Is Vietnam really world’s second happiest country?

Some Vietnamese scientists have said that they were surprised to learn that Vietnam has been placed second on the 2012 Happy Planet Index (HPI), after Costa Rica, by the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

The 2012 HPI report ranked 151 countries and is the third edition of the index.

According to its website, the Happy Planet Index (HPI) measures what matters:

The extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives to the people that live in them.

The Index uses global data on three criteria:

1/ Life expectancy (LE)

2/ Experienced well-being (EW)

3/ Ecological Footprint (EF)

to calculate this.

It ranks countries on how many long and happy lives they produce per unit of environmental input.

According to this years’ ranking, Vietnam’ s LE, EW and EF are 5.8, 75.2 and 1.4 respectively, leading to a score of 60.4, just behind Costa Rica, who topped the list with a score of 64.

This result marked a rise for Vietnam compared to its 12th and 5th place ranks in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

However, some experts told the media that if the country’s rank means that Vietnamese people are the second happiest in the world, this is hard to believe.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Minh Hoa said the NEF should have announced the number of people it had interviewed in each country and the content of the interview, while adding that the concept of happiness varies from country to country, from person to person, and from religion to religion.

There is not enough data provided for everybody to believe in the accuracy of the ranking.

It is possible that nobody will believe that Vietnam is the country whose people are the second happiest one in the world, and some people may consider it a joke, Hoa told Lao Dong Newspaper.

The “experienced well-being” factor by itself is not enough to be a basis on which to say whether Vietnamese people are happy in life or not.

In fact, Vietnamese people easily accept their lives, he said.

Regarding longevity, only a small part ofVietnam’s population lives a long life, while the remaining majority is at high risk of diseases, traffic accidents and other dangers.

“In my opinion happiness is not only being content with what you have, but it should first be the peacefulness you feel in life.

In fact, most Vietnamese people usually face pressure in many fields including health, psychology, work and study, so it is hard for them to feel at ease.

As for ecological footprints, it is hard to say that the environment in Vietnamis less polluted than most other countries”, Hoa said.

Vietnam’s rank under the NEF’s HPI is very different from its rank on the list of “The World’s Happiest Countries” announced by Forbes Magazine in 2010 after the publication surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries.

Vietnam ranked 96th on that list, he said.

Only three criteria not enough

Dr. Dao Van Khanh told Tuoi Tre that the Human Development Index of the United Nations should be considered as a basis for assessing whether “a country is in happiness” or not.

The UN 2011 HDI was calculated based on many criteria such as income, education, health, life expectancy, economic conditions, gender equality, and sustainable development.

According to the index, Norway lead the world in “experienced well-being”, followed by Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden.

“I do not know how NEF has conducted its survey, but the ranking by the UN is much more accurate since it is determined based on a combination of a series of criteria, not only three, as used by NEF.

Ranking should be made by reputable global organizations and be based on sufficient and proper criteria,” Khanh said.

Many respondents in the NEF’s survey might simply think that Vietnam“is experiencing well-being” since it has improved its standing from a poor country to be placed among the group of developing countries of low-medium income, he added.

Tran Ngoc Them, a PhD in Science, meanwhile, stated that the environment in Vietnam is seriously polluted, food has been found to contain banned preservatives, and many people suffer from diseases.

These factors must affect the longevity of Vietnamese people.

It is necessary to review the method used by the NEF in making its environmental assessments.

In general, the survey is not of much social significance.

It can be seen as a “pocket interview” only, Them said.

Vietnam has achieved much recently, but it has yet to become one of the “Asian dragons”, although it has ambitions to attain this title.

Vietnam is not a country with high longevity.

There remain many problems in the fields of education, health and natural resource exploitation, Them lamented.

“I think that the NEF might have its own specific method of assessment and might have put focus on certain fields in their overall calculation, which gave Vietnam higher scores than other countries and placed it second,” Them said.

The NEF is a London-based NGO that was founded in 1986 by the leaders of The Other Economic Summit (TOES) with the aim of working for a new model of wealth creation based on equality, diversity and economic stability.

Source: Tuoi Tre Online

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