|Eurostat - Overall Life Satisfaction.|
Denmark's pension system comes out with an overall score of 82.4 according to the Global Pension Index which measures schemes on adequacy, sustainability and integrity according to a points system. The UK is currently in 9th place with a score of 67.2 (2 points up from the previous year due to auto-enrolment and rising contributions.) It will be interesting to see how the new flexibilities introduced this year affect the score. Despite falling out of favour in the UK, annuities are still widely bought in some of the higher ranking countries with 85% of Danes purchasing one, although some countries such as Australia (77.8) also do pretty well on more flexible systems like those being introduced here. In any case, having a secure, regular and guaranteed income must be one of the biggest influences on a general feeling of well-being and go a long way towards explaining the contentment of retired Danes.
In addition to a reliable pension system Danes "may pay some of the highest taxes in the world but they are rewarded with generous public services and a world-renowned welfare state." and "in Denmark grandparents are not faced with a second career as a childminder, unlike in the UK, where 47% of grandparents look after grandchildren and one in four working families rely on grandparents for childcare1."
Being female is also key to the happiness quotient. The authors of the report think this is probably because women tend to make strong and lasting friendships and are more likely to have social interests and hobbies outside the home when they retire.
Another interesting fact revealed in the report is that the poorest 20% of Danes are happier than the richest 20% of Greeks which adds some weight to the idea that social stability and a well-functioning welfare system are bigger factors influencing happiness than personal wealth.
On a global scale the World Happiness Report "reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. It reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criteria for government policy."
The criteria used to measure the happiness of citizens can be summarised in the following way:
"The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control over: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity." 2
An extract from the report's summary of Chapter 8 caught my attention with particular reference to the recent election.
"Well-being depends heavily on the pro-social behaviour of members of the society. Pro-sociality involves individuals making decisions for the common good that may conflict with short-run egoistic incentives.... Societies with a high level of social capital – meaning generalized trust, good governance, and mutual support by individuals within the society – are conducive to pro-social behaviour."