2021 which is gradually but constantly improving, but factors like social support and corruption are bringing the overall ranking of India down. Talking about deaths by suicide, India reported an average of 381 deaths by suicide daily in 2019, totaling 1,39,123 fatalities over the year, according to the latest NCRB data. The causes of suicide have been listed as Family problems, Illness, Drug Abuse and Mental Illness among others. Corruption and social unrest has been another major factor in the Happiness Index. Since 2010, there has been 100s of scams amounting equal to or more than INR 100 crore. In 2020, apart from various incidents of mass lynching, two major riots shook the nation resulting in 56 people losing their lives and more than 300 people were left wounded with loss of property, the amount of which is unascertained. I will have to write a separate post for criminal activities and environment damage.

I can’t say that the picture isn’t as gory as its painted out to be, It’s worse. I know, because I live here. But, there are positives, India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. India has attracted a total FDI inflow of USD 58.37 billion during April to November 2020. It is the highest ever for the first eight months of a financial year (F.Y.) and 22 % higher as compared to the first eight months of 2019-20 (USD 47.67 billion). India has been a leader in handling the pandemic way better than developed nations with resources much lesser than them. India has developed a vaccine in such a short time with great efficiency. India is currently in the process of vaccinating people with 44.6 M vaccines administered and 7.48 M people have been fully vaccinated. Foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, when addressing the Asia Economic Dialogue 2021 said, India has lived up to its talk on a collaborative future by exporting vaccines to more than 70 countries and will be adding 40 countries to this list soon.

As Indians, we all are responsible for the good and the bad. We have a tendency to overshadow the bad with the good and that is perhaps the reason, we are not improving the way we have the potential to. It is not only the job of the government to do everything and we can’t hold them responsible when we are not. A very basic example of how callous and irresponsible we have become is, I see people cleaning their houses and throwing the garbage on the road and if you ask them to not do that, they have the audacity to talk back and start an argument with you. This is a very small and basic example of how we are failing at not being responsible citizens but just failing at being humans. Let’s be better, let’s make this country we call ours actually ours, let’s help in cleaning our country and recycling the garbage not throwing it outside. Let’s raise our kids with morals along with mobile phones and tablets. Before, teaching them coding, let’s tell them what is wrong and right. Let’s talk about depression, let’s not talk about gender equality, let’s start implementing measures to make that happen. Let’s talk about secularity and not believe everything that is on the news like gospel. Let’s be objective instead of judgmental, let’s be kind before being doubtful and let’s be humans before being anything else.

Before I forget, Oprah was a great interviewer and Meghan and Harry were great interviewees. That’s all!

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World economy & happiness

Inference- The cost of increased economy is happiness

As a kid growing up in small towns across India, the only dream I had was to become rich. However, with time I had realized that being wealthy is a relative term: some have billions while others have millions (and I am in neither group). Every person that I have spoken to always misses their childhood and talks about crazy stuff that they did. Everyone had a very simple upbringing compared to riches they have today. Standard of living for majority of the people has increased over a substantial period of time. People have access to the best of healthcare, technology and infrastructure. My parents keep reminding me and my sisters of how lucky we are to have such great facilities at our disposal and I am fully certain grandpa would have told the same thing to him. The wealth overall is increasing at an alarming pace which is good and ,may be, bad. The question is whether that has played any part in the happiness of an individual.

GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product , this is calculated for every country every year and reflects the economy of a country quantitively. The easiest definition of GDP would be the total value created through production of goods and services in a country during a period. GDP below is the sum total of all the countries who have reported to UN since 1970, the margin of the error is quite minimal and also I am using these total numbers just to provide a stark difference in growth of it compared with population.

World GDP and World Population between 1970-2018

Data from https://www.un.org/ as per this quantification we see there is such a big growth jump in GDP compared to population. Every year, there is a very high significant increase of GDP while population growth is having a mean value of only 15%. If we see the difference between these 48 years, the numbers are just mind boggling.

GDP- in USD Trillion and Population in Billion

Let us see the numbers for a gap of 48 years between 1970 to 2018, this is simplistically so unreal, but it is very true, GDP has grown by (yeah you heard it right) 2407% while population risen by only 111%.

When usually product or service is out in market, generally we all think company is doing well, country is doing well, every one goes home with a good paycheck , but in reality that is not happening. If that was the case then as and when GDP as we see growing all the people should have definitely gotten richer, but that is not the case. I, for sure, have seen quiet a significant improvement in lifestyle/ standard of living if we compare an average Joe in 1970 vs. 2018; but Joe from 1970 has not become richer by 2407%.

There are caveats to this analysis: it has not been analyzed by country, some countries are becoming richer while others are contributing to the world population but not significantly to GDP. Nevertheless, if we see our world as one family, we will notice money growing per capita is at a higher rate than population.

Here’s a qualitative take at this:

  • Poor people have risen out of poverty – This adds some % increase to GDP- basically because of high volume
  • Middle class have become rich – adds significantly bigger chunk, because of education and white collared jobs more products being consumed and created. These people are majorly responsible who help in creating a new product or a service to aid the GDP increase.
  • Rich have become super rich – thriving businesses who hire people who are educated/white collared. A significant number of this category of people who create a new product or a service to reach out to increase GDP. They enjoy a bigger chunk of the GDP as seen below.
  • Super rich have become uber rich – Conglomerate of businesses. These are probably the top 5% in the world, they eat up the majority of the GDP growth. Their Enterprises are worth a price higher than some of the countries GDP. For instance if we say Bill gates net worth is 118 billion, he is probably much richer than some of the poorer countries whose GDP is 40-100 Billion USD.
  • Special cases- Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are the kinds who jumped from middle class to Uber rich. This is just a special case of being in the rags to riches story. These folks have a high net worth alongside the power to tumble down everything and that can have a huge cascading effect.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, has this capitalist economy made us more competitive? More ambitious? Why do we keep pointing to stress at work? I do not remember my grandparents being stressed because of work, parents to an extent and can only imagine the next generation complaining that their parents never had time to even talk to them. That is a very concerning state but if we continue to grow numbers (GDP) at such alarming rates then most of us will be overworking, we will be stress-full because of that, and more ambitious! The question we ought to ask is does it make us happy? If yes, then probably it’s an addiction, because when this all ends, we will not take anything from this world.