View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Saturday, July 4, 2009

How Happy Are People in the UAE?

UAE Position
The UAE is still dogged by its heavy ecological footprint which has the country rated at 123 out of 143 countries in the 2009 Happy Planet Index (HPI).

According to this rating, one would have to deduce that residents of the UAE are an unhappy lot.

2009 Happy Planet Index
Today, Saturday 4th July 2009, sees the launch of the second global compilation of the Happy Planet Index, in a new report and updated website.

The report, The Happy Planet Index 2.0: Why good lives don’t have to cost the earth, contains the results of updated data for 143 countries around the world, representing 99 per cent of the world’s population.

It also includes new analysis which examines changes in HPI scores for major nations over time.

Alongside the report, the updated website is launched, which allow users to sign up to a new happy planet charter, calculate their own HPI score, and explore the HPI data.

Measuring Health and Happiness
The Happy Planet Indicator is an attempt to combat the myth of economic growth as the best measure of progress and that which brings happiness.

The HPI measures happy lives according to three main indicators:
1. Life expectancy at birth.
2. Life Satisfaction: The term subjective well-being is used to capture its complexity. Aside from feeling ‘good’, it also incorporates a sense of individual vitality, opportunities to undertake meaningful, engaging activities which confer feelings of competence and autonomy, and the possession of a stock of inner resources that helps one cope when things go wrong.

Life satisfaction is typically measured with the following question:
"All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?"

Responses are made on numerical scales, typically from 0 to 10, where 0 is dissatisfied and 10 is satisfied.

3. Global Footprint: Realizing that individuals are part of a community and an ecological system, the ecological footprint of an individual is a measure of the amount of land required to provide for all their resource requirements plus the amount of vegetated land required to sequester (absorb) all their CO2 emissions and the CO2 emissions embodied in the products they consume. This figure is expressed in units of ‘global hectares’.

The Happy Planet Index is based on a combination of these three indicators.

UAE-Good News and Bad News
Different countries do well according to different indicators.

The highest average levels of life expectancy are those of Japan (82.3 years) and Hong Kong (81.9). The UAE life expectancy is a high 78.3 years.

The highest life satisfaction levels are those of Costa Rica (8.5 on a scale of 0–10), with Ireland, Norway and Denmark just behind. The UAE came in at a high 7.2.

The softest ecological footprints are found in Malawi, Congo and Haiti (each with 0.5 on a scale of 0-10).

The countries which tread heaviest in terms of ecological footprint are Luxembourg (10.2 global hectares per capita), the United Arab Emirates (9.5) and the USA (9.4).

A person using up to 2.1 global hectares is, in estimating the total amount of productive hectares on the planet and dividing this by the world’s total population, using their fair share of the world’s resources.

Overall, the UAE polled at 123rd position in the world with an HPI rating of 28.2.

Comparisons are Odious but…
Costa Rica comes in at the top of the Happy Planet Index with a rating of 76.1

With the highest levels of reported life satisfaction, and the highest happy life years – Costa Rica stands out in the HPI even before considering its ecological footprint.

At second position is the Dominican Republic with an HPI of 71.8, third is Jamaica with an HPI of 70.1 and fourth place is Guatemala with an HPI of 68.4.

What is it about these happy countries in this Central American and Caribbean region?

Near to the UAE in terms of geography, Egypt came in at 12th spot with an HPI of 60.3, Saudi Arabia at 13th with an HPI of 59.7, Palestine at 56th with an HPI of 47.7 and Kuwait at 128th position with an HPI of 27.0.

The UK scored 74th position with an HPI rating of 43.3, Australia polled at 102nd place with an HPI of 36.6, NZ at 103rd spot and an HPI of 36.2 and the USA took the 114th place with an HPI of 30.7.

The unhappiest countries, according to the HPI are Namibia at 140th place with an HPI rating of 21.1, Botswana at 141st place with an HPI of 20.9, Tanzania at 142nd place with an HPI of 17.8 and Zimbabwe taking 143rd place with an HPI of 16.6.

Check out the The Happy Planet Web site to download the full report, calculate your own HPI score, evaluate this measurement and read the Happy Planet Charter.

Dr Geoff Pound