The “Happy Country”

Page 32 

©Stefano Guzzetti/Under licence from Shutterstock

Australia is known as the “lucky country” with its sunny climes, beautiful beaches and relaxed lifestyle. But did you know that it is also a “happy” country, at least according to well-being measures?

In fact, Australia scores above average in almost all of the 11 well-being dimensions measured by the OECD Better Life Index. It does exceptionally well on the environment and health. Australians breathe some of the cleanest air, with far less of the tiny particulate matter that gets into the deepest part of the lungs than in many other countries–a PM10 level of only 13.1 micrograms per cubic metre, as opposed to the average of 20.1 micrograms for the OECD. They can expect to live up to 82 years of age, compared with an average of 80 years in the OECD. And as well as being healthy, they score highly on civic engagement, thanks largely to the compulsory voting system: 93% of Australians turned out to vote in the most recent general elections, the highest percentage in the OECD.

See www.oecdregionalwellbeing.org/

Australia’s regions are also happy. In fact, according to the OECD’s new Regional Well-Being, all eight Australian states rank among the best 20% of all 362 regions studied around the world in civic engagement, environment and income. And Canberra, the Capital Territory, ranks first in Australia, beating the other regions in six of the nine well-being dimensions. Even the low-performing regions still fare better than the OECD average in most of the well-being indicators.

But it is not a perfect score sheet. There is wide inequality between the Australian regions, especially in health and safety where the country ranks fourth and fifth worst in terms of disparities. Education is also a problem in some regions, as the share of workers with at least a secondary diploma living in the lowest performing Australian regions is 8 percentage points lower than the OECD average.

Perhaps the most surprising result of all is Australia’s low score in work-life balance. More than 14% of Australian employees work for more than 50 hours per week, much more than the OECD average of almost 9%. This hardly squares with the country’s reputation for an easy and leisurely lifestyle, a fact that has been picked up by the Australian users of the Better Life Index, ranking work-life balance as the most important factor for a better life.



Has Australia always been happy?

A recent OECD report, How Was Life?, shows that even in the 19th century, Australia was already the place to be. Along with western Europe, Canada and the United States, Australia profited greatly from the technological changes unleashed by the Industrial Revolution. As expected for a newly formed British colony, it had one of the lowest GDP per capita in the developed world of 1820, but was already flourishing in other aspects of well-being. Australians at the time were taller than people in Europe, reflecting better nutrition and less disease. Australia was, and still is, one of the safest places to live, even when involved in conflicts, such as the Second World War. And even back then it was one of the best countries for gender equality, as women in Australia were among the first in the world to gain the right to vote, and did not suffer from the wide gender gap in education that was present in most other developed countries up until the 1950s.

In short, while the sun and beaches probably contribute to Australians’ happiness, they have many other reasons to feel happy about their country.

See www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/



Justin Dupré-Harbord


References

www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/

www.oecdregionalwellbeing.org/

OECD (2014), How’s Life in Your Region? Measuring Regional and Local Well-being for Policy Making, OECD Publishing, Paris.

van Zanden, J.L., et al. (eds.) (2014), How Was Life?: Global Well-being since 1820, OECD Publishing, Paris.


© OECD Observer No 300, Q3 2014




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017