Singapore leads the way in ‘happiness index’

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 10 Feb 2016

But Hong Kong’s score is consistently falling as slowing Chinese economy takes its toll

People living in Hong Kong are increasingly unhappy, according to a new study which suggests the country’s productivity could be hampered by the wellbeing of its citizens. People living in the city state rate their personal happiness at just 6.83 out of 10, down 0.15 on 2015, which was considered a difficult year in the territory as the slowdown in China’s economy appeared to take its toll.
 
“It took 10 years for the score to drop 0.2 points to 6.98 last year,” says Professor Dennis Wong Sing-wing, who led the City University study. “Now there’s already a 0.15 drop in a year.”
 
The poor state of Hong Kong’s happiness levels is echoed in the latest ‘World Happiness Report’, produced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which measures the state of global happiness. It measured happiness levels in 158 countries over the period from 2012 to 2014 and found that Singapore ranks as Asia’s happiest place, in 24th position, while Hong Kong hovers around the middle in 72nd place. China ranked 84th.
 
The UN report came about as a result of Bhutan including happiness as a measure of its GDP. Citing a ‘new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criteria for government policy’, the report’s authors link multiple measures of wellbeing to rank how well countries are progressing.
 
Happiness matters because several studies link happiness with productivity. Recent research in the UK showed that workers who are happy are on average 12 per cent more productive than those who are not, and in some cases productivity increases by as much as 20 per cent.
 
Happiness is also linked to engagement, says Gitansh Malik, Aon Hewitt’s Singapore-based regional lead for best employers in Asia Pacific & Middle East.
 
“There is a positive correlation between the two,” he says. “Higher happiness amongst employees leads to higher engagement ,and vice versa.”
 
While it is possible to be unhappy at work but remain engaged, it’s a combination that is unlikely to last for long, he says.
 
“In most cases, it is not sustainable in the long run. For us, engagement means the employees are saying positive things about employers, willing to stay in medium-to-long term and striving to achieve better business results. Being thoroughly engaged but unhappy may theoretically be possible in small pockets, but not in long term.”
 
In recognition of the importance of creating a happy work environment, the Hong Kong Productivity Council launched a Happy Organization Label Scheme in 2013, a programme companies can sign up to that offers ideas about how to make workers happier.
 
“As the all-round productivity partner of Hong Kong businesses, HKPC believes that by building a healthy and pleasant working environment, a company is actually shouldering its social responsibility. Also, a happy workplace can strengthen the resilience and competitiveness of enterprises through the development of positive mindsets among workers, enhanced motivation and creativity, and improved customer service,” said the council’s executive director, Clement Chen, speaking at the launch.