Thursday, July 21, 2011

Long working hours but also happy

Since the 2011 Election I have not had time to blog. The usual personal and family commitments and also the switch to a new job with a new role in a completely new industry took most of my time.

Anyway I came across this article posted in 24/7 Wall St (read here) which was written quite some time back in June. The title was 'The 10 Happiest Countries In The World'. The Better Life Index is based on 11 measurements of quality of life including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction.

Well you know where this blog post is heading. Singapore has had so many issues and disgruntlement. Many unhappiness expressed are related to housing, jobs, health, education, work-life balance and satisfaction in life. Throw in income earnings as well due to how the FT policies have embraced the influx of foreign labour which depressed our wages. Gee... with the past years of flooding incidents, environmental issues are a concern these days too.

To sum that article up Denmark topped the list. Next is Canada, followed by Norway, Australia and The Netherlands. A couple of years ago Lee Kwan Yew took a dig at Denmark (see here). I wish he hadn't done that. Denmark till today has a continued success in birth rate and happy citizens. It makes us look so petty and silly right now.

Least to say Singapore was definitely NOT in the list but Australia was. Interestingly according to another article found on the same website, it listed the top 14 workaholic countries (read here). Australia was ranked #2 country with the longest working hours! Ahem, I didn't see Singapore in the list.

I have lived in Australia and I know the Melbourne folks generally continue to work from home after office hours. Either the article is skewed or nobody gives a sh*t about Singapore. Currently Australia's birth rate is at a healthy figure (as compared to Singapore) and like it or not, she is ranked #4 in the Happy Countries list. Unfortunately I can't say that for Singapore.

That goes to show that people can work long hours and yet be happy and productive (both at work and family). This is especially so when they enjoy a good, sustainable income (minimal wage perhaps) with supportive social system in healthcare, housing and retirement.

For all that my ministers and MPs 'sales talk' to try to convince me, I'd say it's a whole lot of bullsh*t. I think Singaporeans have been led for a long, long time. We have been totally cowed under a tightly-controlled regime and immovable education/academic system that bring us nowhere in life. If our education system is so good, why are our ministers' sons and daughters going overseas? Why are foreigners taking top positions in companies?

This authoritative-type of ruling tells us what we ought to think, how we ought to act and what we ought to do. The result? We are generally incapable of thinking smartly and creatively (look no further than the recent Lady Gaga steal for NDP song. It should put any doubts to rest), we hesitate to test new boundaries because we do not challenge the norm, and we are crippled with fear to reach new horizons because failure is not an option.

Seriously looking back at the past decade, though we have progressed in infrastructural developments, we hardly progressed in ideas and mindset.

There is an online joke about putting two men with a beautiful woman on an island (read here). The Singaporean men needs the government to tell them what to do. How true but sad indeed...

The Happiest Countries In The World (taken from the website)
What makes people happy? The question, which has been debated by philosophers for centuries, now is being tackled by international bureaucrats and the results are interesting, to say the least.
24/7 Wall St. analyzed the new OECD Better Life Index to objectively determine the happiest countries in the world. The Index is based on 11 measurements of quality of life including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction. We made “life satisfaction” the cornerstone of our index because it is as good a proxy for “happiness” as the survey provides. We then compared “life satisfaction” scores to the other measurements to find those economic and socio-political realities that had the highest and lowest correlation to happiness.
Read The Happiest Countries In The World
The happiest people in the developed world get loads of social services without having to work too hard. Having abundant natural resources, a thriving services sector and a fairly homogeneous population helps as well. The OECD study no doubt would have had different results had it included politically unstable countries in the Middle East or large emerging economies where political unrest threatens to bubble over such as China.
24/7 Wall St. also looked at one critical factor that the OECD study overlooked — economic stability. Our measure of this was total national debt as a percent of GDP. The figure helps determine a country’s ability to maintain present tax levels and social services. Odds are that countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios are more likely to need austerity policies to reign-in their government spending. Otherwise, their debt costs will soar.
Nations with long-term economic strength can also afford to support employment, education, and make health care widely available. Happiness viewed in this way means that people are more likely to feel better about themselves in Norway, which has almost no debt and great social services, than in Greece, which must slash entitlement spending or risk defaulting on its debt.
Old, stable nations of northern Europe took five of the top 10 spots on our list. These include Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. Switzerland is also on the list and has many characteristics in common with the Scandinavian countries. The resource-rich, English-speaking countries of Australia and Canada made the cut as well. Noticeably absent from the list are any OECD nations in Latin America, southern and eastern Europe and Asia. Many of the southern European nations like Greece, Portugal, and Spain are in economic trouble and have high unemployment. The employment and education opportunities are not as good in Mexico as in Canada, nor is the access to high-quality health care. Japan and South Korea each have stable societies, but the people in both countries tend to work long hours and have limited leisure time.
The happiest countries seem to be places where there is a good balance of work and leisure time. Not all nations can afford to keep unemployment low through government subsidies. Not all countries can afford to provide universal medical coverage. Not all countries can afford to educate almost all of their children, which in turn supports extremely high literacy rates and builds a population of skilled workers.
The ten nations on this list are rich in natural resources or highly developed service sectors. These are assets which are in short supply worldwide, and that bolsters the foundations of the economies in these countries. Money alone doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure helps.
This is the 24/7 Wall St list of the Ten Countries With The Happiest People, most of which have bought and paid for prosperity because their economies have allowed them to do so. (Read more)
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