Filipinos are among the most unhappy people on the planet, according to the 2013 Word Happiness Report, a study released Monday, Sept. 9.
No surprise there. The UN Conference on Happiness, which commissioned the study, used freedom to pursue life’s choices among the criteria to arrive at the ranking, along with the absence of government corruption and political oppression, among others.
There is no such freedom in the Philippines. What the country has—in great measure—is government corruption and political oppression. No wonder it ranks 92nd out of 156 countries. It has slightly improved its ranking, from 103rd the previous year, but it is still depressingly near the bottom.
The top five happiest people in the world are those who come from Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. These people have what it takes to be happy. Their governments really work hard to serve them, too.
Although the study doesn’t say anything about it, poverty is the primary reason for the Filipino people’s unhappiness. And poverty arises from the lack of choices open to them.
The great majority of the population is mired in poverty. Obviously, people cannot be happy when they worry where the next meal is coming from. The middle class cannot be happy either, in the midst of so much poverty.
And the rich? The misery outside their gated communities rarely intrudes in their consciousness. Or maybe they just don’t care. They can always fly out of the country if things get really bad. In fact, they already have their swanky apartments abroad.
Sure, wealth is no guarantee for happiness. But poverty is a prescription for unhappiness. And given the depth and persistence of poverty in the Philippines, unhappiness has long metamorphosed into despair.
Of course, oppression and corruption make people unhappy. And we have more of that than most other countries. Just look at the thievery—graft and corruption is too mild a term—at the highest levels of the government. The pork barrel scam does not make people unhappy. It enrages them, enough to want their leaders torn to pieces.
The report says the Danes, the Norwegians, the Swiss, and other Northern Europeans are happy because they are most trusting of people. We don’t know if Filipinos trust their countrymen, but they certainly regard their leaders with suspicion, and the latest corruption scandal has reinforced that feeling.
Another pre-condition for a happy life is freedom of choice. The lack of job opportunities—never mind job security—and the poverty it engenders limit that freedom.
It is no surprise then that people in poor and ill-governed countries are the least happy: Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Benin, and Togo.
But the Philippines shouldn’t feel so snooty about it. It already lags behind Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. If the disorder brought by corruption persists, we will see Myanmar and Cambodia, which rank 121st and 140th, respectively, pulling ahead of us.
All five Northern European countries have a high per capita income, higher in fact than that of the United States. However, there are no mansions for the rich and very few flashy cars ply the streets. One striking scene is that of people going to work, to school, and to the grocery store on bicycles.
There are very few millionaires in these countries, if any. In contrast, the Philippines has hundreds of them—in dollars at that—and some of them make it to the list of the world’s richest year after year. The media dutifully report the story and splash their photos and names on the front page, leading us to believe that they take pride in it.
In a country like ours, where the great majority of people are dirt poor, we ought to hang our head in shame.