First happiness report should calibrate Taiwan self-perception
The China Post news staffAccording to the nation's first-ever report on national happiness published by the government on Friday, Taiwan ranked 19 out of more than 30 countries, with a score of 6.64 out of 10 in a weighted index. That is, the country is right in the middle of the group of developed countries in terms of its current standing in welfare, as defined by factors falling into two rough categories of material life conditions and quality of life. To put the very solid ranking in perspective, the country ranks before neighbors Japan (22), and South Korea (28) in our comprehensive quality of life.
September 2, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
What the result reveals is actually a nuanced picture of the state of life in Taiwan. There are many areas that the country needs to improve, as revealed by the inadequate ratings in categories such as housing, education, and the environment. Also, the self-diagnosed level of happiness, at rank 25 with a below-average 4.5 score, is clearly not good. This translates into a fear of the future for young people, and gives grounds for the zeitgeist of “being adrift” that we often hear in contemporary talk.
Yet at the same time, it is time to take a Chinese idiom to heart — “don't look down on yourself,” from the timeless Chinese statesman and general Zhu Geliang, as he bid farewell to his emperor before setting off on an expedition. The report gives strong support for the argument that Taiwan has substantial strengths, and that our material life in particular is considerably more generous and more endowed than that of many other countries. Even with the flat-lining of wages over the past two decades, Taiwan's economic well-being is vastly superior to that of many of our neighbors in Asia and in fact is slightly better than that of Japan and South Korea when Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is considered.
The pool of countries in the survey includes the thirty-two countries of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as its partners Brazil and Russia. The survey is based on a version conducted by the OECD, with the government introducing additional categories that it thought appropriate.
What's important to point out here is that even isolating only those parts published by the OECD, Taiwan's performance excels in certain areas. Therefore, in this case we should be able to set aside self-bias as a concern.
Eleven areas, three in the Material Life Conditions category and eight in the quality of life category, were identified by the DGBAS. Housing, Income, and jobs are the three aspects under Material Life Conditions. The eight aspects under Quality of Life consist of community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance. There are twenty-four specific indicators.