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India’s poor performance in the happiness index

India’s poor performance in the happiness index


According to the United Nations India ranked 122 out of 155 countries, worst in South Asia, with only the poorest African nations below on the list. There were voices of protest — can happiness be defined? How can the UN pass judgment with such a small sample size?

How the happiness index is measured?

The six parameters on which happiness is measured:

  • Per capita GDP,
  • Healthy life expectancy,
  • Freedom,
  • Trust,
  • Social support
  • Generosity.

India’s stand on each

GDP per capita:

  • It is India’s most glaring and quantifiable shortcoming.
  • In 2017, India ranked 126 out of 200 countries
  • The UN said that it is unemployment and poor quality of jobs that makes people truly unhappy.


  • Indian society riddled with corruption so there is little trust.
  • The interface between citizens and the State, through bureaucrats, politicians, law enforcers and tax collectors, is often a transactional one. Trust is not the foundation of any of these equations.


  • There is little freedom for minorities, religious or sexual, in making their life choices.
  • Most governments are voted out after their term which is an expression of “unhappiness” of our people, at the failure of governments in providing them a free, comfortable and safe life.


  • India’s record on philanthropy, with notable exceptions, is woeful.
  • We treat our domestic help terribly. Perhaps because India is a poor nation slowly rising to prosperity, our primary instinct is to hoard and grow our own wealth with little regard to sharing it with the less fortunate.

Social Support:

  • We have schemes like NREGA but there is no concept of social security.
  • This causes enormous hardships during challenging economic phases, as witnessed during demonetisation or as our farmers are facing today.
  • For a large swathe of our population, lack of social support is a key factor in feeling unhappy.

Life expectancy

  • There is healthy life expectancy.
  • Life expectancy is improving from 62 to 67 years over the last decade.
  • It is still much lower though than other emerging countries who are at above 75 years. But, it is the “healthy” bit that spoils the show for us.


If people don’t earn enough, don’t have jobs they like, worry about their health, cannot trust others or the State, are not free to make their choices and cannot lean on either the State or fellow countrymen at times of need, how can they be happy? Instead of scoffing at the UN report, there is a need to look inward.