SURVEYS

Deep blue: Hong Kong tumbles to 75th in world happiness rankings, lowest since UN report debuted

The showing extends a downward trend for the city, which hit a high of 46th in 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 2:24am

Hong Kong is barely ahead of Somalia and well below Libya after tumbling to its lowest level in the United Nations’ global ranking of happiness.

This year’s World Happiness Report, published ahead of the International Day of Happiness on March 20, saw the city dip three places to 75th among 156 countries and territories surveyed.

It was the city’s lowest ranking yet in the UN survey. In 2012, when the survey debuted, Hong Kong was placed 46th, but tumbled to 64th the following year. No index was compiled for 2014.

READ MORE: Why so sad? Hong Kong sinks in 2015 World Happiness Index, but stays ahead of mainland China

The report concluded that countries and territories with a small wealth gap had happier citizens. Inequality was identified as the biggest cause of unhappiness.

The UN-backed index calculates its rating based on surveying 1,000 people a year for three years, the latest from 2013 to 2015. Each country is measured according to six factors: GDP per capita, life expectancy, social welfare support, freedom from corruption, freedom to make life choices and generosity.

City University academic Professor Dennis Wong Sing-wing said: “It’s really hard to compare the conditions of a smaller country to a large city.”

Last January, CityU released its own happiness happiness, comparing Hong Kong to the South Korean capital, Seoul, and Osaka in Japan. Professor Wong said a comparison of Hong Kong’s happiness with major cities was a better measure of public sentiment than against other nations and territories.

The survey found Hongkongers were least happy about politics, the economy, environment, health, entertainment and housing.

“Big cities are not able to score high marks, so that’s why when we compare them to somewhere like Thailand, because they have beaches, live in poor conditions but don’t really mind, it’s about the discrepancy between poor and rich, the feeling towards the government. It’s really subjective,” Wong said.

Denmark is now the world’s happiest place, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland. Each country is described as enjoying a high standard of living and benefiting from generous government welfare policies.

At the other end of the spectrum, languishing at the bottom, were Burundi, at present in the grip of severe political unrest, and Syria, riven by a civil war that to date has claimed the lives of 250,000 people.

Hong Kong ranked in the middle, just ahead of fractious Somalia – a new entry this year and a country whose GDP is a fraction of the city’s as it is besieged by Islamic militants and suicide bombings. War-torn Libya ranked higher in 67th place, despite the country’s civil war and political turmoil.

Taiwan appeared to fare better, climbing three places to 35th, while mainland China made a slight improvement, rising one rank to 83rd.

Also in the region, Singapore’s happiness levels appeared to improve the most as the city state reaffirmed its top spot among Asian countries, rising two places to 22nd. Japan, however, slipped seven spots to 53rd.

“Hong Kong is losing a lot of competitiveness in terms of social conditions. We are trying our best to develop our economy at the expense of social life,” Wong said.