With pandemic restrictions eased last year despite two deadly COVID surges, the Philippines has moved up a notch in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s latest World Happiness Report.
The rankings are not based on cheerfulness and how easily people find happiness, but on quality of life indicators using three-year data from the Gallup World Poll: gross domestic product, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption.
With the pandemic dragging the country into its worst recession, the Philippines fell from 52nd in the 2020 report to 61st in the 2021 ranking, improving slightly to 60th this year among 146 countries.
Unsurprisingly, advanced economies have consistently topped the World Happiness Report. This year, Finland retained its first place, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel and New Zealand complete the top 10.
At the bottom of the list is Afghanistan. The rest of the 10 least happy countries are Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Botswana, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranked at least second after Singapore, which ranked 27th. Thailand closely followed the Philippines in 61st place, ahead of Malaysia (70th place), Vietnam (77th), Indonesia (87th), Laos (95th), Cambodia (114th) and Myanmar at the 126th place. Brunei was not included.
Considering the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the 60th place is not too bad. The Philippines has a strong social support network, which has helped people cope with the pandemic. However, Filipinos also face serious and long-standing issues such as corruption and human rights, including the murder of thousands of drug suspects and the murders – many of which remain unsolved – of activists, journalists, legal professionals, indigenous groups and environmental activists. The COVID pandemic has exposed weaknesses in public health care. The country cannot rest in 60th place; it can do even better.